Slice Of Life

By Eileen Goltz

Jews around the world: Prepare to get your celebration mode in gear, it’s time for Purim!

As a prerequisite to Purim celebrations (and seudahs), it’s time to dig out your favorite hamantashen recipe and get baking. I received an e-mail inquiring where the idea of hamantashen came from. After a bit of research, I came up with three slightly different but not dissimilar explanations for the seminal holiday treat. Hamantashen are three-cornered pastries whose traditional filling is poppy seed. In Yiddish, hamantashen roughly translates to “Haman’s pocket.” Other cultures call it Haman’s hat (the villain supposedly wore a three-cornered chapeau). Still another explanation I found calls the pastry “Haman’s ear” (truly didn’t want to explore the origin of this one).

No matter which definition you choose, the oldest “traditional” hamantashen recipe I found was made with yeast dough. The yeast-dough variety is typically larger and more Danish-like than the cookie-dough variety I grew up with. The most talked-about filling I found was poppy seed. Not my favorite filling, but it seems to be in most of the recipe collections I found. I typically do not make my own poppy seed filling. I find it way too expensive to make when my husband is the only one in our home who likes it and when the canned variety made by Solo is really great once I doctor it with a bit of cinnamon.

Sky’s the limit when it comes to the fillings, 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 have a “vent,” as they tend to explode into weird-looking “cookies” if the steam from the cooking filling builds up and there is nowhere for it to go. To make the filling choice easier, 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 make them. Strain out the excess goo and add some breadcrumbs and chopped golden raisins to make your own “homemade” fillings. If you’re pressed for time, these recipes are going to help you make the hamantashen truly deliciously unique.

Cookie-Dough Hamantashen I

(Dairy or Pareve)


½ cup butter or margarine

1 cup sugar

1 egg

2 cups flour (plus a little more for rolling out)

2 tsp. baking powder

2 Tbsp. milk, water, or rice milk

2 tsp. vanilla or 1 Tbsp. lemon zest


In a bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Mix in the egg. Sift the flour and baking powder together and then and add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture in thirds, alternating with the milk and vanilla, ending with the flour. Let the dough rest for at least 10 minutes before rolling it out on a lightly floured surface. Roll dough out to ¼ inch thick. Cut into rounds and place a heaping spoonful of filling in the center of the round. Pull up the sides to form a triangle. Bake at 375° for 15—30 minutes until lightly golden brown. Makes 2—3 dozen, depending on the size of your rounds.

Modified from The Great Hadassah Cookbook.

Cookie-Dough Hamantashen II



3 eggs

1 cup oil

1 cup sugar

½ cup water

½ cup orange juice

4 cups flour (approximately)

â…› tsp. salt

2 tsp. baking powder

1 egg beaten (for the top)


In a bowl, combine the eggs, oil, sugar, water, and orange juice; whisk. Add the flour, salt, and baking powder and fold it in. Do not overmix. This will be a soft dough. Let sit for 10—15 minutes. Divide dough into three parts. Roll out to about ¼ inch thick on a floured surface. Cut into rounds and place a heaping spoonful of filling in the center of the round. Pull up the sides to form a triangle. Cut in circles. Brush the top of the filled hamantashen with the beaten egg. Bake on a lightly greased (or use parchment paper) baking sheet at 350° for 20—25 minutes or slightly longer until golden brown. Makes 1½—2 dozen, depending on the size of the rounds.

Joan Nathan’s Recipe

For Yeast Hamantashen



½ cup water

¼ tsp. cinnamon

¾ cup sugar

½ tsp. lemon zest

2 Tbsp. honey

2¼ cups chopped pecans, walnuts, and/or a mixture of your favorite dried fruits: prunes, dates, cherries, or apricots

2 Tbsp. breadcrumbs


2 Tbsp. instant yeast

2 cups unsalted butter or margarine, cold

¾ tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. lemon zest

1 cup sugar

7 cups flour

1 cup (8 oz.) sour cream or pareve sour cream

2 eggs

¼ cup milk, scalded and cooled to lukewarm, or warm rice milk

1 egg beaten


Filling. In a saucepan, combine the water, cinnamon, and sugar and bring it to a boil. Add the lemon zest and honey. Return the mixture to a boil. Add the nuts, dried fruit, and crumbs. Stir to combine. Reduce to a simmer and cook for an additional for 3—4 minutes. Remove from the heat, cool to room temperature before using. You can make these three to four days ahead of time and refrigerate until you’re ready to make your hamantashen.

