I’ll go-ahead and admit it: before I moved to NYC, the only Jewish holiday I could name was Hanukkah.
As an attempt at some justification of this inexcusable ignorance, .03% of the population of North Carolina (where I spent a decade of my formative years) is Jewish.
Side effect: I lived a Hamantaschen-deprived life.
Hamantachen are cakey sugar dough cookies with a filling, most traditionally poppy seeds or prune butter made & eaten to celebrate Purim. Purim is a holiday similar to Mardi Gras in that it is celebrated with lots of heavy drinking and masquerading. It celebrates the story of Esther, whose bravery saved the Persian Jews 2,500 years ago.
The hamantaschen recipe below is my friend Jill’s, by way of her Jewish boyfriend’s grandmother. Those are her hands in the photos, too!
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 3 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 3/4 cup cold water
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 6 cups all-purpose flour
Filling (see recipes below) + Finishing
- Choice of filling: poppy seed filling (most traditional), prune butter, apricot butter, apricot jam, strawberry jam or even chocolate chips
- 1 large egg, beaten
- cinnamon/sugar mix
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Cover 2 baking sheets w/parchment or foil.
- Either by hand or with a mixer, combine the oil, eggs, vanilla, water, sugar, baking powder and flour and knead until a soft dough forms. Roll the dough out into a very thin layer. Dip the rim of a 3 or 4 inch cup or glass in flour and use like a cookie cutter to cut the circles. Re-roll the scraps of dough and reuse.
- In the center of each circle drop a teaspoon of your filling. Shape into a triangle by folding 2 sides of the circle to the center, and pinch together at the corners. Make sure corners are tightly pinched so they don’t open during baking.
- Place hamantaschen 1 inch apart on the baking sheets. Brush with beaten egg. Sprinkle with the cinnamon/sugar.
- Bake 20 minutes.
Makes 4 dozen. Hamantaschen freeze well.
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 lb. poppy seeds
- Pour boiling water on poppy seeds and drain.
- After poppy seeds have settled to bottom, chop up fine.
- Add egg and sugar, stirring well.
Prune Filling (Lekvar)
- 2 cups dried prunes
- 1 cup water
- ¼ cup orange juice
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 dash clove
- 1 dash cinnamon
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- Combine everything into a saucepan (except brown sugar) and cook on low heat, stirring every few minutes. Heat to boiling.
- Lower heat to simmer, cover pan and cook for 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
- Mix in the brown sugar. Cook, reducing the liquid and stirring every few minutes being careful not to scorch the mixture. Mash with a wooden spoon until the prunes are soft and broken up and mixture is about the consistency of oatmeal (about 20 more minutes). It will thicken more when cooled.
Keeps in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks and also freezes well.