You've heard of pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving and chocolate cake for Valentine's Day, but how about Hamantaschen for Purim?
Purim is a festive holiday celebrated by Jewish communities around the world every year in the late winter or early spring. It features giving to the poor, sharing gifts of food with friends, dressing up in costumes for children, and plenty of food, wine, and the holiday's signature confection: Hamantaschen!
The origin stories regarding Hamantaschen are many and varied, but this triangular sweet is generally understood to represent the hat, purse, or ear of Haman, the villain in the Old Testament story of Esther. But unlike a real hat, Hamantaschen are absolutely delicious.
So, how do you make these Purim cookies?
That's where we come in. King Arthur is dedicated to sharing the joy of baking, from the recipes and information on our website to our many outreach efforts, like For Goodness Bakes. Our heartfelt mission is to bring people together through baking, and we love connecting with all of you and spreading that joy on this blog and social media: both for your everyday baking, and with special celebratory treats like Hamantaschen.
A buttery, tender, shortbread-like cookie shaped into a triangular nest to hold its sweet filling: that’s Hamantaschen.
Honey-poppyseed, apricot, and prune fillings are classic, but in recent years tradition has started to take a back seat to more current tastes. Think “apple pie.” And chocolate-hazelnut. Some recipe developers have even come up with savory versions, like smoked salmon, or caramelized onion and goat cheese.
Still, if you’re taking your first dive into homemade Hamantaschen I suggest you start with one of the classics. Like the raisin- and apple-enhanced poppyseed filling from our original recipe for Hamantaschen. Or the bright, sweet-tangy apricot filling in Zingerman’s Hamantaschen with Apricot Filling, the recipe I’ll be walking you through here.
How to make Hamantaschen
With their straightforward, easy-to-handle dough and two-ingredient filling, these Hamantaschen are a breeze to put together. We’ll start with the dough — here’s what you need:
- 12 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon (174g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon (78g) granulated sugar or King Arthur Baking Sugar Alternative (67g)
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 1/4 cups + 3 tablespoons (291g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour or gluten-free Measure for Measure Flour
Why the rather odd volume measurements? Like many bakery recipes this one was originally developed by weight, and the translation to volume is a bit bumpy; all the more reason to use a scale to measure your ingredients!
Beat together the butter and sugar until light and creamy.
This can be done by hand (if you’re strong and energetic); using an electric beater, or in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
Add the egg, vanilla, and salt and mix until thoroughly combined
Add the flour gradually, mixing until everything is completely combined.
Remove the dough from the mixer and divide it in half. Press each half into a rough circle or square and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate the dough for 45 minutes (or for up to a week) before rolling and filling.
Make the filling
We’ll go with a classic apricot filling here, one using prepared apricot preserves. For greatest success, we recommend using apricot preserves without high-fructose corn syrup in the ingredient list; it'll produce the brightest, shiniest filling and also tends to stay in place better within the cookie walls.
- 1 1/4 cups (425g) apricot preserves
- 1/2 cup (39g) fresh breadcrumbs, packed
To make fresh breadcrumbs in a food processor: Use one slice from a soft sandwich loaf (more or less, depending on how small or large your loaf is). A crusty loaf will work if it’s all you have; but do trim the tough crust before turning the interior into crumbs. Pulse the bread until it's become fine crumbs.
Alternatively, use the same weight (40g) of unflavored dried breadcrumbs, which translates to about 1/3 cup, loosely packed.
Stir together the apricot preserves and breadcrumbs.
Roll, fill, and bake
Remove one piece of dough from the refrigerator and unwrap it.
Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and tap it with your rolling pin to soften.
Lightly flour the top of the dough, then gently roll it 1/8” thick; you should have a (slightly larger than) 12” square or circle of dough, say 12 1/2” or so.
Using a 3" round cutter, cut out pieces of the rolled dough and place them on the prepared baking sheet.
Continue rolling and cutting out circles, re-rolling the dough as necessary.
Place a rounded teaspoon of filling (15g to 20g) in the center of each dough circle. Brush the edges of the dough with water.
