Traditionally served on the Jewish holiday Purim, these Hamantaschen cookies are made of a delicate cookie dough and are filled with anything from poppy seed, nut, or date filling to chocolate spread or jam.
In the last few years, I’ve come to a conclusion on why I love the holidays so much. It’s not just about theoretically being on vacation or spending some quality time with my family. Nope. It’s the food. LOTS of food. Of course, I could make the special holiday treats all year long, but then they wouldn’t be so special anymore, would they?
Hamantachen are triangular-shaped filled cookies that are the traditional Purim treat. The most classic filling is poppy seed, but really, you can find any flavor you can dream of inside these cookies.
Powdered sugar and egg yolks make these cookies extra tender with a melt-in-your-mouth texture. You can use a whole egg and granulated sugar instead, but it will change the texture and make the cookies more crumbly. In this recipe, I also add lemon zest and vanilla extract for flavor.
When making the dough, if it’s too crumbly and doesn’t come together, add a bit of water until it does. On the other hand, if it’s too wet, flour your hands and knead gently. Work the dough as little as possible to keep the cookies tender. Here are some photos of when I made a pie dough using a food processor, and the idea is quite the same.
This recipe includes a poppy seed filling because it’s the most traditional. The poppy seeds should be freshly ground. Some spice stores will grind them for you, or you can grind them yourself at home using a coffee or spice grinder. Once ground, freeze the ground seeds until you’re ready to use them. If you don’t feel like making the poppy seed filling, you can use any other filling such as nut or date filling, which are also classics, or you can just use store-bought spreads such as Nutella, chocolate, Halva, butterscotch, jams, or preserves.
It’s important that the filling is thick enough to prevent it from leaking out of the dough during baking. If not, I usually add either finely ground wafers, simple dry cookies, or nuts, or even bread crumbs. When using Nutella, for example, I add hazelnuts. For jam, you can cook it in a saucepan until it gets thicker. Last, don’t be tempted to overfill the cookies as that may also cause them to leak. About 1 teaspoon works for me.
Here’s a visual guide on how to shape these cookies. Now go eat something!
- 2¼ cups (315g/11 oz.) all-purpose flour
- ⅔ cup (80g/2.8 oz.) powdered sugar*
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1¾ sticks (200g/7 oz.) unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch cubes and chilled
- 2 large egg yolks (or 1 large egg)
- Lemon zest of ½ medium lemon
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups (200g) freshly ground poppy seeds**
- ¾ cup (180ml) whole milk
- ⅓ stick (40g) unsalted butter (or ¼ cup more milk)
- ¾ cup (150g/5.3 oz.) granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- Pinch of salt
- Zest of ½ lemon or orange
- ½ cup ground or finely chopped nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans)
- ¼ cup raisins, optional
- Powdered sugar, for sprinkling on top
- For the cookies: Process flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor for a few seconds until combined. Add butter and pulse several times until mixture becomes crumbly and resembles coarse meal. Add egg yolks and keep pulsing until dough starts to clump together. Do not process to the point that a large ball of dough is formed; rather, the dough should be quite crumbly with large clumps. Refer to the post above if your dough isn’t forming correctly. Another way to check if it’s done is to take a piece of dough and press it between your thumbs – the dough should stick well together without feeling dry. Avoid overworking the dough throughout the process.
- Turn the dough to a floured surface and form into a ball. It should come together easily without being sticky. Flatten the ball slightly with your hands (for easy rolling later on) and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 3 days.
- For the filling: In a medium saucepan, place poppy seeds, milk, butter, sugar, honey, and salt and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until the seeds absorb the milk and the mixture has thickened. Remove from heat. Add lemon zest, nuts, and raisins, and mix to combine. Let cool to room temperature before using.
- Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Line 2 pans with parchment paper and set aside.
- Roll out the dough on a floured surface until it’s about ⅛-inch (4mm) thick. If the dough is too crumbly and breaks, leave it for a few minutes to soften. Cut rounds of dough using a 3-inch (8 cm) cutter or a glass.
- Transfer rounds gently using a thin spatula to the prepared baking sheets, placing them 1-inch (3cm) apart. Put 1 teaspoon of filling in the center of each round, then fold up the edges to form a triangle, pinching the corners together tightly to prevent filling from leaking while baking.
- Bake for about 15 minutes or until the cookies are golden just at the edges. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Sift powdered sugar on top.
- Store cookies at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
- * Powdered sugar can be replace with ⅓ cup granulated sugar. Note that cookies with powdered sugar will have a more tender, melt-in-you-mouth texture.
- ** Don’t use whole poppy seeds, just freshly ground. Use a spice or coffee grinder for this, not a food processor. Also, some spice shops will grind them for you.