Hats Off to Haman(tashen)!

Photos by Dan Kacvinski

How can you not love a holiday that tells you to dress up in costume, make loud noises with a grogger, forget your troubles, enjoy delicious food and drink lots of wine? Of course, it is Purim — often called the Feast of Esther — and is one of the happiest of all Jewish holidays, marking the liberation of the Jews from the king’s cruel adviser, Haman, through the heroism of the beautiful and good Queen Esther.
By far, the best-known Purim pastry is hamantashen. Some say the triangular shape of these pastries represents Haman’s hat, or his ears, depending upon which tale your bubbe (grandmother) told you.
Every family has its favorite variation, usually sugar cookie or yeast dough, which is rolled out and filled with prunes, poppy seeds or apricot jam; these delicious confections are served throughout the holiday.
My passion is baking, and I enjoy developing new, original hamantashen recipes to share with family and friends. This year, I created one based on a rich poppy seed cookie dough, flavored with orange peel. I love the crunch of the poppy seeds in the pastry. Another recipe uses filo as a wrapper; after baking, while the pastries are still hot, a honey-sugar syrup is poured over them — a technique similar to that used in making baklava.
My husband’s favorite is a soft, puffy yeast hamantashen filled with a puree of poppy seeds, usually found in most Jewish bakeries. If you are watching your cholesterol, the low-cholesterol hamantashen is the one for you. And for a special treat, chocolate lovers will enjoy my recipe for a double-chocolate hamantashen.
Be creative — any of these hamantashen can be filled with an amazing selection of fillings, from traditional poppy seed to a chocolate-nut filling, or even Nutella, the Italian version of peanut butter (a combination of roasted hazelnuts, nonfat milk and a hint of cocoa). Prepare a variety of hamantashen and mix and match the fillings for everyone to enjoy.


∗ 1/4 pound unsalted butter or margarine, softened
∗ 1/2 cup sugar
∗ 3 eggs
∗ Grated zest of 1 orange
∗ 2 cups flour
∗ 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
∗ 1/4 teaspoon salt
∗ 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
∗ Poppy Seed Filling or 3 (8-ounce) cans poppy seed filling
∗ Preheat oven to 375 F.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until well blended. Beat in 2 of the eggs and the orange zest, blending thoroughly. Add flour, baking powder, salt and poppy seeds; blend until dough is smooth.
Transfer to floured board and divide dough into 3 or 4 portions for easier handling. Flatten each portion with the palm of your hand and roll it out 1/4 inch thick. With a scalloped or plain cookie cutter, cut into 3-inch rounds. Place 1 heaping teaspoon of Poppy Seed Filling in the center of each round. Fold the edges of the dough toward the center to form a triangle, leaving a bit of the filling visible in the center. Pinch edges to seal them.
Place hamantashen, 1/2 inch apart, on a lightly greased foil-lined baking sheet. Lightly beat remaining egg and use it to brush the unbaked hamantashen. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to racks to cool.
Makes 5 to 6 dozen.

∗ 4 ounces poppy seeds
∗ 1/2 cup milk
∗ 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or margarine
∗ 1/4 cup seedless raisins
∗ 1/4 cup walnuts, pecans or almonds, toasted
∗ 1 tablespoon honey
∗ 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
In a medium saucepan, combine the poppy seeds, milk, butter, raisins, walnuts and honey. Bring to a boil and stir over medium heat until the milk is absorbed and the mixture thickens. Let mixture cool; stir in vanilla. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

∗ 2 cups apricot preserves
∗ 1/2 cup shredded coconut
∗ 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, toasted
∗ Grated peel of 1 lemon
Combine all ingredients in a bowl; mix well. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate.
Makes about 3 cups.

∗ 1/2 pound unsalted butter or margarine
∗ 1/4 cup oil
∗ 2 cups finely ground almonds
∗ 1/4 cup sugar
∗ 1 (1-pound) package filo sheets
∗ Filling of your choice (see sidebar)
∗ Honey-Sugar Syrup (recipe follows)
∗ Preheat oven to 350 F.
Combine butter and oil in medium saucepan over low heat, cooking until butter melts.
Combine almonds and sugar and set aside.
Place a clean, damp towel on work area and cover it with a large sheet of wax paper. Work with 1 sheet of filo at a time (keep the remaining filo covered with additional wax paper and a second damp towel). Cut filo sheet evenly into 2-inch strips. Work with each strip on top of the large sheet of wax paper placed on top of the damp kitchen towel. Brush strips with butter mixture and sprinkle with almond mixture. Place 1 teaspoon of desired filling 1 inch from the short edge of each strip. Fold one corner over the filling. Fold up filo, flag fashion, in a triangle along its length to make a neat triangular package. Repeat with remaining strips and filling.
Brush baking sheets with butter mixture; place hamantashen on baking sheets, 1/2 inch apart. Brush with butter mixture. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown and crisp. Remove from oven and spoon Honey-Sugar Syrup over each triangle. Cool on racks.
Makes about 6 dozen.

