Purim, that Jewish Holiday that recalls the story of how one brave woman saved all the Jews of Shushan, in ancient Persia, is a classic in more ways than one. The cookie that was born out of this unique holiday is called The Hamantaschen.
The reason they are three-cornered is to symbolize the three-cornered hat that the villainous Haman, the one who wanted to annihilate the Jews, wore. Hence the name “Haman-taschen,” (taschen means taste, in Yiddish).
The filling for these delectable cookies ranges between chocolate, peanut butter, poppy seed and honey, fruit jams, and anything in between. Although we prefer ours sweet, I have seen recipes that feature savory versions using goat cheese. No matter what you use for filling, they are not only delicious, but fun to make as well. Had it not been for COVID this year, my niece, Lilly would have been helping me to make these as she did in previous years, her brother Ira before that, and of course Yale and Serena when they were much younger. So roll up your sleeves and get ready for some fun.
- 3/4 cup of unsalted butter, room temperature (you can make this dairy-free with vegan butter)
- 2/3 cup of sugar
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla
- 1 teaspoon of grated orange zest
- 2 1/4 cups of flour
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 1-5 teaspoons of water (if needed)
- Slice room temperature butter into small chunks and place in a large mixing bowl.
- Add sugar to the bowl. Use an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugar together for a few minutes till light and fluffy.
- Add the egg, vanilla, and orange zest to the bowl. Beat again till creamy and well mixed.
- Sift flour and salt into the bowl. Mix with the electric mixer on low speed till a crumbly dough forms.
- Begin to knead the dough with your hands till smooth dough ball forms. Try not to overwork the dough, only knead till the dough is the right consistency.
- Form the dough into a flat disk and wrap it in plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator to chill for 3 hours overnight.
Before you begin to assemble the Hamantaschen, choose and make your fillings which can be chocolate chips, peanut butter, fruit preserves, or a poppy seed and honey mixture. Get creative and fill it with whatever strikes your fancy. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly flour a smooth, clean surface. Unwrap the dough disk and place it on the floured surface. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thick. In the beginning, it will be tough to roll out—you may need to pound it a bit. A heavy rolling pin works best. As you roll, cracks may form on the edges of the dough. Repair any large cracks with your fingers and continue rolling.
Continue rolling the dough out very thin (less than 1/8 of an inch thick). The thinner you roll the dough, the more delicate and crisp the cookies will turn out– just make sure that the dough is still thick enough to hold the filling and its shape! If you prefer a thicker, more doughy texture to your cookies (less delicate), keep the dough closer to 1/4 inch thick. Lightly flour the rolling pin occasionally to prevent sticking.
Use a 3-inch cookie cutter (not smaller) or the 3-inch rim of a glass to cut circles out of the dough, cutting as many as you can from the dough. Gather the scraps and roll them out again. Cut circles. Repeat the process again if needed until you’ve cut as many circles as you can from the dough. You should end up with around 35 circles (unless you’ve kept your dough on the thicker side, which will result in fewer cookies).
Place a teaspoon of filling (whichever filling you choose) into the center of each circle. Do not use more than a teaspoon of filling, or you run the risk of your hamantaschen opening and filling spilling out during baking. Cover unused circles with a lightly damp towel to prevent them from drying out while you are filling. Pinch the corners tightly and reshape to ensure that the filling does not leak out during the baking process.
Place them in the oven and let them bake at 350 degrees for 10-25 minutes until the cookies are cooked through and lightly golden. Start checking them at 10 minutes; because the dough thickness tends to vary on these cookies they can cook quite fast if rolled thin. In most ovens, it will take around 15-20 minutes, but best to keep a close watch over them as they cook to avoid overcooking or burning