i don't have a lot of luck with pastries, but Hamentashen make me happy.
Hamen-what-shah? Hamentashen, those triangular shaped pastries eating during the Jewish holiday of Purim, which celebrates how Esther saved the Jewish people from certain destruction (she saved the tribe, and married outside the faith! go Esther!).
I used to always use my Mom's crisco based recipe, and Mom, I love you, but crisco left my dough dry, and too crunchy. Thanks for those Jewish cookbooks you bought me a few years ago, I found the best Hamentaschen recipe! Instead of a cookie-ish dough, it's a tricked-out pastry dough (tricked out? can i say that about a pastry dough?)
the filling is also important. i've learned the hard way DON'T OVERFILL YOUR HAMENTASCHEN! the dough expands, and the filling expands, and they will kind of explode in the oven. although yummy to eat, it doesn't look pretty. it's tempting to cram in as much filling as possible, i know, but these are NOT cannoli! and everything expands. I've had best luck with using the SOLO brand of pie filling, or a 1/2 to 3/4 tsp of melted and cooled chocolate chips per Hamentaschen.
This recipe is from Faye Levy's 1,00 Jewish Recipes. it makes about 3 dozen Hamentaschen. I think the trick is the cooling of the dough before baking.
2 3/4 cups flour
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2 sticks cold butter, cut into little peices and chilled until you're ready to use them.
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp milk, or maybe a little more
another egg for later
combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a big bowl. use a pastry blender to cut in the butter until the consistency is course crumbs (like you're making a pie crust). in a small bowl, beat the egg with the vanilla, then add to the flour mixture. cut with a spatula until the dough begins to come together. mix in milk one tablespoon at a time (how much you need depends on the ambient humidity of your kitchen. seriously) until the dough forms small balls which stick together when pressed. Shape dough into a flat disk, and wrap in plastic wrap, and put in the fridge for at least 3 hours.
to make the Hamentaschen: cut your disk of dough into 4 peices. keep unused peices wrapped in plastic wrap. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until it's about 1/8" thick. Cut into rounds with a 3" cookie cutter (i found the small can of Dole Pineapple chunks is perfect), and place just less than 1 tsp of filling in the center. pull three sides to the center and pinch, to form a triangular pastry showing a big of filling at the center. roll out all the dough, and use the scraps too. put Hamentaschen on a greased cookie sheet, and refridgerate for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile preheat the oven to 350. brush hamentashen with beaten egg, so they get shiny when the cook. Bake 12 at a time for about 15 minutes, or until they start to go brown on top. Cool on wire racks.
this isn't a picture of my hamentaschen, but this is what they look like: