Prepare to get your celebration mode in gear, it’s time for Purim! Head to your nearest synagogue, crank up your groggers, and get ready to drown out the name of Haman while cheering on Esther and Mordechai.
As a prerequisite to any and all Purim celebrations (and seudahs), it’s time to dig out your favorite hamantaschen recipe and get baking. This year I received an email with the query of where exactly did the idea of a hamantaschen come from? After a bit of research I came up with three slightly different but not dissimilar explanations for the seminal holiday treat. Simply put, hamantaschen are three-cornered pastries whose traditional filling is poppy seed. In Yiddish, “hamantaschen” roughly translates to Haman’s pocket. Other cultures call it Haman’s hat, because the biblical villain supposedly wore a three-cornered chapeau. Still another explanation I found calls the pastry Haman’s ear.
No matter which definition you choose, the oldest “traditional” hamantaschen recipe I found used yeast dough. The yeast dough variety is typically larger and more Danish-like than the cookie-dough variety I grew up with. No matter which dough you choose, the most talked-about filling I found was poppy seed. It’s not my favorite filling, but a poppy seed interior is ubiquitous among hamantaschen purists.
The sky’s the limit when it comes to fillings, however, from fruits and nuts to chocolate and a mixture of any and all of your favorite things. Just make sure not to overstuff and to vent the cookies as they tend to “explode” into weird-looking pastries if the steam from the filling builds up and there is nowhere for it to go.
I’m offering yeast and cookie-dough recipes and a bunch of really different filling recipes. Since you can always buy pie filling, there are no excuses not to doctor up your own. Strain out the excess goo, and add some bread crumbs and chopped golden raisins to make your own “homemade” fillings. If you’re pressed for time, these recipes are going to help you make hamantaschen that are truly deliciously unique.