This Saturday is Purim—the Jewish holiday that celebrates the victory of Persian Jews over Haman the Agatite, who was trying to annihilate them. To celebrate, most Jews dress up in costumes and eat a pastry called hamantaschen, which literally means "ears of Haman." Traditionally filled with poppy seeds, dried fruit, or nuts, the pastry is always shaped in a triangle.
Since we often cover food on the Lopate Show, and recently we've covered quite a bit of Jewish home cooking, we thought we might share some of our favorite hamantaschen recipes with you. Below, we've asked Joan Nathan and Gil Marks—two frequent guests on our show—to share their hamantaschen recipes with us. If you're interested in the history of the holiday, you should also check out an interview Leonard conducted in 2006 with Houman Sarshar, the director of publications for the Center for Iranian Jewish Oral History and author of the book Esther's Children. He explains the Persian roots of the holiday, and debunks some widely held myths.
Let us know in the comments if you have a Purim recipe or memory you'd like to share!
Joan Nathan's Fruit-Filled Hamantaschen from Philadelphia
Haman's pockets, or Hamantaschen, were brought to this country by Jews from the eastern part of Germany and Eastern Europe. Hamantaschen are so popular here that at many academic institutions there is an annual Hamantaschen versus latke debate. The filling for the following Hamantaschen recipe comes from the Taste of History: Recipes Old and New put out by Philadelphia's Historic Spanish and Portuguese Congregation, Kahal Kadosh Midveh Israel, founded in 1740. With the filling I used my own butter cookie dough, which everyone in my family loves. Although adults like fruit or poppy-seed fillings, my children do not, and they fill the dough with chocolate chips and even make a Hamantaschen with chocolate chips and peanut butter. I'll stick to this prune filling and leave the chocolate-chip Hamantaschen to them.
Regional Variation: A similar and equally delicious Hamantaschen filling comes from Natchez, Mississippi. Naturally, it includes pecans rather than walnuts.
Yield: 36 cookies
- 3/4 cup pitted prunes
- 1/3 cup seedless raisins
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup shelled walnuts
- 1/4 apple with peel
- Juice and rind of 1/4 lemon
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2/3 cup pareve margarine or butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 to 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Dash of salt
1. To make the filling, simmer the prunes and raisins together in the water, covered, for 15 minutes or until the prunes are softened but still firm.
2. Add the nuts, then put the mixture through a grinder or chop in a food processor with the apple. Add the lemon juice and rind and sugar and mix well.
3. To make the dough, cream the margarine or butter with the sugar. Add the egg and vanilla and continue creaming until smooth. A food processor is great for this.
4. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Process until a ball of dough is formed.
5. Chill for 2 to 3 hours, or overnight.
6. Taking one fourth of the dough, roll out on a lightly floured board to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Cut into 2 1/2-inch circles. With your finger, brush water around the rim of the circle. Drop 1 teaspoon of filling in the center. Then bring the dough around the filling and press 3 ends together.
7. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven on a well-greased cookie sheet for 10 to 15 minutes or until the tips are golden.
Excerpted from JEWISH COOKING IN AMERICA by Joan Nathan Copyright © 1994 by Joan Nathan. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Gil Marks' HAMANTASCHEN from The Encyclopedia of Jewish Food
ABOUT 42 SMALL PASTRIES [DAIRY OR PAREVE]
11 tablespoons (1 stick plus 3 tablespoons) unsalted butter or margarine, softened
½ cup sugar
1 large egg or 3 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons orange juice, sour cream, milk, white wine, or water; or 2 tablespoons water and 1 tablespoon lemon juice or cognac
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
About 2 ¾ cups (13.75 ounces) all-purpose flour
About 2 cups mohnfullung (Ashkenazic Poppy Seed Filling), lekvar (prune jam), or any Ashkenazic sweet filling
1. In a large bowl, beat the butter until smooth. Gradually add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, 5 to 10 minutes. Beat in the egg. Blend in the orange juice, vanilla, and salt. Stir in enough flour to make a soft dough. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours. Let stand at room temperature for several minutes until malleable but not soft.
2. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Have 2 large baking sheets ready. Do not grease the baking sheets, but it’s preferable to line them with parchment paper.
3. For easy handling, divide the dough into 2 to 4 pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each piece ⅛ inch thick. Using a 3-inch cookie cutter or drinking glass, cut out rounds. Reroll and cut out the scraps until all the dough is used.
4. Place 1 teaspoon filling in the center of each round. Bring the edge of the lower section of the dough round up and pinch the 2 sides together at the corner where they meet. Press together the other 2 sides to form a triangle, leaving some filling exposed in the center.
5. Place the hamantaschen 1 inch apart on the baking sheets. Bake until golden, about 13 minutes. Transfer the hamantaschen to a wire rack and let cool.
ASHKENAZIC SWEET CHEESE FILLING (ZEESIH KAESEFULLUNG)
ABOUT 2 CUPS [DAIRY]
12 ounces (1½ cups) farmer or pot cheese
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 large egg yolk or ½ large egg, lightly beaten
2 to 4 tablespoons granulated or confectioners’ sugar
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (optional)
In a medium bowl, beat together all the ingredients until smooth.
ASHKENAZIC POPPY SEED FILLING (MOHNFULLUNG)
ABOUT 2½ CUPS
2 cups (about 10 ounces) poppy seeds
1 cup water or milk
1 cup sugar or honey, or ⅔ cup honey and ¼ cup light corn syrup
About 2 tablespoons fresh lemon or orange juice
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons grated lemon or orange zest (optional)
½ to 1 cup golden raisins or chopped dried apricots (optional)
½ to 1 cup finely chopped almonds or walnuts (optional)
1. In a nut grinder, coffee grinder, food processor, or blender, grind the poppy seeds. Or seal the poppy seeds in a plastic bag and crush using a rolling pin.
2. In a small saucepan, combine the poppy seeds, water, sugar, lemon juice, salt, and, if using, zest and simmer over a medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens, about 12 minutes. Remove from the heat and, if using, add the raisins and/or nuts. Let cool. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
ASHKENAZIC PRUNE FILLING (FLOHMENFULLUNG)
ABOUT 2 CUPS [PAREVE]
1½ cups (9 ounces) pitted dried plums, or 1 cup pitted dried plums and ½ cup raisins
½ cup ground walnuts or fresh bread crumbs
¼ cup honey or 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (optional)
1 teaspoon grated orange zest (optional)
In a medium saucepan, simmer the prunes in water to cover until soft, about 30 minutes. Drain. Grind or mash the prunes. Stir in the walnuts, honey, and, if using, zests.