Purim begins today, and that means it’s the season of hamantaschen! For those who haven’t yet experienced the joy that is eating a hamantasch (I hadn’t until two years ago), it’s time to fire up your oven right now (well, actually after many hours of chilling, but we’ll get to that later). There are various stories about the symbolism of the triangular cookies (you can read more about them here and at the link above), but in general, they represent the villain of Purim, Haman. The most traditional filling is made of poppy seeds, but fruit fillings are also common.
I followed this recipe pretty much exactly, but made my own plum filling. If you’re not into plums, you can substitute just about any other fruit you want. The filling recipe will work roughly the same, though you may have to adjust the cornstarch based on the moisture content of the fruit, and you will want to adjust the sugar based on the sweetness. If fruit’s not your thing, you could go with nuts, chocolate chips, nutella, or anything else you can conceive of.
I want to make it clear that these aren’t true hamantaschen because they contain butter (the traditional recipe is made with oil because they should not contain dairy). However, these weren’t made for a religious celebration, so I decided to stick with the recipe as written because butter (a) is easier to work with and (b) tastes better. If you do want pareve cookies, substitute canola oil or vegetable shortening for the butter.
You will need the following ingredients:
For the cookie dough:
- 1½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg
- 3 Tbsp. orange juice
- ½ Tbsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
For the filling:
- 4 medium plums (about 14 oz.), peeled and diced
- 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
- 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
For baking ambiance:
- The Beatles! Their music is class, and there’s something for everyone. I don’t know how I’ve gone a whole year without making this suggestion yet.
Let’s get baking!
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth.
Beat in the egg until fully-incorporated. Beat in the orange juice and vanilla extract. I found that the liquid didn’t fully mix in no matter how much I mixed it, so just do your best.
At this point, you can proceed one of two ways: you can follow the original recipe and stir the baking powder in first, then the flour, or you can stir the baking powder and flour together in a separate bowl and then mix that into the wet ingredients. I chose not to dirty another bowl and use the first method and it worked just fine. Either way, stir it all together until a sticky dough forms.
Divide the dough in half and form each half into a flat disc. Wrap the dough discs in plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough overnight (if you need these done today, you could freeze the dough for an hour instead).
While your dough is chilling, prepare the plum filling. Peel and dice the plums an put them in a small saucepan.
Heat the diced plums over low heat, stirring occasionally, until they begin to break down and release their juice (this took about 10 minutes).
In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and cornstarch. Stir the sugar mixture into the plums an bring the plum mixture to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring from time to time, until the filling thickens to the consistency of thick applesauce.
Chill the filling until you are ready to prepare your cookies (this will make it easier to work with).
When your dough is nice and hard, sprinkle your work surface with powdered sugar and roll one disc of dough out to slightly less than ¼” thick. Use a 3″ circular cookie cutter or a large glass to cut circles out of the dough. Re-roll the dough and continue to cut until you have used it up (you may need to refrigerate the scraps for awhile if the dough gets too mushy).
Place 1 level teaspoon of plum filling on each dough circle. I know the temptation to overfill your cookies, but trust me, you need to resist the urge. If you add too much filling, it will leak out and burn, and that will be sad.
Now comes the fun part. Fold the edge of one circle toward the center approximately ⅓ of the way in on top of the filling.
Fold another flap inward to form the second side of the equilateral triangle, overlapping one corner.
Finally, fold the third flap inward, one side on top of the second flap an the other side beneath the first flap.
Gently pinch the very tip of each corner to make sure the cookies seal. Refrigerate them for at least 45 minutes before baking to help preserve their shapes.
After the cookies have chilled, preheat your oven to 375°F and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Arrange the cookies on the cookie sheets (they can be pretty close together because they won’t expand much) and bake them for 8-10 minutes, until the bottom just begins to brown.
Leave the cookies to cool on the cookie sheets for 5 minutes, then remove them to cooling racks to cool completely. I advise against biting one of these right out of the oven, as the filling is going to feel like magma pouring down your throat (I am proud to say that I do not know that from experience this time; progress!).
You can download the printable PDF recipe here: Hamantaschen