From-scratch hamantaschen (jam cookies)

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It’s hamantaschen time!

For those of you who are thinking ‘hama-what?‘ (i.e. every single person I talked to about these cookies, save one) hamantaschen are triangular-shaped, jam-filled cookies, eaten to celebrate Purim! — erm, which happened to be yesterday. I might have missed the boat a little bit with this one. On the plus side, these are so delicious you should probably make them all year round. And you now have plenty of time to experiment with my recipe before the holiday rolls around next year! Everybody wins, am I right?

I was complaining a little (see: a lot) to my family that these were finicky and time-consuming, but they helped me arrive at the conclusion that there were probably two things I could have done to avoid the headache:

1. Plan ahead. These are a night before + morning after cookie combo.

2. Don’t make triple batches of everything. Unless you have a little line of labourers helping out in your kitchen, you might want to acknowledge that folding more than a hundred little cookies into triangles isn’t exactly a dream.

But these cookies are really, really, really tasty. So you should make them, okay? Okay. Let’s do this.

The night before: filling & pastry dough

The filling can be anything you want, really, so long as it’s thick and jammy. Ultra-thick jam, apple butter, or even fruit curds will all work well here, if you feel like raiding the fridge instead of making your own. But be sure they are thick — like, stick-to-the-spoon-without-really-moving thick. Otherwise, your filling will run all over the oven. No one likes to have to clean the oven. Trust me on this one. You could also check out some recipes for the poppyseed filling!

However, if you’re a go-getter and you feel like making your own filling, here are two traditional fillings: prune and apricot. If you’re making a single batch of these cookies, pick one or the other (or you could make a half-batch of each).

Prune filling (lekvar):

  • 2 Tbs (or 2 teabags) Russian Caravan or Early Grey tea
  • 1 1/4 c water
  • 2 c dried pitted prunes
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1 Tb honey

1. In a saucepan, bring the water to a boil and then steep the tea in it for 5 minutes. Remove the tea leaves/bags. Then add the prunes and the rest of the ingredients. Stir and bring to a boil for one minute.
2. Reduce heat to low and cover. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
3. Remove the lid. Let the prunes continue to simmer for 3-5 more minutes, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid is gone. When there are about 3 tablespoons of liquid left in the pan, remove from heat.
4. Puree in the food processor/with an immersion blender. Store in a sealed, airtight container in the refrigerator.

Apricot filling (lekvar):

  •  3/4 c orange juice
  • 1/2 c water
  • 2 c dried apricots
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1 Tb honey

1. In a saucepan, mix the water and the orange juice. Then add the prunes and the rest of the ingredients. Stir and bring to a boil for one minute.
2. Reduce heat to low and cover. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
3. Remove the lid. Let the apricots continue to simmer for 3-5 more minutes, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid is gone. When there are about 3 tablespoons of liquid left in the pan, remove from heat.
4. Puree in the food processor/with an immersion blender. Store in a sealed, airtight container in the refrigerator.

While the filling of your choice is simmering away on the stovetop, you can make the dough! I added two optional variations — rosemary and poppyseed, both of which went spectacularly with the apricot filling, and I suspect they would go well with the prune, too.

Pastry dough:

(makes about 30 cookies with a 3-inch cookie-cutter)

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour + more for rolling
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon or orange
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature and cubed
  • 2 large eggs, whisked until light yellow and consistent
  • (optional additions: 1/3 c. poppy seeds, or 1 Tbs fresh rosemary, diced very finely)

1. In a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, salt, and zest. If you were going to go for the rosemary or poppy variations, you should also add the ingredient of your choice now.

2. Add the butter, and pulse a few times, until it’s in small pieces (slightly smaller than a pea? — it doesn’t really matter).

3. Add the beaten eggs, and combine until the dough forms a thick ball (should only take a few seconds).

4. Scrape the ball onto plastic wrap, flatten into a disk, cover, and refrigerate overnight (or at the very least, 3 hours).

PHEW! Now go out dancing. Or go to sleep. Or both.

The next morning: hamantaschen assembly!

1. Preheat your oven to 350F and grease/line two baking sheets.

2. Generously (and I mean generously) flour your rolling surface, your dough, your hands, and your rolling pin. Then flour them again. Seriously. In fact, I probably added almost an entire cup of flour to the dough from what it absorbed in the rolling stage — and it turned out beautifully, so don’t worry too much about it. Flour like hell. Otherwise, you will be in a sticky, sorry state.

3. If your dough’s still too stiff for rolling, bash it with the rolling pin a few times until it flattens out a bit. Flour some more. Then roll your dough out until it’s about 1/4 inch to 1/8 inch thick. Grab your cookie cutter (if you don’t have a 3-inch cutter, the lid of a mason jar works just fine) and slice away. Set the new circles on your baking sheets. When you’ve cut as many shapes as you can from the dough, ball up the scraps, flour away, and roll the dough out again. Cut more circles. Repeat until you can’t cut out any more circles.

4. In each round, drop a teeny, tiny, not-quite-teaspoon of filling into the centre. You could then try pinching the edges of the dough around the filling, but sometimes they separate and you end up with a wonky, warped cookie. I prefer the pinwheel method I found on the Shiksa in the Kitchen blog. Fold into pinwheels like so:

Beauty!

5. Pop your cookie-covered sheets in the oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the process. They’re done when they’re golden-brown.

6. Cookie. In. Mouth.

Happy Purim, everyone!

xo,

A

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6 Responses to “From-scratch hamantaschen (jam cookies)”

  1. Janice March 25, 2016 at 3:46 PM #

    Your early photography is WAY better than mine, hehe! You’ve even got step-by-step photos!
    I like the turquoise board too.

  2. Nanny Joan February 28, 2013 at 9:54 PM #

    Our batch of delicious morsels lasted us carefully through the Academy Awards – there definitely should have been an award for them also. They were undoubably the best hamantaschen I have ever tasted and we thank you for all your effort. I will gladly volunteer to be your helper next year! Love, N/J

  3. Elsa February 25, 2013 at 7:59 PM #

    I may have to give up my trusted and true recipe and try the ones you have so beautifully and “tastefully” described!
    And yes, they do go quickly! Elsa.

  4. Florence pape February 25, 2013 at 7:03 AM #

    I tried to eat them slowly so they would last, but alas, I failed. Not only were they delicious, but each one was picture perfect. You are right about the fact that you need helpers. Rolling out the dough is a back-breaking task. You need an assembly line of rollers, filling preparers,then folders, as well as someone to brush on the egg ( for the shine)
    Hope to receive some again next year
    Love, f.

  5. Jordan February 25, 2013 at 3:02 AM #

    Gorgeous photography and hoooly hard work, girl! These look amazing and I wish they could be in my mouth! Hag sameach, darling!

  6. Dadaa February 24, 2013 at 8:32 PM #

    Bad news about the large and varied batch you gave me (I took):
    1. They’re gone.
    2. Can’t decide which type is best. All so goooood…just one more…