Monday, March 02, 2009

hooray for hamantaschen!

hamantaschen, or ohz'ney ha'man, as they are called in hebrew, are the typical ashkenazi cookie (pastries) eaten during the celebration of purim. as with almost all recipes, there are many variations on the same theme however the one thing which remains the same for this cookie is its shape — it is always triangular. this shape is supposedly reminiscent of the the hat the evil character haman wore. the other meaning, from yiddish, directly translates as haman's pockets (not hat).

there are basically 3 types of doughs used to make these much loved pastries: a yeasted type, a cookie version and a more delicate pastry one. all are good. much is based on personal taste for texture.

the fillings for hamantaschen are traditionally a poppy seed one or a fruit based one — most often of dried plums (prunes) sometimes mixed with raisins. there are a variety of different fillings these days based on the inventiveness of the cook and availability of ingredients. i typically stick with the basic ones and, if rushed for time, will use store-bought preserves as do many people.

most usually, the doughs are made parve (no animal or dairy products) so that they can be eaten at the se'udot — or festive meals — where meat is often on the menu.

the following are standard recipes i use. they are simple to make and yield excellent results. hamantaschen can be made ahead of schedule and frozen to save on time or to keep some aside for later.

i prepare the fillings and doughs the night/day before and then just roll out the dough and bake the cookies the next day. it is a great time saver.

the three doughs

yeasted dough

this is a more complicated dough only insomuch that it requires time for the dough to proof due to the inclusion of yeast. not everyone is comfortable with yeasted doughs. no worries, it's quite easy to work. this is a dairy version.


2 1/2 tsp dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/2 c milk or water OR 1/4 c milk + 1/4 c water

2 large eggs
1/2 c oil (or melted butter or margarine)
1/2 c sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 c yogurt(not low fat kind) or sour cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

enough flour to make a nice dough ~ 4 to 4 1/2 c all purpose flour


heat the liquid until quite warm (you should be able to keep your finger it in without it burning).

add the 1 tsp sugar and stir to dissolve. add the yeast and stir and let proof for 15 minutes.

once proved, stir the yeast mixture. place this in a large bowl and add the oil or melted butter/margarine & the rest of the ingredients EXCEPT the flour.

mix the ingredients well and add the flour. work the mixture either in a heavy duty type mixer or by hand (kneading). it should have a consistency like that of a soft (bread) dough.

place the dough in a very lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap and let it prove for about 3 hours. you can put it in the fridge and let it prove overnight (easier way!) also.

roll out the dough to 1/8 - 1/4 inch thick and cut circles. fill the circles as usual and form the hamantaschen the usual way (see below).

place the filled hamantaschen on a baking sheet and loosely cover the tray and let the pastries double in size - remember, it is a yeasted dough. this will take about 1 to 1.5 hrs but it will depend upon the temperature of your kitchen.

after 1 hr, heat your oven to 375F. bake them for approximately 25 to 30 minutes. they should be golden brown.

cookie type dough

this is a great recipe which gives an irresistable cookie dough in the raw state! try not to eat it all up before you make your hamantaschen :)) the only thing to remember about this dough is that it will be very soft once you finish making it. it requires FULL CHILLING (overnight or at least 8 hrs) but is instantly ready to roll out from the fridge. i suggest rolling half and keeping the remainder in the fridge until needed. make sure to use a well floured surface and to flour (and keep flouring) the top of the dough well as you roll it out.


1/2 c margarine
1 c sugar
1 egg
2 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2 tbsp orange juice
1 tsp vanilla extract or pkg vanilla sugar


in a separate bowl, blend the dry ingredients together and set aside.

in another bowl, cream butter with sugar for several minutes until light.

add egg and blend well.

add vanilla and orange juice and mix again.

add the flour mixture and blend until you get a dough.

cover and chill overnight until ready to bake. (see below for rest of recipe).

this cookie dough bakes at 375F for approx. 12-15 min. depending on the pastry size. adjust accordingly.

pastry type dough

a "dairy" type dough based on cream cheese, this yields a more pastry like product. it has few ingredients and is quick to make.


