This Purim I’m thinking big. Instead of making individual hamantaschen to celebrate the holiday, I’ll be serving a rustic triangle-shaped tart filled with apricots and goat cheese cheesecake, as well as a strudel that combines the holiday’s traditional poppy seed filling with chocolate and walnuts.
The desserts mix traditional Eastern European Jewish flavors with some new twists and, because they are larger pastries instead of individual treats, save some prep time. Other shortcuts include using a purchased pie crust, phyllo dough and poppy seed filling.
We always hear how three-cornered hamantaschen represent the evil Haman’s hat, and this hamantaschen-shaped tart does the same thing, only it is actually the size of a hat.
The strudel fulfills another holiday tradition — that of serving foods with hidden fillings, which represent the secrets Esther kept from the king.
To make two of either (or both), each recipe can easily be doubled.
Rustic Hamantaschen Tart with Apricots and Goat Cheese Cheesecake Filling
1 recipe goat cheese cheesecake filling (see below)
1 recipe apricot topping (see below)
1 prepared (unbaked) pie crust 11 to 12 inches in diameter, room temperature (see note)
1 Tbs. milk
1 Tbs. sugar
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking tray with parchment paper. Center pie crust on tray. Spread cheesecake filling on top, leaving a 2-inch border all around. Top with apricots. Fold pie crust up over filling into a triangle, pinching corners to look like a hamantaschen. Brush milk over crust. Sprinkle sugar across crust and filling. Bake about 35 minutes until golden brown.
Goat cheese cheesecake filling: Have ingredients at room temperature. In bowl of electric mixer, cream 4 oz. cream cheese, 4 oz. soft, fresh goat cheese, 2 Tbs. sugar, ½ tsp. vanilla, ½ Tbs. fresh lemon juice and 1 large egg until smooth, light and fluffy.
Apricot topping: Choose softer, lighter-colored apricots. Place ½ lb. dried apricots (optional, cut into ½-inch pieces) in pan with ½ cup water, ½ tsp. vanilla extract, 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice, ¼ cup sugar, ½ tsp. minced ginger and ½ tsp. grated lemon zest. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Cover and continue to simmer until liquid is thick and syrupy and apricots are soft but not mushy. (About 25 minutes but timing will vary. Add more water if needed.) Let cool slightly. Stir in ½ Tbs. orange flower water (optional).
Note: I used a purchased pie crust, the type rolled up in a carton. Follow package directions to unroll. A crust for a 9- to 10-inch pie will have a diameter of 11 or 12 inches. For homemade, roll dough out to 11- to 12-inch diameter.
Chocolate Poppy Seed Strudel
5 sheets (13 by 17 inches each) phyllo dough
Coconut oil spray or ¼ cup neutral-tasting oil
12.5 oz. can poppy seed filling
¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup chopped walnuts
Follow package directions and bring phyllo to room temperature. Remove five sheets. Place on a sheet of waxed or parchment paper. Cover with second piece of waxed paper.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Oil baking tray. Lay out one sheet (keep rest covered until needed) on work surface. Lightly coat with spray (or brush on oil). Top with second sheet. Spray. Repeat next two sheets. Place fifth sheet on top but do not oil.
Starting 2 inches from the long edge, spoon filling in a 2-inch band, leaving a 1-inch margin on both sides. Distribute chocolate chips and walnuts on top of filling. To roll, fold over the 1-inch side margins, then roll from the long side, bring 2-inch border over filling, pushing in ends and rolling up. Place seam side down on pan. Spray strudel top and sides with oil. Bake about 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Let cool. Slice with serrated knife.