I used to think March was such a blah month. Aside from St. Patrick’s Day, there just wasn’t much going on, and it’s such a very, extremely, annoyingly long month in my spring semester on the school calendar, not to mention we lose an hour of sleep. But when I started making hamantashen a few years ago, and even more so when I started to feel giddy about the idea making them, March became a month that I actually look forward to! I had so many flavors flitting in and out of my mind that I couldn’t decide what kind to make, so hey, why not make almost a dozen? When I decided to make ten varieties of hamantashen, I knew there had to be something caramel-y in the mix, seeing as how it’s one of my favorite things in the dessert world. However, I was concerned that regular caramel might be too thin or might burn or might harden from baking… But dulce de leche? Perfect. It’s thicker, it won’t harden, and duh, it’s so delicious.
I also wanted to change up the basic almond-shortbread dough from Breaking Breads that I’ve been using (and will never stop using being it’s perfect) to complement the dulce de leche. I made this variation early on in my dough experiments, so I hadn’t yet strayed too far from the original recipe. The only alterations I made were to add cinnamon and vanilla, and it turned out to be a lovely combination with the filling. I’ll use this same dough for another flavor a few days from now. Also, you can play with the filling here a bit– a similar choice to swap in is cajeta, aka goat milk dulce de leche. It will have the same consistency, just a slight, pleasing tang from goat milk.
Cinnamon Dulce de Leche 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. (Dough 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 cinnamon shortbread (adapted from Breaking Breads by Uri Scheft):
- 3 cups + 2 tablespoons (400 grams) all-purpose flour
- ½ cup (50 grams) blanched almond flour
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 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 filling:
- 25 ounces dulce de leche, store-bought or homemade
To make the cinnamon 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, cinnamon, 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 vanilla and mix just until incorporated.
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 2 hours (or until firm), or overnight.
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.
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.)
Scoop ½ teaspoon dulce de leche 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 13-16 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.
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2020.