Jewish Food

Not Your Bubbe’s Purim Cookie: Kolooschen

This fruity, cardamom cookie is a fun riff on Persian koloochehs and Eastern European hamantaschen. Read More

By / March 10, 2014

In the past, I was a bit of a Purim party pooper. I’d scan the megillah and grumble over the rumble of groggers about the characters and plot. It seemed to me that Vashti was an overlooked heroine—I wouldn’t come out to entertain those drunken fools either, if I were in her place. And then there was agreeable Esther, who became Queen of Persia simply by being lovely of face and form. She kept her true identity on the down low. She didn’t fit into the club of chutzpadik Hebrew heroines I was raised on and turned to as role models—sassy women from Sarah (who had the nerve to laugh at God!) to ScarJo. Plus, I never much liked hamantaschen, resenting the triangular cookie for being more about shape than substance and flavor.

But with a more sympathetic understanding that comes with a bit of age and experience, it’s now clear to me why Esther has a vaunted place in the ‘Brave Jewish Chicks’ Hall of Fame. This orphan of modest means was living the dream in a grand palace in Shushan, in the center of Ahasuerus’ empire, and risked it all to save the Jewish people. And she cleverly identified the most effective way to get the king to listen, accept her controversial revelation, and ultimately help her save her people: food.

Besides wine, there’s no record of what was served at the feasts Esther threw for Haman and Ahasuerus in the lead-up to the Big Jewish Reveal. But we know that if any cookies were on the table, they would have been similar to koloochehs, a traditional Persian sweet, not Ashkenazic hamantaschen.

I imagine Esther harnessing all her Jewish grrrl power as she places a heaping platter of just-baked koloochehs before the king and his dastardly adviser. The warm aroma of cardamom, rosewater, and sugar lulls Ahasuerus into a willing openness, and after the first bite he’s dough in her soft, manicured hands. She then zeroes in on her target, unmasking Haman as the villain and a mortal threat to the Jews. And just like that, Esther dulcifies the fate of her people.

I decided to reinterpret this sweet ‘lil treat by combining it with Ashkenazic and American flavors, so I created kolooschen, the ultimate portmanteau Purim cookie. Think of it as a cardamom-spiked snickerdoodle. A drop or two of rosewater in the batter adds a floral note, the sour-cherry filling is a riff on lekvar (the fruity/jammy filling in hamantaschen), and the walnuts that crown the cookies give them the appearance of traditional Persian kolooches.

(The original Persian cookie is made with gluten free flours, so this one is easy to adapt—scroll down for the GF recipe.)

Kolooschen (Parve)

Ingredients

Filling:
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (one large lemon)
¼ cup sugar
½ cup dried cherries

Dough:
1 cup coconut oil spread, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoon rosewater or vanilla extract (or combination of the two)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoon cardamom
¼ teaspoon salt

Topping:
3 tablespoon sugar (optional)
1 teaspoon cardamom (optional)
¼ cup chopped walnuts

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. To make Sour Cherry Paste: In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, mix together lemon juice and sugar until sugar dissolves and a syrup results (2-3 minutes). When it starts to bubble, stir in dried cherries and cook until cherries are plump and soft and syrup is reduced by half (about 3 minutes).

3. If you want a smooth, jammy texture place cherries in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until a thick paste results (leave as is if you prefer the kolooschen filled with whole cherries). Set aside*.

4. In a large bowl cream together coconut oil spread and sugar on medium speed, until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla or rosewater and eggs and mix until it just comes together.

5. In a medium sized bowl whisk together the flour, cardamom, baking powder, and salt.

6. Gradually add the flour mixture to the coconut oil-sugar mixture, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl as needed.

7. On a shallow plate, combine 3 tablespoons of sugar with 1 teaspoon of cardamom. Set aside momentarily.

8. With damp hands, scoop up walnut–sized pieces of dough. Roll into a ball, and press a well in the center of the dough with your thumb. Place a teaspoon of sour cherry paste (or a few whole cherries) into the well. Pinch the dough together and roll the seam together. Coat the dough ball in cardamom-sugar mixture on the plate (this step is optional but really amplifies the cardamom flavor of the cookie).

9. Place cookie dough on baking sheet. Flatten the dough gently to form a rounded disk. Press a pinch of chopped walnuts into the surface of the cookie. Repeat with remaining cookie dough and sour cherry paste.

10. Bake for 18-22 minutes, rotating cookie sheet in the middle of the baking time. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Yields 20-24 cookies.

Gluten-free Kolooschen

Ingredients

Filling:
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (one large lemon)
¼ cup sugar
½ cup dried cherries

Dough:
1 cup coconut oil spread, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoon rosewater or vanilla extract (or combination of the two)
¾ cup coconut flour
¾ almond flour
½ cup tapioca starch
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 teaspoon cardamom
¼ teaspoon salt

Topping:
3 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cardamom (optional)
¼ cup chopped walnuts

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. To make Sour Cherry Paste: In a small saucepan over medium-high heat mix together lemon juice and sugar until sugar dissolves and a syrup results (2-3 minutes). When it starts to bubble stir in dried cherries and cook until cherries are plump and soft and syrup is reduced by half (about 3 minutes).

3. If you want a smooth jammy texture place cherries in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until a thick paste results (Leave as is if you prefer the kolooschen filled with whole cherries). Set aside*.

4. In a large bowl cream together coconut oil spread and sugar on medium speed, until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla or rosewater and egg and mix until it just comes together.

5. In a medium sized bowl whisk together the flours, tapioca starch, cardamom, xanthan gum, and salt.

6. Gradually add the flour mixture to the coconut oil-sugar mixture, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl as needed.

7. On a shallow plate combine 3 tablespoons of sugar with 1 teaspoon of cardamom set aside.

8. Place cookie batter in fridge to firm up for about 30 minutes. Then: with damp hands scoop up walnut–sized pieces of dough. Roll into a ball, press a well in the center of the dough with your thumb. Place a teaspoon of sour cherry paste (or a few whole cherries) into the well. Pinch the dough together and roll the seam together. Coat the dough ball in cardamom-sugar mixture on the plate (this step is optional but really amplifies the cardamom flavor of the cookie).

9. Place cookie dough on baking sheet. Flatten the dough gently to form a rounded disk. Press a pinch of chopped walnuts into the surface of the cookie. Repeat with remaining cookie dough and sour cherry paste.

10. Bake for 14-16 minutes, rotating cookie sheet in the middle of the baking time. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Yield: 18-20 cookies

*If the cherries/lekvar become too firm after cooling, add a teaspoon or two of water and microwave for 20-30 seconds or reheat on stove-top.

 

Rachel Harkham is the author of “Get Cooking! A Jewish American Family Cookbook”. For more words and flavors please visit www.reciperachel.com.

Related: Not Your Bubbe’s Hamantaschen: Purim Poppy Seed Scones
Hundred-year-old Hamantaschen recipe