When I started daydreaming about creative twists for traditional hamantaschen, playing with the dough came first. Raspberry jam filling had always been my favorite (albeit not quite conventional), and I couldn’t really imagine anything better. So I created a dough to complement the tart berry filling: nutty almond meal alongside the flour, molasses-rich brown sugar in place of white, and speckles of fresh rosemary for a nice herbal whisper. A splash of almond extract proved to further brighten my new dough’s complex flavors.
But then I began to consider new fillings. I experimented with fresh raspberries in place of jam, oozing marzipan for an amaretto-y kick, and even cheesecake-like mixtures. Still not sold, I became skeptical that there was something superior to a bursting fruit center. But it turns out there is a more decadent and delicious filling (and it happens to be my favorite all-time dessert–or food, for that matter): beloved ice cream!
I knew it would have to be berry ice cream, and strawberry proved as wondrous as raspberry in the nutty herbal shell. It was now just a matter of how to blind-bake them. After trials with pie weights, dried beans, parchment pouches and more, I found that floured whole almonds worked best (and can be re-used to make almond meal for more hamantaschen: a delicious cycle of baking and savoring!). Like an ice cream sandwich’s festive little cousin, this ice cream filled cookie has only one downfall: it can’t be eaten warm from the oven. But I really don’t think you’ll mind once you taste one…
Rosemary Almond Hamantaschen filled with Berry Ice Cream (makes about two dozen; please see all three sections below for full ingredient list)
TO PREP THE ALMONDS FOR BLIND BAKING:
- about 5 ounces/1 cup whole shelled unsalted almonds (5 per cookie; about 130 nuts)
- 1 teaspoon melted butter — no more
- 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
Place almonds in a bowl and add melted butter, mixing all nuts are coated. Add flour and stir vigorously until all nuts are dusted with flour. Set aside.
FOR THE COOKIE DOUGH:
- 1/2 cup almond meal (milled with skin-on; not blanched)
- 1.75 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1.25 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter at soft room temperature
- 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon pure almond extract
Line two medium/large cookie sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Place almond meal in a medium bowl, then sift the flour, salt and baking powder over it. Whisk together until well-blended and any lumps of almond meal are broken up. Whisk in the rosemary until evenly dispersed. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the sugar and butter until even in consistency. Add egg and mix until incorporated. Repeat with almond extract. Add the dry ingredients and mix until all ingredients are blended; dough will resemble moist crumbs. Knead with hands to form a ball. Split dough into two; cover one of the balls with plastic wrap and set it aside.
Transfer unwrapped dough to an even, floured work surface. Using a floured rolling pin, roll dough into a slab with a thickness of no more than 1/8 to 1/6 inch. Re-flour rolling pin, surface, and all tools often. Using a floured 3″ round cookie cutter, cut out circles from dough. With a floured flat spatula, transfer each dough circle to the parchment lined baking sheets. (Beware: Work quickly, as letting the rolled dough sit out for too long will cause it to dry and will make it crack when trying to fold it.)
Immediately place 5 floured almonds in the center of each cookie, then fold up 3 edges to form a triangle. Pinch corners of the opening tightly to prevent cookies from flopping open while baking. Place in freezer for at least 30 minutes; this will help ensure that they hold their shape. While cookies freeze, preheat the oven to 375 F, and unwrap the remaining dough, repeating the rolling, cutting, filling, folding and freezing process.
Bake frozen cookies one sheet at a time for 8 to 10 minutes, or until edges and bottoms are toasty brown. Remove from oven and let cool on cookie sheets for 10 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Use a toothpick to loosen and remove whole almonds from each cookie’s center, bracing cookie with one hand while holding toothpick with the other. (I admit this sounds tedious, but the almonds shouldn’t be very stuck, and it goes fast. If any nuts refuse to budge, try stabbing the almond with the toothpick and prying it out, or just leave it – a toasted almond in a cookie isn’t such a bad surprise!)
Set aside the floured almonds to re-use as you wish. You may opt to pulse them in a food processor to make your own almond meal, perhaps for another batch of these cookies. If you use them for another purpose, just remember they’re neither gluten nor dairy free.
FOR FILLING THE COOKIE SHELLS:
- 2 – 2.5 cups strawberry or raspberry ice cream
Let the emptied cookies chill completely, at least to room temperature, before filling. Set your ice cream on the countertop for a few minutes to let it soften. Transfer the ice cream to a pastry bag or plastic bag with a small corner cut off; place open tip inside a cookie. Squeeze until corners are filled and ice cream domes out the top. (Alternately, you can use a small spoon or mini spatula to fill them, but I find the piping method easier.)
Repeat with all cookies, serving or placing in freezer immediately as you go. Naturally, these are best eaten just after being baked, cooled and filled. They are also wonderful treated like ice cream sandwiches — stored in a tightly covered container in the freezer (if stacking cookies, place parchment or waxed paper in between layers) — and eaten within a week. When serving from the freezer, let sit out for a few minutes before digging in.
With their familiar buttery flavor and classic triangular shape, these ice cream filled beauties offer a cool and creamy element that takes hamantaschen to a whole new level of scrumptiousness. The toasty brown sugar shell is bright and earthy with its speckles of rosemary and almond, just as the velvety berry filling offers a lusciousness that literally melts in your mouth. Here’s to a delicious and happy Purim!
Maybe next time… While I fought my temptation to make my own ice cream for these cookies, homemade ice cream would of course amp up the distinctiveness here, and there are a lot of great recipes available. I’m partial to berry ice cream and its lovely balance with the rosemary, but many flavors would be divine, from apricot to peach to vanilla to caramel. This dough also works nicely with the more traditional poppyseed or fruit-filled hamantaschen; simply add a heaping teaspoon of your favorite thick jam or other filling in place of the whole almonds, freeze, and bake.