Hamantaschen Central: Your Guide to This Tasty Purim Staple
Let's delve deeper into the most recognizable food of the holiday of Purim: the hamantaschen. We take a look at its history, provide tips for folding the perfect, doughy triangle, and share our favorite holiday recipes.
Get creative – and don’t forget to tuck a cookie or two inside your mishloach manot for friends and family!
Where Do Hamantaschen Come From?
Rabbi Daniel B. Syme writes, “The three-cornered pastry...has become an essential element in Purim's joy.” The cookie’s iconic, triangular shape is said to represent Haman's ears; in fact, in Hebrew they’re called oznei Haman, which literally means "Haman's ears”!
“Hamantaschen” (singular: hamantasch) is a portmanteau of "Haman," the name of the villain of the Book of Esther, and mohntaschen, a German dessert whose name translates to "poppy pockets." (This also explains why poppy seed is the classic hamantaschen filling.)
In “The History of Hamantaschen: The First Thousand Ears,” Jewish cooking expert Tina Wasserman explores the origins of the popular cookie and some of its traditional fillings – though the cookies can be savory or sweet, filled with just about anything.
Hamantaschen Dough Recipes
The cookie’s seemingly simple, three-cornered shape can be surprisingly tricky to master. Wasserman shares a step-by-step outline for getting it just right, and she even demonstrates the process on video.
Try any or all of the following dough recipes, and fill them with whatever you like:
- Hamantaschen Dough (Dairy): This traditional recipe results in a dough that is light but firm.
- Hamantaschen Dough (Pareve and Dairy-Free): This recipe calls for unsalted pareve margarine.
- Gluten-Free Hamantaschen Dough (Dairy): Your favorite cookies need not include gluten!
- Vegan Hamantaschen Dough: This slightly cakey dough is free of animal byproducts.
- Hamantaschen de Panama: This recipe likely originated in Mexico or Central America, the result of a co-mingling of Sephardic and Ashkenazi traditions.
Hamantaschen Filling Recipes
The staff of URJ Camp George, a Reform Jewish summer camp in Seguin, ON, encourages bakers: “Mix and match ingredients. We like to use jam, coconut, sprinkles, gummy bears, chocolate chips, craisins, soy butter, jellybeans... the list goes on.”
If you want to make your own filling, though, try these:
- Traditional Hamantaschen Poppy Seed Filling (Vegan): Poppy seeds are considered to be symbolic of the many lots cast by Haman and God’s promise to Abraham to spread his seed throughout the world – the very antithesis of the annihilation Haman planned.
- Chocolate Hamantaschen Filling (Gluten-Free): Who doesn’t love an excuse to indulge in a little chocolate? This recipe for rich, creamy hamantaschen filling is gluten-free but includes dairy.
- Prune Hamantaschen Filling (Vegan): Prune filling became traditional in 1731 in what’s now the Czech Republic. Be sure to read this fascinating story before you story baking!
One last reminder from the folks at Camp George: “Remember not to put too much filling inside so that you can properly seal the hamantaschen and so that the filling stays inside the cookies.”
Unconventional Hamantaschen Recipes
- Persian Herb and Cheese Hamantaschen: Hamantaschen are typically a sweet treat, but this savory version uses spring herbs, a Persian favorite, to honor Esther and Mordechai’s heritage.
- Pizza Hamantaschen: Get your kids in on the Purim baking – or just serve a fun holiday meal – with these pizza hamantaschen made of refrigerated biscuits.
- Apple Hamantaschen Galette: Hamantaschen can labor intensive, so take on a more streamlined baking project by making one, big family dessert.
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