∗ 1 cup sugar
∗ 1/2 cup water
∗ 1 tablespoon lemon juice
∗ 1 tablespoon honey
Combine sugar, water and lemon juice in a heavy saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon until sugar dissolves. Boil briskly for 5 minutes. Stir in honey. Pour into heat-proof pitcher.

∗ 1 envelope dry yeast
∗ 1/4 cup lukewarm milk
∗ 1/2 cup hot milk
∗ 1/4 cup unsalted butter
∗ 1/4 cup sugar
∗ 3 eggs
∗ 2 cups flour
∗ 1/4 teaspoon salt
∗ Filling of your choice (see sidebar)
∗ Preheat oven to 350 F.
Dissolve yeast in lukewarm milk. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, combine hot milk, butter, sugar and 2 eggs, and blend thoroughly. Add yeast mixture and blend. Add flour and salt, a little at a time, blending thoroughly to make a soft dough. Place dough on a floured board and knead 2 to 3 minutes, adding additional flour if dough is sticky. Place dough in a well-oiled bowl, oil top of dough, cover with a towel and set in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
Roll out half of dough at a time, to 1/4-inch thickness, and cut into 3-inch rounds. Spoon a teaspoon of desired filling in the center of each round and pinch closed on top to make a triangle.
Place hamantashen on a greased cookie sheet. Beat remaining egg lightly; brush hamantashen with the beaten egg. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.
Makes about 2 dozen.

∗ 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
∗ 3/4 cup sugar
∗ 1/2 teaspoon salt
∗ 1 teaspoon almond extract
∗ 1 egg
∗ 1 1/3 cups flour
∗ 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
∗ 1 teaspoon baking powder
∗ 3 to 4 tablespoons whipping cream
∗ Chocolate-Nut Filling (see sidebar)
∗ Preheat oven to 350 F.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter, sugar, salt and almond extract until light and fluffy. Add egg and mix thoroughly. In another bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder and baking powder; add to butter mixture alternately with whipping cream. (More or less cream may be needed, depending on the consistency of the dough.) Turn dough out onto wax paper and form into a flattened disc. Chill for at least one hour.
Roll chilled dough to about 1/8-inch thickness. Using a round cookie cutter dipped in flour, cut into 3-inch circles.
Place Chocolate-Nut Filling in center of dough circles, brush edges with water, carefully fold in the edges to form a triangular shape, and pinch the corners to seal. Place on greased cookie sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, until crust is baked through.
Makes about 2 dozen.

These hamantashen can be frozen before baking, so they can be made ahead and baked fresh on Purim.
∗ 7 egg whites
∗ 1 cup sugar
∗ 3/4 cup oil
∗ 1 teaspoon vanilla
∗ 4 1/2 cups flour
∗ 1 tablespoon baking powder
∗ 1/2 teaspoon salt
∗ 1/4 cup poppy seeds
∗ Filling of your choice (see sidebar)
∗ Preheat oven to 350 F.
In large bowl of an electric mixer, beat together 6 egg whites, sugar, oil and vanilla. In separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and poppy seeds. Blend flour mixture into egg mixture; mix well.
Roll out portions of dough on a floured board and cut into 3 1/2- inch circles with scalloped or plain cookie cutter. Place a teaspoon of desired filling in center of each circle of dough. Bring up edges of dough to cover filling and pinch together to form a triangle. Beat remaining egg white; brush it lightly over hamantashen. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden.
Makes about 5 dozen.

∗ 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
∗ 1 cup sugar
∗ 1/2 cup milk, whipping cream or coffee
∗ 2 cups chopped almonds, toasted
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl; blend thoroughly. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate.
Makes about 3 1/2 cups.

∗ 3/4 cup sugar
∗ 1/4 cup water
∗ 2 cups chopped pecans, toasted
∗ 7 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine
∗ 1/2 cup milk or non-dairy creamer
∗ 1/4 cup honey
In heavy saucepan, bring sugar and water to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add pecans, butter and milk. Return saucepan to heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in honey; let mixture cool. Transfer to a glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until set. This will keep, refrigerated, for at least 1 week.
Makes about 3 cups.

∗ 1 cup applesauce
∗ 1/2 cup raisins, plumped in hot water and drained
∗ 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
∗ 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Combine all ingredients in a bowl; blend well. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate.

Makes about 3 cups.

∗ 1 (15-ounce) jar cooked pitted prunes, drained, or 2 cups pitted
∗ stewed prunes
∗ 1/4 cup sugar
∗ 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, toasted
∗ 1 teaspoon orange juice
∗ 1 teaspoon lemon juice
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients; mix well. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate.

Makes about 2 cups.

∗ 1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
∗ 1/4 cup honey
∗ 1/3 cup bread crumbs
∗ Zest of 1 orange
In a saucepan, combine walnuts, honey and bread crumbs. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in orange zest; let mixture cool. Cover with plastic.

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