Purim is around the corner, this year starting at sunset on Wednesday, March 4th. Purim is officially the celebration of Jewish deliverance as told in the book of Esther, but for this food Jew, Purim is mostly about hamantaschen. (The timing of Hebrew holidays can be complicated even for the Jews, so you can read more about Jewish holidays here.)
Hamantaschen are filled triangle shaped pastries. There are plenty of legends surrounding the triangle shape. Some say they are shaped like the ears of the Jews’ defeated enemy Haman. I always thought that was kind of gross, so I go with the other common legend, that they are triangular like Haman’s hat. Traditionally they include poppyseed and prune fillings. My mother’s were prune made extra delicious with raisins, walnuts and apricot freshened with a lot of lemon juice. Over the years my sister and I, at my oldest niece’s request, have added cherry to the line up. I like it, but if you are only up for making two fillings I recommend going with my family’s favorites of apricot and prune.
I loved Purim as a child. Some call it the “Jewish Halloween.” We always went to a Purim Carnival at our temple complete with games, costume parades and tons of special treats. My sister and I would dress up as Queen Esther, usually by wearing one of my mother’s satin lace trimmed nightgowns as a veil on our heads.
Despite all the parties, costumes, and activities, hamantaschen were always the pinnacle of the holiday. The hand-shaped cookies took all day to make because my mother would make several hundred. It is a tradition to give gift baskets — mishloach manot — with hamantaschen and other sweets. My Mother’s manot were piled high with treats and I know her friends felt lucky to receive them.
Now my sister and I honor our mother, who passed away when we were young teens, by making these together every year using her 50-year-old recipe. We spend hours together, just the two of us, talking and reminiscing, mixing and rolling, crying and laughing. And of course, eating! We only make them once a year so the anticipation is high. (Disclaimer: One year I did make them to satisfy my sister’s deep pregnancy craving when she was just weeks away from delivering her daughter, but that is the only exception.) There is nothing I look forward to more than eating the first, hot out of the oven, hamantaschen.
Like our mother, we give manot to our friends and neighbors, many who are not Jews (food or otherwise) and have never had a hamantaschen. I get so much pleasure from sharing these labors of love with people I care about.
So let’s bake!
This is my mother’s original recipe written in her beautiful handwriting. I love that it is stained and splotched. This is a real living recipe, one that gets used year after year.
To make the dough (we double this recipe and usually make between 250-275 hamantaschen!):
You may be wondering about the Crisco here. I know that it is old fashioned and let’s face it, unhealthy, but just go ahead and move forward. Jews have a long history of using Crisco instead of butter because it is parve. This is a once-a-year treat.
Combine flour, sugar, and baking powder in the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment.
Add shortening and mix until crumbly, about the size of peas, then add eggs
Then while the mixer is running on low, pour in orange juice.
Dough should form a ball, turn dough out onto floured surface and shape into a ball
Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least two hours, or overnight.
(You can make it three days in advance, or freeze for up to three months. If frozen, thaw in the refrigerator overnight before using.)
Make the fillings
For the prune filling, empty the entire can of Solo prune filling into a medium bowl, add the raisins, walnuts, honey and lemon juice.
For the Apricot filling, in a medium bowl, mix entire can of Solo apricot filling, apricot jam, and lemon juice.
Create the hamantaschen
On heavily floured surface, roll dough to 1/8 inch thick. Cut rounds using a 4-inch circle cutter.
Add 1 scant teaspoon of filling in the middle of each round.
Fold in two sides to create one point of your triangle shape.
Then fold opposite side to create two other points simultaneously.
Brush top edges of hamentashen with egg wash.
Place on parchment-covered baking sheets and bake at 350° for 12-15 minutes or until tops begin to turn a light golden brown.
Remove from oven and cool on a rack.
The filling of these cookies stay hot much longer than the pastry so be sure the middle is cool before giving to the kids who are undoubtedly waiting to sample them.
Enjoy! And don’t forget to spread the love.
For the Dough:
6 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 Teaspoons baking powder
1 cup orange juice
2 cups Crisco/Vegetable shortening
For the Apricot Filling:
1 can Solo brand apricot cake and pie filling
1/2 cup good quality apricot jam
Freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste
For the Prune Filling:
1 can Solo brand prune cake and pie filling
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
3/4 cup raisins
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
For the Egg Wash:
1 egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon water