Hamantaschen recipes for beginners
You can adapt familiar recipes to experience a new holiday treat.
One of the delights of the happy spring Jewish Feast of Esther (Purim) is making your own hamantaschen. The most literal translation of hamantaschen is Haman's pockets. Haman, a wicked advisor to King Ahazuerus of Persia, is roundly booed when the story of how Queen Esther saved the Jewish people is read on Purim.
Since Haman is usually depicted wearing a tri-corn hat, children are often taught to call these delicious cookies Haman's hats. In Israel the cookies are called Haman's ears. The important thing, however you interpret the name, is to have lots of them and, in honor of brave Esther and her courageous cousin Mordecai, eat them all up.
What follows is a summary of many hamataschen recipes for beginners, some suggestions for adaptations that may encourage you to try making these treats, and some suggestions for traditional—and nontraditional—fillings. Families divide between those whose hamantaschen are made with a cookie dough and those for whom the genuine article requires a yeast-based dough.
The cookie doughs used for hamantaschen most strongly resemble a sand-tart or rolled sugar-cookie dough. Your favorite rolled-cookie recipe will make delicious hamantaschen and keep you from worrying about handling a new dough. Add two teaspoons finely-grated orange peel for a traditional taste.
Some recipes suggest half all-purpose white flour and half whole-wheat flour for a traditional texture, as well. If the dough is especially dry, add one-to-two-teaspoons orange juice or an extra egg-yolk. For a non-dairy version, substitute softened margarine or equal quantities of margarine and oil for butter. Refrigerate dough in two balls until you are ready to assemble cookies. This gives you time to make or assemble one or more fillings.
Traditional poppy-seed, prune and apricot fillings can be purchased in gourmet food stores or often in grocery stores; Solo is one brand. Check the shelves containing pie-fillings—while you're looking, consider making your hamantaschen with nontraditional apple or cherry pie filling.
Jams make good fillings just the way they are. Chopped nuts can be added to any fruit filling. A cheese filling can be made with two cups of ricotta, an egg, finely-chopped nuts, raisins and a bit more grated orange-peel. Eight ounces of cream cheese, an egg, one-fourth-cup confectioners sugar, and three-to-four-tablespoons unsweetened cocoa makes a fine chocolate filling. Nontraditional cooks have even pioneered savory (not sweet) fillings, but in general, fillings should be sweet, spicy if you like, and sufficiently thick so as not to drip during baking.
Making traditional fillings from scratch
If you decide to make traditional fillings from scratch:
1. Two cups poppy-seeds ground in a mill or food-processor, an egg, grated orange peel.
2. Eight ounces dried apricots plumped in two cups boiling water. Drain, chop fine, add one-fourt-cup orange juice and one-fourth-cup sugar. Simmer till soft, watch and stir to prevent scorching.
3. Eight ounces of prunes, treated like the apricots. Each of these makes enough filling for approximately two dozen cookies.
Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll chilled dough one-fourth-inch thick. Using a biscuit cutter or glass, cut dough in two-to-three inch rounds. Put two teaspoons filling on each round and prepare to make another choice: Assembly methods vary. Mentally divide each circle into three edges (we'll use A, B, and C—original!). Pinch A and B to form one corner of a triangle, then pinch corners at A/C and B/C to complete it. A new leak-stopping method suggests you overlap and tuck sides A, B and C (rather the way you would fold the four flaps of a cardboard box), then pinch the corners lightly. Just remember: keep a portion of the filling visible, and even leaky cookies taste great.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool thoroughly—fillings stay hot for longer than you think.
Again, for beginners, adaptation of a familiar recipe is a good way to start. A familiar yeast-roll recipe best approximates the texture of traditional yeast-based hamantaschen. Some bread doughs are too heavy. Even a hot-roll mix is an easy way to start if you do not bake often with yeast. Stir in one-fourth-cup sugar and two-tablespoons finely-grated orange peel before you set the dough to rise. Punch down, roll small balls into three-inch circles or roll larger balls out and cut circles. Fill and assemble as above, let rise a second time and bake (350 degrees).
With a little experience, you'll be ready next time to make this recipe your own. As you have concluded from hamantaschen recipes for beginners, variety is part of the spice of these cookies. For now, share your new treat with your family and—eat them all up!