1/2 lb (appr 250 g) cream cheese
1/2 lb (appr 250 g) butter
1/4 - 1/3 c icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 c all purpose flour (a little more if necessary)


cream the butter and cream cheese once at room temperature. add the vanilla and icing sugar and mix well. blend in the flour until you get a dough. don't overwork it.

let the dough chill overnight or all day long in the fridge. roll the dough out on a floured surface to about 1/4 inch thick. cut circles and fill as usual. these bake about 12 minutes at 400 F.

the two classic fillings

poppy seed filling


1 1/4 c poppy seeds
1/2 c milk or soymilk or water
1/2 c honey
1 tbsp margarine or butter
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla


in a coffee grinder or similar appliance, grind the poppy seeds to a powder. transfer to a bowl. they MUST be ground

in a small pot, place the rest of the ingredients along with the poppy seeds and cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes until thickened.

place in a bowl and let cool.

prune & walnut filling

a classic and simple filling to make, this tart one compliments the sweet dough which envelops it. note that some prune fillings are not (briefly) cooked. this one is and MUST be to achieve the proper texture and flavour.

if you don't want to, or cannot, use nuts then substitute with about 1/2 c of golden raisins and soak them along with the prunes.


1 pkg pitted prunes (375 g)
boiling water, to cover fruit

2 to 3 tbsp sugar
1 - 2 tbsp honey
1/2 lemon, juiced

1 c coarsely chopped walnuts


the night before, or in the early morning, place the prunes in a bowl. add boiling water to cover. let sit overnight so the fruit will rehydrate.

the next day or later that evening, drain the liquid (you can keep this to drink or for another purpose - or you can discard it).

place the well drained fruit in a food processor and grind it until pureed. add the sugar, honey and lemon juice. taste and adjust.

transfer to a bowl.

in a wide pan (non stick fry pan is best), toast the walnuts over medium heat for a few minutes. set aside.

turn up the heat to medium high and add the prune paste. cook this for about 4 to 5 minutes until it had reduced a bit and the colour changes to almost black. don't do it for too long and keep stirring as you cook it. you don't want the bottom to scorch.

place this mixture back in your bowl and add the toasted walnuts. mix well and let cool.

how to form your hamantaschen:

roll out the dough to 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick on a well floured surface. the thickness will depend on the type of dough you are using and how thick you like your finished pastry. you'll have to experiment with one or two to see what works best for you.

take a round cutter or empty tin and cut circles. they can be the size you like however remember the cooking times will change; the smaller the circle, the quicker it will cook.

i find it easiest to roll out the dough and cut all the circles and transfer them to the baking surface and fill and form them directly on that surface. again, do what works best for you.

the basic procedure is as follows:

place a teaspoon or more of filling in the center of the pastry circle. it will depend on the size of circle you cut. do not OVERFILL.

bring two edges up to meet and gently pinch them together. if you are using a yeasted type dough, you may need some liquid to help seal them. usually, it is not necessary with other types of doughs, like the cookie or pastry ones.

bring up the last edge to make a tri-cornered shape leaving the center open. you must be able to see the filling.

bake according to the directions of your dough recipe. each dough takes different temperatures and times. usually, the standard is 350 - 375 F for 12 to 15 minutes.

once they are lightly golden brown, remove from the oven and let cool.



jill elise said...

Yes! I am absolutely making these asap. Like tomorrow. I'm going to try to convert the cookie recipe (middle one) to gluten free, wish me luck!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Cute cookies! I still have to try to make this gorgeous speciality!

Have a great Purim!



jill elise said...

Hi! I made the second version of the recipe gluten-free! I linked over to your post - for credit obviously, but also because of your AWESOME step by step photos!

Sandra Avital said...

OMG! I must be crazy to come visit your blog while I'm fasting.
I hope my hamantaschen will come as scrumptious as yours: this year will be my 1st try!
Purim samea'h, BB!