Hamantaschen is a cookie associated with the Jewish holiday Purim which takes place in Spring. Purim is otherwise known as the Jewish Mardi Gras or Halloween where everyone dresses in costume, has fun, and hold lively parties. It is a time for charity and to give gifts and food to family and friends.
Hamantaschen is traditionally eaten during Purim to signify the triumph of the Jewish people over Haman. Haman was a Prime Minister who wanted to massacre the Jews in Persia because Mordechai, who was Jewish, refused to bow down to him. Haman had it in for the Jews anyway and used Mordechai as an excuse. Esther, the beautiful Queen of Persia, heard the news. (She was Jewish by the way but her husband the King didn’t know this.) Esther saved the Jews from slaughter by convincing the King to execute Haman and his cronies.
Hamantaschen’s triangular shape signifies Haman’s hat and the poppy seeds represent fleas in his hair because I guess the evil Haman also had hygiene issues. In Israel, the triangular shape symbolizes Haman’s ears “oznei Haman”. The actual origin of this pastry traces back to the medieval times. Montaschen is the German word for “poppy seed pocket”. The Ashkenazi Jews adopted this cookie and assimilated it into their religious traditions.
I thought the story of Esther and Haman was intriguing which inspired me to incorporate the flavors of Persia in my recipe.
The tender buttery, flakey cream cheese pastry dough was infused with orange blossom water, orange juice and orange zest. The filling is made from a purée of dried apricots, pistachios, honey, cinnamon, and cardamom. I sprinkled the pastry exterior with poppy seeds and turbinado sugar which lends a light crunchy texture with every bite. The result is a subtle balance of floral, fruity, nutty, and sweet flavors. It is a beautiful and elegant tasting pastry just like Queen Esther but with an aesthetically unpleasant rustic exterior like Haman.
I adapted Claire Saffitz Earl Grey and Apricot Hamantaschen. I used her dough as a base and put my own twist to her recipe.
This was my first time making Hamantaschen. I'm overall pleased with the flavor but my type-A was disappointed that the cookies didn't come out perfectly triangular. I found the dough was finicky to work with and I felt pressure to work fast for fear it would lose its chill. A chilled dough is necessary for a sturdy structure.
I consulted with my Jewish friend and the Jewish forum on reddit on how to prevent the cookie from bursting open during the bake and filling leakage.
There are two methods of creating a triangular shape. (1) Pinching the tops and corners and (2) folding and overlapping the corners. From the people I've asked, a large majority say they do the pinch method and have no problems with bursting or leakage. Claire Saffitz uses the fold method. Since a majority of the people I asked used the pinching method, this is what I used. I also think the pinch method is more aesthetically pleasing.
The type of filling is also important. Using a fruit jam is not recommended as it will run and leak so I created more of a fruit and nut paste which is more stable and will ensure the filling will stay inside the pastry during the bake. The paste filling proved successful. No bursting or leakage whatsoever.
3 - 3.5 inch round biscuit/cookie cutter
2 rimmed baking sheets
Dried apricots coarsely chopped (1 rounded cup)
Pistachios (1/2 cup)
Honey (3 tbs)
Apricot jam (2 tbs)
Finely grated orange zest (2 tsp)
Fresh orange juice (1 tbs)
Ground cinnamon (1/2 tsp)
Ground cardamom (1/4 tsp)
Unsalted butter cut into 1/2 inch pieces at room temperature
Cream cheese 1/2 inch pieces at room temperature
Powdered sugar (1/2 cup)
Egg yolk (1 large)
Vanilla extract (2 tsp)
Orange blossom water (2 tsp)
Grated orange zest (2 tsp)
Kosher salt (1/2 tsp)
Baking powder (1 tsp)
All-purpose flour (2 cups)
Egg beaten (1 large)
Poppy seeds and demerara or turbinado sugar for sprinkling on top and sides
In a food processor, add dried apricots and pistachio nuts. Pulse until apricots and pistachios are combined and chopped.
Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until it becomes a thick coarse paste.
Chill filling in fridge until ready to use.
In a food processor, combine the butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar, egg yolk, vanilla. Process in long pulses scraping down the sides at least twice until smooth and creamy.
Scrape down the sides and add salt, baking powder, and 2 cups of flour.
Pulse until dough forms around the blade, about 10 pulses.
Divide the dough in half, wrap each in plastic, and press the dough into 3/4 inch thick rectangle.
Refrigerate dough until firm about 2 hours and up to 2 days.
Filling and Assembly
Set the oven to 350F.
Prep the baking sheets with parchment paper.
Let dough sit for 5 minutes at room temperature to soften slightly.
Flour work surface. Roll dough with a pin until 1/8 inches thick.
With a biscuit or cookie cutter, cut dough rounds and place on baking sheet.
Fill the middle of rounds with a little less than 1 tbs of filling.
Brush the perimeter of the rounds with egg white and immediately form triangles with pinch or fold/overlap method.
Brush over whole egg wash on exterior of hamantaschen.
Sprinkle over poppy seeds and turbinado sugar
Bake on middle rack for 22 - 27 minutes.
Let cool completely on baking tray.
Repeat all the steps with the other half of chilled dough.