Dough. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm liquid. In the bowl of an electric mixer (use the paddle), combine the butter, salt, vanilla, zest, and sugar. Beat on low for 3 minutes, then slowly add the flour and sour cream (alternating them). Add 2 of the eggs and beat for 3—4 minutes. The dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl. Divide the dough into 28—36 equal pieces. Roll them into balls, place them on a parchment-paper-covered cookie sheet, cover, and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Roll each ball out into a circle on a floured surface. Place 1 heaping teaspoon to 1 tablespoon (depending on the size of the circle) of the filling in the center of each circle. Pinch up the sides to form a triangle. Place the hamantashen on a greased or parchment-paper-covered cookie sheet. Brush the top with the beaten egg. Let the hamantashen rise for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375°. Bake for 16—20 minutes, until golden brown. Makes 28—36 hamantashen.

Modified from Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook.

Brownie Filling

(Dairy or Pareve)


6 Tbsp. butter or margarine

5 oz. semisweet chocolate

3 oz. unsweetened chocolate

â…” cup flour

1 tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

2 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla

1 Tbsp. instant coffee

¾ cup sugar

¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips

â…“ cup chopped pecans

â…“ cup chopped walnuts


In a glass bowl (microwavable), melt the margarine, semisweet chocolate, and unsweetened chocolate together. Mix in the flour, baking powder, salt, eggs, vanilla, coffee, and sugar. Fold in the chocolate chips and nuts. Makes enough filling for 24—36 hamantashen, depending on the size.

Raspberry Filling


1½ cups raspberry jam

½ cup chopped toasted almonds

¼ cup breadcrumbs

One fresh raspberry for the top of each of the hamantashen


In a bowl, combine the jam, nuts, and breadcrumbs. Use a teaspoon or tablespoon for filling, and just before cooking place a fresh raspberry in the open parts of the hamantashen. Makes 2 cups.

Apricot Or Prune Filling


1 lb. dried apricots or pitted dried prunes

water to just cover

1 cup sugar


Take a pound of dried fruit, either apricots or prunes, and put them in a saucepan to cover with water and set them on the stove to cook until the water is almost gone. Don’t let the water evaporate–the fruit will burn. You can add more water if needed and the fruit is not soft and mushy. At this point, add the sugar and continue cooking on a low temperature until the sugar is totally melted, 3—4 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool until room temperature. Using a food processor or blender, process until smooth. Makes approximately 1½—2 cups.

Modified from

Dried Fruit And Nut Filling


1 cup dried figs

½ cup dried apricots

½ cup raisins

½ cup orange juice

â…“ cup toasted slivered almonds

â…“ cup walnuts

¼ cup corn syrup

½ tsp. vanilla

½ tsp. cinnamon

zest of 1 lemon.


Place all the ingredients in a food processor and process for 2—3 minutes until combined but not pulverized. Should be chunky. Makes approximately 2 cups.

Modified from

Strawberry Filling


2 cups sliced strawberries

1 tsp. cinnamon

¼ cup brown sugar


In a saucepan, combine all the ingredients and cook at a medium heat for about 15 minutes until the sugar dissolves and mixture thickens. Remove from heat and cool completely. Makes 1½ cups.

Prune/Raisin Filling


1¼ cups dried pitted prunes

¾ cup raisins

2 Tbsp. sugar

zest of 1 lemon

½ tsp. cinnamon

pinch ground cloves

water or prune juice to cover


Place the prunes, raisins, sugar, lemon zest, cinnamon, and cloves in a saucepan and add water or prune juice just to cover. Bring the mixture to boil, turn off the heat, and let stand for 30 minutes. Place the mixture in a food processor and process to a slightly chunky paste. Makes approximately 2 cups.

Lemon Curd Filling

This is best with the cookie dough


¾ cup sugar

2 Tbsp. cornstarch

â…› tsp. salt

¾ cup cold water

2 egg yolks, slightly beaten

2 tsp. lemon zest

Juice of 1½ lemons

1 Tbsp. butter or margarine


In a small saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Whisk to combine. Whisk in the water and eggs. Whisk in the lemon zest and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture is thick and bubbly. Boil approximately 1 minute and then remove from heat. Stir in the butter, cover with wax paper, and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until ready to use. Makes approximately 1½ cups.

© Eileen Goltz

Eileen Goltz is a freelance kosher foods writer. She graduated from Indiana University and the Cordon Bleu Cooking School in Paris. She lectures on various food-related topics across the U.S. and Canada and writes columns for the CJN in Chicago,, and the OU Shabbat Shalom website at She also wrote the Perfectly Pareve Cookbook (Feldheim).


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