Hamantashen, the traditional triangular cookie of Purim, commemorates Haman’s three-pointed hat. It really is a simple process to create hamantashen. One must cut circles from a sheet of dough and place a filling in the center of the circle. The baker will then fold the sides of the circle, creating a triangle. The familiar fillings are poppyseed, prune, apricot and raspberry, but there are no halachic requirements regarding one’s choice of flavors, nor do restrictions exist as to when hamantashen may be eaten.
On the other hand, famed chef and “Joy of Kosher” author Jamie Geller disagrees. “This is an exclusively Purim cookie in my house.” This year, Jamie will be making a savory pizza hamantashen as well as “Candyland” hamantashen. “To be honest, I don’t love hamantashen like I love some of the other Jewish holiday classics and so that’s what pushed us to get creative. I really am loving our pizza and Candyland creations.”
Geller continued, “My Aunt Zahava was a Hebrew school teacher and a great baker. She always invited me over before each holiday to do a project and bake.” Geller noted, “Baking in the kitchen with your kids in anticipation of the holidays is an incredible way to foster love for our traditions and religious celebrations, an incredibly visceral way to pass our passion for our culture onto the next generation and generally produces so many great bonding moments and memories. It’s one of my happiest, coziest memories from growing up and most fun pastimes for me and my children.”
The Kosher Dinner Lady, Rachel Berger, also only makes hamantashen for Purim. Adding to the prune and apricot selections, the Kosher Dinner Lady has some original ideas. “I’m making lemon meringue, because lemon meringue is my favorite, and halva, because I bought a ton of it on a recent trip to Israel and thought it would work for hamantashen. I also tried making a new type of dough, which tasted like pie crust, so I was inspired to make cherry pie hamantashen. The possibilities are endless!” The Kosher Dinner Lady also introduced a s’mores hamantashen this year. She continued, “I have also been working on a carrot cake with cream cheese filling, but have not perfected the dough to my liking—maybe next year!”
The Kosher Dinner Lady also recalls baking with her mother. “She used a yeast dough which tasted like a danish—when baked, most of them wouldn’t stay closed, so we got to eat them!”
All of the local kosher bakeries bake the traditional flavors of apricot, raspberry, prune and poppyseed. Honey Banin, of Riverdale’s Gruenbaum’s Bakery, explained, “We also make chocolate chip hamantashen. We even make a special triangle bread for Purim.” Banin describes the two types of dough found in her hamantashen: One is a cookie dough and the second a danish dough. Further, she explained that most of their customers use her hamantashen for mishloach manot.
Lee Kaufman, manager of the White Plains Bake Shoppe, described their unique offerings. “In addition to the traditional flavors, we also make a chocolate cookie dough with raspberry filling, and one with a chocolate filling. These are a great combination!”
David Heisler, of Heislers Bakery in New Rochelle, adds chocolate chip, caramel, chocolate dough and chocolate-dipped options. “I happen to love the prune hamantashen all year long,” Heisler revealed, “and we can even make a milchig version on special request.”
Offering tips to potential home hamantashen bakers, The Kosher Dinner Lady suggested, “Don’t get frustrated. Sometimes, the dough needs tweaking, sometimes you need to wet the edges of the dough circles with egg white or some water to help keep them closed. The biggest frustration for people, I think, is when they open the oven door and the triangles have opened up or the shape isn’t perfect.”
Geller also advised, “Follow the dough recipe to a T. It’s not like cooking where you can riff and improvise. It’s much more chemistry-based and exacting and way less forgiving.”
“I love making them with other people,” explained Berger. If you follow her on Instagram or Facebook, you will find pictures of her baking with many young family members.
When asked what is the best way to enjoy hamantashen, Berger suggested, “Hot, right out of the oven! The fillings are super-hot, so be careful!” Geller suggested, “Standing up…because then the calories don’t count.”
By Judy Berger