Good Shabbos, Shabbat Shalom! Purim begins at sundown on March 20 this year and although many people have baked batches of hamantashen in advance, filling up their freezers and cookie jars, the ongoing search for the best hamantashen recipe, from classic to decadent, continues. It’s a trending topic with the 8300+ members of my popular Facebook group, Norene’s Kitchen!
The symbolic foods of Purim are connected with Haman and Queen Esther. To avoid breaking kosher dietary laws, Queen Esther lived in the palace on a vegetarian diet. Poppy seeds are symbolic of Queen Esther’s three day fast. When she broke her fast at night, she ate only seeds while she prayed to G-d to repeal Haman’s decree.
Hamantashen, triangular pastries that are shaped like the evil Haman’s three-cornered hat, come in an assortment of sizes and flavours. The filling can be enclosed in sweet yeast dough, pareve oil dough, cookie dough, or flaky cream cheese pastry.
Popular Ashkenazi fillings include poppy seeds, prunes, finely ground dried apricots or dates, or thick jam or preserves. A mixture of finely ground dried fruits, such as pitted prunes, dates, raisins and cranberries, lemon juice, zest, and a drizzle of honey also makes a fabulous filling. Some people fill them with a chocolate kiss (or hug!) or a spoonful of chocolate hazelnut spread such as Nutella. Kids love them filled with peanut butter mixed with mini chocolate chips, topped with a dab of jam.
The Joy of Kosher’s website offers up “The ten best hamantashen recipes”, including cinnamon dulce de leche, cookie dough, and gluten-free hamantashen: https://www.joyofkosher.com/holidays/top-ten-hamantaschen-recipes/
If you grew up in a Sephardi family, your traditions were definitely different:
For any bakers who are new to baking hamantashen, check out this tip-packed tutorial by Tori Avey:
My friend Marilyn Glick of Edmonton shared this recipe, how-to photos, and a haimishe video showing how to make Mrs. Anna Shapiro’s yeast hamantashen: https://marilyndishes.com/2018/02/27/yeast-hamentashen-with-poppyseed-filling/
Do you prefer your hamantashen made with a cookie-type dough? https://gourmania.com/recipe/hamentashen-cookie-dough/?fbclid=IwAR3XPeYb22oqIjx46GYrYCPqv-qM9AIidhPuQ0L_XeMCVJHiNYCTS5VMKSM
My friend Lois Held of Atlanta, Georgia, likes to sticks with tradition. “I have been using the same hamantashen recipe for years. It keeps its shape and is easy to work with. They turn out the same every year.” Lois uses a pareve recipe by cookbook author Tina Wasserman from her book Entrée to Judaism. Lois stopped making the fillings years ago and loves the products by Simon Fischer, and uses apricot butter and prune butter. Here is the link to Tina’s recipe and a link to YouTube where she demonstrates “How To:” https://cookingandmore.com/hamentashen-dough-pareve/?fbclid=IwAR3t7c6KAd22MFdbdcqxfclcj7mIU3jfimpHOgV9lWUSbaPIBxzJMBugIGM
A food processor grinds the fruit filling mixture to a perfect texture in seconds. It’s much faster and easier than using an old-fashioned grinder. My grandmother would attach it to her metal-topped kitchen table by turning the screws tightly to secure it, along with a little help from yours truly, holding on tightly so the grinder wouldn’t slip while my Baba diligently turned the handle and the sweet filling was excreted through the small round holes.
Triangular-shaped foods, such as meat kreplach or a challah dough shaped into a giant triangle and sprinkled with poppy seeds are other symbolic foods served by Ashkenazi Jews. Sephardic Jews serve Haman’s Ears—deep-fried strips of dough or kichel dipped in sugar syrup or sprinkled with icing sugar. It is a long-standing tradition on Purim to send mishloach manot, baskets containing food gifts of fruit, candy and cookies, to friends and family. It’s considered a mitzvah to send them to the elderly and needy.
So, roll up your sleeves, mix up the fillings, make and get ready to roll out the dough— it’s time to bake up some heavenly hamantashen!
BASIC OIL DOUGH
Adapted from The New Food Processor Bible by Norene Gilletz (Whitecap)
This dough is excellent as a pareve cookie dough or is ideal for hamantashen. Try some of the scrumptious fillings (below).
1 medium-sized seedless orange (thin-skinned)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 3/4 cups flour (approximately)
2 tsp baking powder
Cut orange in quarters but do not peel. Process in a food processor fitted with the steel blade until fine, 25–30 seconds. Add eggs, sugar and oil. Process for 10 seconds. Add flour and baking powder. Process with several on/off pulses, just until flour is blended into dough. Do not over-process. Dough will be fairly sticky. Remove from bowl with a rubber spatula onto a lightly floured surface.
HOW TO SHAPE HAMANTASHEN: Divide dough into four pieces and flour each piece lightly. Roll out each piece of dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into 3-inch circles. Place a teaspoonful of filling onto each circle. Bring up three sides to meet, then pinch edges of dough together to form a triangle. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
TO BAKE: Place on parchment-lined cookie sheets and brush with lightly beaten egg yolk. Bake in a preheated 350ºF oven for 25-30 minutes.
Yield: 4 dozen hamantashen.
HAMANTASHEN CREAM CHEESE DOUGH
Adapted from Second Helpings, Please!
This tried and true recipe for Cream Cheese Dough from Second Helpings Please! has been a family favourite for more than 50 years!
1/2 lb (1 cup) butter
1/2 lb (250 g) cream cheese
2 cups flour
1/2 cup icing sugar
Cream the butter and cheese well. Add the flour and sugar, and mix well. Wrap in wax paper and place in the refrigerator overnight. Roll dough to 1/4″ thickness. Cut in rounds. Fill and shape by bringing sides together to form a triangle. Bake on a greased baking sheet at 400ºF for 15 minutes, until delicately browned.
Yield: about 2 dozen
Adapted from Healthy Helpings by Norene Gilletz (Whitecap)
1 medium seedless orange (thin-skinned)
1 cup raisins
1 cup pitted dates
1 cup pitted prunes
1 cup dried apricots
Cut orange into chunks, but do not peel. Cut away both the navel and the stem end. In the processor, process orange until finely ground, about 20 seconds. Add remaining ingredients and process on a food processor fitted with the steel blade until finely ground, about 15–20 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl as necessary.
Yield: about 3 cups filling.
Note: 1 cup filling is enough to fill 12–16 hamantashen, depending on size. Mixture can be prepared in advance and refrigerated for several days, or frozen.
Adapted from The New Food Processor Bible by Norene Gilletz (Whitecap)
1 medium seedless orange
12 oz pkg pitted prunes (see Tip below)
1 1/2 cups raisins
1/4 cup walnuts (optional)
2 Tbsp sugar or granular Splenda (optional)
Cut orange in quarters but do not peel. Use a food processor fitted with the steel blade to prepare the filling. (If you have a smaller processor, you may have to do this in 2 batches.) Process orange until fine, about 20 seconds. Add remaining ingredients and process 15–20 seconds, until fine.
Yield: 2 1/2 cups filling (enough for 4 to 5 dozen hamantashen). Freezes well.
Tip: Feel prunes with your fingertips to make sure they don’t contain pits or you could damage the steel blade.