Wednesday, March 3, 2010

three corners has my hat

Hamantaschen are filled triangular cookies that are eaten during Purim, a Jewish holiday that happened last weekend. I'm not Jewish, so I'm going to focus on the cookies rather than the holiday, except to explain that Haman is the bad guy in the Purim story. The word "hamantaschen" means "Haman's pockets," but they're supposedly shaped like Haman's hat. Apparently, there's also an association between eating hamantaschen and symbolically eating Haman's ears, since the Hebrew name for them means "Haman's ears." (Sephardic Jews make fried pastries called orejas de Aman: literally, "Haman's ears.") I guess that's one way of getting revenge.

When I was a kid, I tried some homemade hamantaschen that apparently made a lasting impression on me. Although I don't remember them very well, I do remember that they had two different types of filling. The interesting one was poppy seed filling, since I'd only ever seen poppy seeds in the context of bagels and possibly muffins. I was fascinated by the idea of using poppy seeds as a central ingredient, and once I learned to bake, I occasionally thought about making some hamantaschen of my own. It seemed like a rather ambitious project, but I kept walking past the bin of poppy seeds at the grocery store and thinking, How hard could it be? So this year I finally decided to plunge in.

None of my cookbooks have a hamantaschen recipe, so I turned to the internets, where I learned that everyone and their grandma has a favorite hamantaschen recipe. There are lots of possible fillings, from poppy seeds to apricot to Nutella. And then there's the dough: some recipes use oil or vegetable shortening to comply with Jewish dietary laws (you can't eat dairy and meat in the same meal), some use butter, and some use butter and cream cheese. And then, somewhere in left field, there are savory hamantaschen and even mochi hamantaschen (not gonna lie, I want to try these). Anyway, I settled on a dough recipe from and I made up a filling recipe based on the poppy seed recipes that I found.

The verdict? These cookies are really tasty, with a nice citrus flavor from orange juice and citrus peel, and they weren't as complicated as I expected. I did get tired of folding them halfway through, so I tested out my new squirrel- and monkey-shaped cookie cutters on the rest of the dough. I had leftover filling, which I've been eating with yogurt. mmm.

Poppy-seed filling
makes about one and a half cups of filling...I didn't measure, but it was enough for more than a dozen hamantaschen

1/2 cup poppy seeds
2 cups boiling water
2 teaspoons butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup chopped candied citrus peel (or zest from 1 lemon)

Pour the boiling water over the poppy seeds and soak overnight.

Drain the water and grind the poppy seeds briefly using a food processor; you can also use a mortar and pestle, but they will be less finely ground.

In a small saucepan, combine the ground poppy seeds, butter, sugar, citrus peel, and 1/4 cup of water. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture looks dry. Allow it to cool before using as filling.

I used a dough recipe from with minimal modifications, so I'll send you over there. I rolled my dough a little thinner than the recipe indicates, and my hamantaschen took 10 minutes to bake. So, keep an eye on your first batch. This dough also makes excellent crispy cut-out cookies.

To form the hamantaschen, you need to roll out the dough, cut out circles, put the filling in the center of each circle, and fold the edges up to form a triangular shape. An alternative to using a cookie cutter is to roll balls of dough, then flatten them with a rolling pin, as shown here. In either case, pinch the seams together so that they won't come apart during baking.

1 comment:

  1. The cookies look so cute. I can't wait to try these!