One of our favorite Jewish holidays is Purim, because it is a holiday where you are encouraged to dress up, make merry, and raise a glass (or several) to another historical fable of the Jewish people surviving against all odds! We had a lot of fun celebrating the holiday with our Wednesday Night Cocktail Club friends, dressing up in our best bling as “queens” and “kings,” and toasting with Yellow Bird cocktails.
And of course, the homemade hamantaschen—tri-cornered cookies with delicious fillings—were the stars of the evening. Luckily for me, my mom gave me her tried-and-true recipes for the dough and an absolutely fabulous date-raisin-apple-nut filling that even my seven-year-old loves. I also experimented with using the Joy of Cooking’s (7th ed.) apple pie filling (it came out just as you would expect: mini apple pies, what’s not to like?) and jarred orange marmalade (also a big favorite in my household).
Note: Each batch of dough makes about 40 cookies. As the date filling recipe makes enough for 40 cookies, I made two batches of dough to also experiment with the other fillings! All 80 cookies were eaten up by friends and family within the week, so I would say Purim was a success. Chag sameach!
Hamantaschen Dough Recipe
1/2 cup butter (room temperature)
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon milk (or orange juice)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
BEAT. In a large bowl, cream the butter (rubbing it with the back of a wooden spoon) and gradually add the sugar. Beat the mixture until fluffy. Add egg, milk, and vanilla, and beat well.
SIFT. Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder in a medium bowl. Add to the wet mixture.
STIR. Stir to make a soft dough. Chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
ROLL AND CUT. Sprinkle a board lightly with flour or use wax paper. Roll the dough out until it is about 1/4 inch thick. Press a circular object (such as a wide-mouthed jar or glass—I like about two inches in diameter) into the dough to cut circles.
FILL AND FOLD. Spoon some filling (see recipes below) in the center of each circle. Bring three sides of the circle together to form a triangle (leaving the center open). Pinch the edges together to make a seam.
BAKE. Arrange well apart on a greased baking sheet. Bake in a hot oven (400° F) for up to 18 minutes. Check after 10 minutes—all ovens are different! You are looking for lightly browned but not darkened cookies. If the top is browning too fast, turn the oven’s top heating element off for the last five minutes or so of baking. Makes about 40 hamantaschen.
Hamantaschen Date Filling Recipe
3/4 cup pitted dates (medjool dates are the best! about 100-125 grams for 3/4 cup)
1/3 cup raisins (golden)
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup coarsely chopped apple (approximately half of a red Gala apple)
1/4 cup nuts (I prefer shelled and slivered pistachios, but walnuts can also be used)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice (basically, the juice and zest of one lemon)
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
Combine dates, raisins, and water in a small saucepan. Simmer over low heat until the dates are tender but still firm and liquid has been absorbed, about 10 minutes.
Combine the date mixture, apples, walnuts, sugar, lemon juice, and zest in a food processor; process until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside until ready to fill the hamantaschen! Makes enough filling for 40 hamantaschen (one batch of dough, above).
Apple Pie Hamantaschen Filling
1 golden delicious apple
1/8 cup sugar
1/2 T flour
1/2 t lemon juice
1/8 ground cinnamon
Dash of salt
Peel, core, thinly slice, and cut slices in half (or dice) the apple. Place in a small bowl with the sugar, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon, and a dash of salt. Stir to coat the apples, and let sit for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Makes enough filling for 20 hamantaschen (half of the batch of dough, above).
Pro tip: Jarred fruit preserves are yummy in hamantaschen too—especially popular in my household are hamantaschen with orange marmalade! But note that the jam can cause the hamantaschen to expand and flatten while cooking—check halfway through the baking process and prop your cookie sides back up (if needed) to retain the shape.