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Hamantaschen

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I love mid-March. We have Pi Day on the fourteenth for us math geeks, the Ides of March on the fifteenth for us literary geeks, and St. Patrick’s Day on the seventeenth for all things Irish. This year on St. Patrick’s Day, in addition to wearing green and drinking Guinness and whiskey, some of us will also be celebrating Purim.

You’ve heard of Purim, right? A Jewish holiday, Purim (Pur-um) commemorates the saving of the Jewish people as written in the Book of Esther. King Ahasuerus of Persia had his wife Queen Vashti killed after she refused to dance naked at a banquet. The king then demanded that all maidens be brought before him, and selected one, Esther, to be his next wife. He didn’t know Esther was Jewish. One day after the royal wedding, the king’s advisor, Haman, was furious when Esther’s uncle refused to bow to him. So Haman had the king decree that all Jews be put to death. Esther talked the king out of fulfilling the decree, and Haman was executed. 

Yay! We didn’t die. Time to celebrate.

Purim is similar to Mardi Gras. Folks dress up in costume (with lots of cross-dressing), put on skits, and drink lots of alcohol. They also give away pastries that celebrate the victory over Haman. My favorite Purim dessert, the hamantaschen (haa-muhn-taa-shn), means Haman’s pocket. The stuffed butter cookie actually looks like his triangular hat. Traditionally, hamantaschen are filled with poppy seeds, prunes, or apricots. This year I’m making two batches of hamantaschen, one stuffed with chocolate hazelnut spread and the other with sour cherry jam. And since Purim falls on St. Patrick’s day this year, I’ll be bringing them to T.C. O’Leary’s, my favorite local Irish pub—stay tuned to my Instagram account for photos.

There are many hamantaschen recipes out there. The one I use is based on one of Shannon Sarna’s recipes on The Nosher, though I tweaked it quite a bit.

Recipe for dough

½    cup unsalted butter
¾    cup sugar
2     eggs
1     Tbsp cream
1½  tsp grated lemon zest
1½  cups all-purpose flour
¼    tsp baking powder
¼    tsp salt
Optional: 1 additional egg for an egg wash

  1. Cut butter into chunks and set aside until room temperature.
  2. Cream butter and sugar.
  3. With a fork, lightly beat eggs. Then add eggs to the butter/sugar mixture.
  4. Add milk, vanilla and lemon zest. Mix thoroughly.
  5. Add baking powder and salt to sifted flour.
  6. Add dry ingredients one spoonful at a time to the liquid mixture. Blend at a slow speed after each addition until dry ingredients are well incorporated.
  7. Form dough into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.
  8. Roll dough on a well-floured surface until the dough is about ¼ inch thick.
  9. With a round cookie cutter, cut circles of dough and place them onto a cookie sheet that is either well-greased or lined with parchment paper.
  10. Place ½ teaspoon of filling of your choice into the center of each circle (jams or nut spreads work well so long as they are not watery). Form a triangle by folding edges of the dough toward the filling and tightly pinch the three corners. 
  11. Chill the hamantaschen in the fridge for ten minutes prior to baking.
  12. Optional: whisk the extra egg and, with a pastry brush, coat the exposed dough of each hamantaschen with the egg wash.
  13. Bake at 400° F for 7-9 minutes.

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Hamantaschen