Salted Cacao Nib Brownie Hamantashen

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It’s hard to believe how quickly this year between Purim holidays came and went. Last spring, I was frantically planning and packing for a huge move halfway across the planet. In the middle of all that came hamantashen season, as it always does at this time. The previous year, I had discovered the almond shortbread hamantashen dough from Uri Scheft’s Breaking Breads, and my hamantashen world changed forever. It was, at long last, the Holy Grail of dough that I’d been searching for for years. At once tender and crisp, it was perfect for just about any filling; I especially loved his Chocolate Chip & Vanilla Cream version. But as is often the case, I got antsy– I wanted to mix it up and create more unusual flavors, never having been a poppyseed girl (one of the most traditional hamantashen flavors). And so last year, I played… and I cracked the code for how to customize this glorious dough to a surprisingly fun and diverse array of flavors. I went a little crazy making six kinds of hamantashen dough, and I couldn’t WAIT to fill them all! Trouble was… I spent so much time playing with dough that I didn’t have time to actually fill, shape, and bake the cookies in time for the Purim holiday. (Seriously, why can’t this one be 8 days like Chanukah or Passover? I’d like to sign up for 8 days of hamantashen, please!)

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Aaaaand then packing swiftly took over my attention again, and lots of that dough sadly went into the freezer. I’d had a most brilliant idea– 10 DAYS OF HAMANTASHEN. So what if the holiday was only one day? I could still eat hamantashen to my heart’s content despite this– there was no end to the flavor possibilities! However, since I couldn’t finish them for Purim 2018, I decided that I would do a huge blog project for 2019 using all the dough that I had made. But the weeks of March, and then April, passed so quickly and busily, and that dough stayed in the freezer until dangerously close to my departure date. But I was determined! I would NOT let that dough go to waste. And indeed, in the last weeks of May and even into the first week of June when I was supposed to be packing my last things (ughhh, that was such a nightmare), I was still making hamantashen. And I’m proud to say that every scrap of that dough did get baked in the end! There were flavors of cannoli, chocolate-pretzel, a new s’mores version, and many others. But then a pretty tragic thing happened… In all the hustle and bustle of moving and resettling in Israel over the summer, it appears that I forgot to upload my photos from the entire month of May onto my laptop. Without realizing this, I eventually erased my memory card, and along with it, most of my 10 Days of Hamantashen. Not only that, but also a few long-planned Italian pastry projects to continue my long-neglected Italian desserts blog series. (*insert sobs*) So my hamantashen dreams went up in smoke, as I didn’t have the opportunity this spring to recreate all the doughs and fillings that I’d made last year. But I fully plan to make this happen in Spring 2020, don’t you worry.

Fortunately, not quite all my hamantashen photos got deleted, as the ones I’d managed to make during the actual Purim season survived. In fact, these Salted Cacao Nib Brownie Hamantashen were my very first variation, and remained one of my favorites! It was really quite a simple adaptation to make these: I added crushed cacao nibs and vanilla to the dough, which transformed it from a blank slate dough to a speckled, complex one perfect for cradling a deep chocolaty core. The brownie filling is easy to pull together and requires no mixers. It bakes up into a semi-firm brownie pocket, which helps the cookie triangles keep their shape. Finally, a sprinkle of sea salt flakes on top is a lovely touch to bring out the depth of the chocolate flavors. I hope you enjoy this fun hamantashen twist– there will be lots more to come next Purim!

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Salted Cacao Nib Brownie Hamantashen
Yields 30-40 cookies

This recipe doubles very well if you want to avoid splitting beaten eggs and/or have lots of dough for multiple fillings. (Photos below reflect a double-batch.) I strongly recommend using weight rather than volume to measure ingredients, as the original recipe favors weight.

