Say hello to my favorite holiday cookie: the hamantaschen. It is a three-sided mini-pastry that redefines “love triangle,” and it will inspire you (to eat dozens of it). Traditionally made around the Jewish holiday of Purim, the hamantaschen is a jam-filled masterpiece, with a crust that’s soft on the inside and delightfully crisp and shiny on the outside.
These yummy little spring treats have a long history in the Jewish faith, although no one can say for sure when they first came to be associated with the holiday of Purim. One theory is that their triangular shape is connected to the Purim-time story of Queen Esther, who bested the evil vizier Haman and cut off his ears. Hamantaschen are commonly baked with a sweet poppy seed filling; another take on the cookies is that “haman” may have come from the Yiddish words for seeds (“mohn”) and “tasch” for pocket. The poppy seeds may be meant to commemorate Esther and her messenger Daniel, who kept kosher by eating only seeds when they were taken prisoner in the house of Babylon. Whatever their exact origin, hamantaschen go hand-in-hand with Jewish festivities this time of year, complete with costumes and noisemakers.
There are thousands of different takes on the standard hamantaschen recipe, which consists of a smooth pastry dough, carefully formed into a triangular shape around a dollop of sweetness (jam, preserves, seed filling, or fruit butter). The dough is flattened, divided into circles, and each circle is formed into its classic shape with the “fold method” that prevents the cookie from opening during baking. Hamantaschen are also often brushed with an egg wash before baking, to give them an extra golden glow and surface crunch.
Thanks to the big wide Internet, I’ve found the perfect process to create the perfect hamantaschen (hint: when mixing the dough, add a splash of rum instead of vanilla extract, and let it chill in the fridge overnight). My favorite thing to fill my hamantaschen with is jam, especially boysenberry and raspberry; other weird fillings I’ve tried in the past that have been equally delicious include lemon curd, apple butter, pumpkin butter, and kumquat preserves. Some intrepid bloggers have attempted easy variations (like chocolate or funfetti hamantaschen) and insane experiments (I have been meaning to try the pita dough and hummus-filled variety!).
No matter what you try, these cookies are bound to be a hit for the whole fam. I’ve been buying people’s friendship for years with my hamantaschen. Google a standard recipe, or go gluten-free or exotic! Baking hamantaschen can be a time-consuming process, but the results are oh so worth it. L’Chaim! Happy Purim!