Hamantaschen Get a Modern Makeover

Rachel Tepper Paley
March 14, 2014

Photo credit: StockFood

If you’re tempted by the curiously three-cornered cookies that started appearing in bakery windows this month, go ahead and treat yourself to one. They’re called hamantaschen—filled cookies baked in celebration of Purim, a festive Jewish holiday that this year begins the evening of March 15.

Hamantaschen are kind of the best, because they’re a customizer’s dream. There are so many variations! You can doctor the dough or switch up the fillings. You can go sweet or go savory. You can stick to tradition or throw the book out the window and do something just plain wacky

The only thing you really have to stick to is shape; a hamantaschen that isn’t triangular isn’t really a hamantaschen

Hamantaschen means “Haman’s pockets” in Yiddish, named for the central antagonist of the Purim story, Haman. According to legend, Haman had triangle-shaped pockets. (Although some contend his hat was triangular.) Haman’s villainous plan against the chosen people was defeated, and in celebration of the miracle, every year they (and other ‘tashen-loving folk) nosh on hamantaschen.

Use a basic dough from the godmother of Jewish cuisine, Joan Nathan, but by all means fill your hamantaschen with whatever you please. Scroll to the bottom for the dough recipe, but first, some scrumptious options for fillings.

Rhubarb and crumbled graham crackers. Emily Isaac, the chef and owner of Trois Pommes Patisserie in New York City, makes a tart filling of rhubarb, cinnamon and graham cracker crumbs. 

Vanilla and pear jam. Get creative with a textured jam of Bartlett pears scented with vanilla scraped straight from the bean.

Orange zest and poppy seeds. Poppy seeds, called mun, have long been a popular hamantaschen filling. Give the classic a bit of citrusy pizzazz with a hearty dose of orange zest.

Peach and rosemary jam. Sweet, sticky peaches get an herbaceous punch thanks to fresh rosemary. (Seems like it’d be great on toast, but we prefer it in a cookie.)

Fig and ginger preserves. Fresh ginger lends a spicy tang to sweet, earthy figs. How could you go wrong? Try this Bon Appétit recipe.

Strawberry and lavender jam. Our gal Katie Couric endorsed this floral-scented jam last year as a lovely addition to pancakes or waffles, but we think it would be at home in hamantaschen.

Fig, white chocolate, and poppy seeds. We did a double-take when we learned from The Kitchn about a recipe developed by the New York bakeshop Ovenly: Sugar-simmered figs, poppy seeds and white chocolate (ZOMG) take a spin in a food processor, and send our hearts aflutter.

Well, get to it! You don’t need to be Jewish to enjoy these hamantaschen. Without further ado, here is Joan Nathan’s basic dough recipe:

Photo credit: Food52/James Ransom

Joan Nathan’s Hamantaschen

from Food52

Makes 30 cookies

2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon orange juice
2 1/2 to 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoons salt
Filling of your choosing

1. To make the dough, cream the butter or margarine with 1/2 cup sugar in a food processor or standing mixer. Add the egg, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and orange juice and continue to cream until smooth.

2. Add 2 1/2 cups of the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix until the dough comes together, adding flour until the dough is pliable. It will be slightly sticky. Roll into a ball, using the remaining flour if needed, flatten, and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 to 3 hours or overnight.

3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and grease a cookie sheet. Fill a small bowl with water.

4. Roll the dough out on a slightly floured board until it is 1/8 inch thick. Cut into 3-inch circles. Place 1 teaspoon of your chosen filling in the center of each circle. To shape the hamantaschen, first brush water around the rim of the circle with your finger. Pull the edges of the dough up to form a triangle around the filling and pinch the 3 corners together, leaving a small opening in the center. Transfer to a cookie sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the tops are golden.