Fold the edges of each cookie up and pinch together three corners to a make a triangle shape, with the filling visible in the center. Start with two sides, making an A shape; then fold in the third side to finish the triangle. Pinch the corners well and angle the sides towards the center, rather than vertically. You should strive for an equilateral triangle with edges that are about 1" long.
Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.
Bake the cookies for 18 to 22 minutes, or until the edges and bottoms are golden brown. There's a tendency to underbake these cookies; go for some color. It will give them a nice toasty flavor.
Remove the cookies from the oven and cool them right on the pan. Store Hamantaschen well-wrapped at room temperature for several days; freeze for longer storage.
Smooth sailing, right?
Alas, not for me.
Despite thorough vetting in our King Arthur test kitchen and nothing but positive reader reviews, I couldn’t for the life of me get these cookies to hold their shape during baking. They tasted sublime … but looked ridiculous.
The walls collapsed inward. The walls collapsed outward. Or hey, some of each. The filling erupted like Mt. Vesuvius, subsequently spilling out of its little nest to pool on the parchment below.
And nothing I did solved the problem.
First, I tried the tips at the bottom of the recipe suggesting things to do “if you find that your cookies fall apart.” Chill the filling. Freeze the shaped cookies. Lower your oven temperature.
Nope, nope, and NOPE. While freezing the cookies solid before baking (like, 90 minutes in the freezer) did seem to help, it didn’t solve the problem entirely: most of my cookies were still imitating Jericho, whose walls famously came tumbling down.
Feedback from the test kitchen
After a weekend of frustration, bright and early Monday morning I contacted Charlotte and Molly, our King Arthur test kitchen mavens. “Um, you know the apricot Hamantaschen recipe on our site? My cookies keep collapsing. What am I doing wrong?”
Charlotte replied, “We had the exact same problem when testing that one … it's definitely a finicky recipe. Sorry you had trouble, but I'm sure it'll make for a good blog post!”
Which is exactly right: this does make a great blog post. Why? Because my failure to master this recipe is a good reminder to all of us: life is imperfect. Cookies collapse. Yeast rolls bake into hockey pucks. Cake dips in the middle.
My advice? Don't give up. As long as you’re willing and eager, keep trying. Which is what I did.
The happy ending
After sitting and thinking for a while, I finally had to point the finger at myself: I hadn’t followed the recipe exactly (blush).
The directions call for a 3” round cutter. The largest I have is 2 3/4” — but I went ahead and used it anyway. The subsequent cookies were too small for the jam filling, which simply boiled and expanded in the oven’s heat and blew their dough walls down.
I was also supposed to angle the cookie walls inward toward the filling before baking. Totally missed that step. Perhaps if I’d lowered them to 45° rather than allowing them to stand upright they wouldn’t have been so eager to tip … over.
If you’re waiting for the happy ending, here it is: my misshapen cookies taste great! Though I never did get an Instagram-worthy batch, everyone loved them — proving that old adage once again: beauty is only crust deep.
Do try this at home
Please don’t let me discourage you from making these cookies, because once you taste one you’re hooked: the buttery, crisp cookie and soft apricot filling are a perfect match. Besides, making them successfully will give you bragging rights: my cookies are better than PJ's!
Before you start, consider these suggestions. I've tried them and all seem to help, at least somewhat.
- Follow the recipe as written: no ingredient or tool substitutions, no skipping steps.
- Though it may seem odd, do use the breadcrumbs in the filling; they help hold the jam in place (says she who tried plain jam, no breadcrumbs, to ill effect).
- Try using a bit less filling — my working theory is that less filling creates less pressure on the cookie walls. If the filling looks scanty once the cookies are baked, you can always top it off with a dollop of fresh jam.
- Freeze the filled cookies thoroughly before baking.
- Do a test bake of just a couple of filled cookies before baking the entire batch. If bad news is coming you might as well get it right away, while there's still time to try some mitigation!
So, what do you think — will you give Hamantaschen a try? Please answer "yes" or "no" in the comments section below. And I hope the "yes" votes win!