For the almond-cacao nib shortbread (adapted from Breaking Breads by Uri Scheft):

  • 3 cups + 2 tablespoons (400 grams) all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup (50 grams) blanched almond flour
  • ¼ cup (40g) cacao nibs, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks/1 cup/230 grams) cold unsalted butter
  • Scant 1 cup (100 grams) confectioners’ sugar
  • ¼ cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1½ large eggs, beaten, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

For the brownie filling:

  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup (63g) dark unsweetened cocoa powder, such as Valrhona
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 7 tablespoons (100g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • ¾ cup (90g) all-purpose flour

For assembly:

  • 1 egg, beaten

To make the almond-cacao nib shortbread dough:
Line a rimmed quarter- or half-sheet pan with a piece of parchment paper and set aside.

Whisk together the all-purpose flour, almond flour, crushed cacao nibs, and salt in a bowl and keep it nearby.

Lay a piece of parchment paper on your work surface and place 1 stick of butter on top. Smash the butter with a rolling pin several times to soften it, then transfer it to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (Pounding the butter keeps it cold, but softens the texture.) Repeat with the remaining stick of butter.

Add the confectioners’ sugar and granulated sugar to the bowl. Mix on low just until the loose sugar is incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and the beater, and mix again for about 30 seconds on medium-low speed. You want the butter to still be cold, and you’re mixing minimally here to avoid aerating the butter.

Pour in the beaten eggs and paddle on low speed until the mixture looks like wet scrambled eggs– the butter chunks should all be coated in egg liberally.

Add the dry ingredients to the bowl (gradually if making a double batch) and mix on low speed until most of the flour has been incorporated; it’s helpful to stop and scrape down the bowl and beater midway through.

Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and finish bringing it together by hand or with a flexible bench scraper. Roll it out to about ½” thick and transfer it to the prepared sheet pan. (It will not fill the pan.) Cover it tightly with a piece of plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour (or until firm), or overnight.

To make the brownie filling:
Whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Pour in the melted butter and mix together with a wooden spoon or stiff whisk until incorporated. Stir in the egg, yolk, and vanilla. Fold in the flour with a rubber spatula; the mixture will be very thick. Refrigerate if not using right away.

To assemble & bake the hamantaschen:
When you’re ready to roll and cut the dough, preheat the oven to 350°F and place a rack in the center position. Line a rimless cookie sheet with parchment paper. Remove the dough from the fridge and let it soften for 5-10 minutes. Remove the brownie filling from the fridge if needed and stir to loosen it.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough out to a thickness of about ⅛”, flouring and moving the dough around as needed to avoid sticking to the surface and rolling pin. (I didn’t find it to be exceptionally sticky to begin with.) If making a double-batch, work with half of the dough at a time, keeping the unused dough in the fridge until you’re ready for it.

Cut out circles with a 3″ round cutter and transfer them to the prepared cookie sheet. Try to cut them out as closely as possible to avoid having a lot of scraps. Re-roll the scraps and repeat until you’ve filled the cookie sheet. If the dough has warmed up and softened too much, place the pan in the freezer for 5 minutes to chill the dough circles. (You can also put any warm dough scraps in the freezer for a few minutes to firm up for easier rolling.)

Brush eggwash around the edges of the circles. Scoop ½ teaspoon brownie filling in the center of each circle; a spring-loaded melon-baller yields a perfectly-sized portion. Do not be tempted to put in more filling– the cookies will spill over or open up in the oven.

To create the hamantaschen triangle shape, use your fingers to curve up the edges of each circle to meet at three points. Press the corners together to seal the edges, leaving the top-center open for the filling to peek out. If the dough cracks on the bottom, gently smooth it back together with your fingers. Place the cookies back on the prepared baking sheet spaced a couple of inches apart. If they are very soft, put the pan in the freezer for 5 minutes.

Bake the hamantashen for about 15-16 minutes, or until the corners are lightly golden, rotating the pan halfway through baking. Set the pan on a wire cooling rack for about 10 minutes, then transfer the cookies directly to the rack to cool completely.

Store the hamantashen in an airtight container for up to 3 days or so… but they won’t last that long.

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© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2019.

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