Make Hamantaschen for Purim That'll Make Your Bubbie Proud
Learn all about this classic Purim cookie, and get tips to make triangle-shaped hamantaschen along with favorite recipes to try.
Triangle-shaped cookies may not be the norm, but for the Jewish holiday of Purim, they're a special treat. Named for the three-pointed hat worn by Haman, the villain of the event in Jewish history that Purim commemorates, hamantaschen are a must-have on Purim menus. The buttery cookies, filled with poppy seeds, jam, or chocolate, allow endless possibilities to riff on filling combinations, and can be commonly found in the traditional holiday food baskets, michloach manot, distributed to friends and neighbors to celebrate Purim.
How to Make Homemade Hamantaschen
Ready to make your own hamantaschen? Before you get started, check out these tips to make hamantaschen from Edan Leshnick, pastry chef at Manhattan's Breads Bakery, which makes special seasonal hamantaschen each spring. Then stick around for a few hamantaschen recipe suggestions to try.
Preparing the dough.
While many cookie recipes call for room temperature butter (and eggs), if your hamantaschen recipe has butter in it, it should be chilled when preparing the dough. "One of the most important parts in making the dough is keeping it as cold as possible," says Leshnick. "Even when you're creaming butter and sugar in the initial stage, you want it as cold as possible." He warns not to warm your butter in a microwave, but use it straight out of the fridge, allowing your beaters to make the butter soft and pliable.
Rolling and cutting.
Roll out the cold dough quickly to avoid warming the dough too much. Rolling quickly will also help avoid developing the gluten to a point of stretchiness beyond return. How thin should you roll it? Leshnick prefers his dough to be about 3mm (1/8") thick.
Cut the dough into large or small circles, depending on personal preference. "You could make minis or extra large, giant hamantaschen," Leshnick says. Personally, he prefers a size that allows 2-3 bites per cookie. At Breads Bakery, he and his team use hexagonal cutters, to reduce dough waste, though home bakers can use the top of a glass, an empty can or a standard round cookie cutter.
Next comes the filling, which can be the trickiest part. You'll add a small dollop of filling to the center of each circle, and then pinch up the corners to form a triangle. Brush water or eggs (beaten yolks and/or whites work will) on the edges so they'll stick together and so you don't pinch too hard and deform the cookie.
The amount of filling you use can make or break the hamantaschen. Leshnick knows his ideal filling to dough ratio is "based on trial and error, and mostly error," he jokes. You may want to bake a test batch with conservative filling proportions to see how they react to heat. Jams, creams, candies, and sauces all work as fillings, but if your preferred filling has a lot of fat or water content, it can spill over, exit beyond the cookie, and end up as a flat mess, likely stuck to the baking sheet. The best way to avoid melted cookie fillings from sticking to your baking sheet is to line the sheet with parchment paper.
Hamantaschen accidents are common, and a broken cookie isn't necessarily reason to panic. Once the filling has oozed out, you can clean around the edges of the cookie and add a filling to the center that doesn't need to be baked, like jam or Nutella. "It creates a nice texture," Leshnick assures.
Leshnick likes to chill the filled cookies before baking them in a preheated oven. And yes, that oven should be hot. "Once the baking process has begun, using a higher temp for a shorter time is better than lower temp for longer time," Leshnick says. For these cookies, longer baking time may coagulate the starches and risk flattening the cookies.
The smell of all that hard work wafting in the air may tempt you to take a bite, but Leshnick reccommends not tasting the hamantaschen right out of the oven. Wait for them to cool to room temperature, so they have time to set, release their aromas and add that improtant "flavor factor" when you finally get a taste.
Hamantaschen Recipes to Try
"Brought over from Poland by my great-grandmother, these little fruit-filled cookies are traditional for the Jewish holiday Purim where they are put in gift baskets and given to all one's friends. We always make extra so there are some left over for us, they are the best! (The filling can be anything, for a shortcut, you can substitute any flavor of jam, but this is the original filling.)" —Alizia Finley
This hamantaschen recipe is made with oil instead of butter, and is flavored with a generous pour of orange juice. Recipe creator Sharon likes to chill the dough overnight before rolling, cutting, shaping, and filling.
"These are the easiest hamantashen I've ever made! They are a bit sweet, roll out easily and are consumed quickly! My kids don't want to give them to their friends! Traditional fillings are prune and poppy seed. You can use any canned pie filling, whole fruit jelly, chocolate chips, or any type filling your family likes!" —SANDI