Hamantaschen are wonderful, jam-filled cookies that are popular for Purim. Find out more about these tasty treats.
The traditional cookie for the Jewish festival of Purim, hamantaschen, have become quite trendy as of late. Here is how to make delicious jam-filled hamantaschen just like from a Jewish bakery!
What Is Purim?
The festival of Purim comes in early spring and is the Jewish carnival holiday. Purim commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people from an evil government minister, named Haman, who plotted to destroy the Jewish community in ancient Persia. It is therefore, a joyous occasion. Children dress up in costumes, adults have parties, and friends give each other baskets of edible gifts called michlach manot.
Varieties of Hamantaschen
Among Jews from eastern and northern Europe, the signature food for the festival of Purim is hamantaschen. This is a triangular cookie that is usually filled with poppy seeds or prunes. The cookie’s shape is said to come from the three-cornered hat that the villain Haman wore.
In truth, hamantaschen have a bad reputation. When I was growing up, hamantaschen were often dry and tasteless and filled with unpleasant prunes or not-very-sweet poppy seeds. That is not what most kids are hoping for when biting into a cookie!
Today however, there has been a renaissance in Jewish baked goods from black and white cookies to babka. Hamantaschen too have moved into the twenty-first century with lots of exciting new fillings like lemon lavender, s’mores, and salted caramel. (All of which sound better than prune or poppyseed if you ask me!) Some bakers have even started making savory hamantaschen with a yeasted dough and novel filling flavors like pizza or everything bagel.
My Hamantaschen Recipe
There are many different recipes for hamantaschen dough. My recipe is fairly straightforward, as befits a cookie. Baking cookies should not be complicated in my opinion! But it makes a sweet and very tasty cookie with a crispy outer shell that is not at all dry.
My recipe uses oil, not butter, because I have found that it makes the dough much easier to work with. Plus, the cookies made with this dough tend to hold their shape better. Also, I think it is helpful to have a dairy-free recipe for anyone who is observing the kosher laws or avoid dairy for other reasons.
As for filling, I rely on fruit jam. It’s convenient but also much more pleasant than poppyseeds, especially for children. If you are a canner, hamantaschen are a great vehicle to show off homemade jams and fruit spreads. If not, I recommend buying a high-quality fruit spread, such as Bonne Maman or perhaps something from your farmers’ market or a local artisan jam-maker.
Tips For Forming And Filling Cookies
The key to this success for this recipe is giving the dough plenty of time to chill in the refrigerator before rolling it out. I recommend making the dough the day before, which has the added benefit of spacing the work out over two days. If not, you still want to give the dough a few hours in the fridge.
When you are ready to make the cookies, roll out the dough, but not too thin or it will leak. Then use a round cookie cutter that is 3 to 4 inches in diameter to cut out circles of dough. Place the circles of dough on a lined cookie sheet before trying to fill them. Moving the filled and folded cookies is a recipe for disaster, so I always place the circles of dough on the cookie sheet prior to filling.
Once you have them on the cookie sheet, fill the circles with jam and then fold them into triangles. This is another part of the process that can be controversial. There are two ways to make the iconic triangular shape of hamantaschen: folding and overlapping the sides OR pinching the corners together. In my experience, folding the sides over like an envelope to form the triangle works better than pinching the corners.
Once the cookies are filled and formed, chill them again to ensure that the cookies will hold their shape in the oven. There is nothing more disappointing than hamantaschen that leak or unfold when baked. But I’ve had great success using this dough, folding instead of pinching the sides, and always leaving enough time to chill the cookies prior to baking. Follow this method and I guarantee that you too can make hamantaschen that look and taste wonderful.Print
- 2 and ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- ¼ tsp. baking soda
- ½ tsp. fine sea salt
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- Zest of one lemon
- 1 Tbsp. orange juice
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- ¼ cup vegetable or other neutral oil
- 2 (8 oz.) jars of fruit jam or preserves for the filling
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
- In a separate medium-sized bowl, whisk together two of the eggs and the sugar until light in color. Whisk in the lemon zest, orange juice, vanilla and oil until combined. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula until the dough comes together.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, gather into a ball and knead until it you have incorporated all of the dough. Divide the dough in half and form it into two discs. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
- To make the cookies, remove one of the discs from the refrigerator and let the dough warm up slightly to make it easier to roll out.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
- Roll out dough on a well-floured surface until it is 1/4 inch thick. (Do not roll it too thin or the filling will leak.) Using a 4-inch round cookie cutter, or round drinking glass, cut out circles and place them on the lined cookie sheets. Gather up the scraps of dough and re-roll them out to cut out more circles. To fill the cookies, spoon a teaspoon of jam or preserves in the center of the dough circle.
- To create the classic triangle shape for the hamantaschen, do a series of three folds. First, fold one side of the cookie in so that the edge comes to the middle of the jam filling. Fold the second side in the same way and so that it partially covers the first side. Finally, fold the remaining side up and in so that it overlaps the other two sides. Pinch the corners together to ensure that they will stay closed. Chill the formed cookies until firm, 20 to 30 minutes.
- Make an egg wash of one egg beaten with a tablespoon of water. Brush the outside of the cookies with egg wash using a pastry brush.
- Bake for 18 to 20 minutes until the cookies are golden brown. (If you are baking two sheets at the same time, rotate them halfway through baking.) Cool the cookies on a wire rack.
- Repeat with the remaining disc of dough. Make sure to allow your cookie sheets to cool completely before attempting to form additional cookies on them. Hamantaschen will keep for 3 days at room temperature.