Having trouble making hamantaschen for Purim? Are your hamantaschen spreading or opening when they bake? Are they losing their shape? Maybe the filling is leaking. Perhaps you’re having trouble folding your cookies into neat triangles. Or maybe you’re just looking for an easy hamantaschen recipe that will get you perfect results, every time. Whatever your question, I’m here to help!
I have compiled this list of tips to help people who are new to baking hamantaschen (sometimes spelled hamentashen). It took me several years to master the proper technique and develop some terrific dough recipes. I now have a firm understanding of what it takes to make pretty and delicious hamantaschen. I want to share that knowledge with you, so you can avoid some of the pitfalls I’ve encountered over the years. Hopefully my tips will help obtain a tasty and beautiful result from the very first try! But first, a little history.
What is the meaning of Hamantaschen?
Purim is the Jewish holiday in which we commemorate being saved from persecution in the ancient Persian Empire. A symbolic food eaten during the holiday of Purim is hamentaschen (“ears of Haman”). Haman is the villain of the Purim story (more on that below). This triangular-shaped cookie is supposed to represent either Haman’s ears or his three cornered hat. The center of each “hat” is filled with jam or sweet filling.
According to the Book of Esther in the Bible, the Jews of the city of Shushan were threatened by Haman, a prime minister who convinces the King Ahasuerus to kill all the Jews (because the Jewish Mordecai refused to bow down to Haman). Haman casts lots (the word Purim means “lots”) to determine the date he would carry out his plan: the 13th of Adar. In the end, the Jews are saved by the heroic Queen Esther, Mordecai’s niece (and adopted daughter), who married Ahasuerus (after he banished his first, rebellious wife Vashti). When Ahasuerus discovers that his wife Esther is Jewish, he decides to reverse Haman’s decree, and instead of the Jews being killed, Haman, his sons, and other enemies are killed instead.
Tips for Creating Perfect Hamantaschen (Hamentashen)
1) Find a great dough recipe. Here are two foolproof, tasty dough recipes that I highly recommend. They are easy to handle and shape, and they provide great results when baked. You won’t need a food processor or stand mixer or any fancy kitchen gadgets (the buttery one calls for an electric mixer – the dairy free one, a wooden spoon). One thing you’ll notice – my dough recipes do not contain leavening like yeast or baking powder. The cookies are easy to shape, and can be made quickly without needing to wait for a rise.
2) Roll your dough out to 1/8 inch thick (or less) on a floured surface. You want your rolled dough to be as thin as possible, while still being thick enough to maintain the cookie’s structure. 1/8 inch seems to be the magic number; sometimes I roll mine out even thinner than that. For a more doughy texture you can roll it thicker, but remember– the thicker the dough is, the harder it will be to handle and shape. Thick dough is also more prone to opening/spreading in the oven.
3) Use a thick filling that won’t run/weep from the cookies while baking. Knowing the proper consistency of a hamantaschen filling takes experience, because each type of filling is slightly different. Poppy seed filling has a very different texture than fruit filling, for example. A good filling should be somewhat thick so that it doesn’t run. However, you don’t want it too thick, or it will bake up dry or tough. It’s best to follow a tested and proven recipe. Try one of these fillings, which have all been thoroughly tested:
4) Cut your hamantaschen dough in 3-inch circles (or larger) before filling and folding into triangles. Anything smaller than 3 inches will be difficult to fold around your chosen filling.
5) Most fillings can be chilled before using to fill hamantaschen. I’ve found that fruit filling, poppy seed filling, and cream cheese-based fillings tend to be easier to work with when they’re chilled in the refrigerator. The chilling process thickens the fillings and makes them less sticky, which makes them easier to handle with when you’re assembling your hamantaschen. However, some fillings are better at room temperature — particularly chocolate-based fillings like Nutella, which will harden with prolonged refrigeration. Check your filling recipe to see if refrigeration is recommended.
6) Do not overfill your hamantaschen. Use roughly 1 teaspoon of filling per hamantaschen cookie – not more. However tempting it might be to put lots of delicious filling in the middle of your cookie, using more than 1 teaspoon can cause your hamantaschen to spread open and leak in the oven. 1 teaspoon is plenty, especially when you cut your dough circles to 3 inches… it’s the perfect amount of filling.
7) Fold your triangles the right way! Using the proper folding method will help your hamantschen hold together and create a beautiful shape. I’ve provided detailed, illustrated, step-by-step folding instructions below.
8) Remember, the filling will be very hot! Once you remove the baking sheets from the oven, move them to a rack to cool completely before serving.
Follow these tips, and you’ll be creating beautiful batches of homemade hamantaschen in no time! What are your favorite hamantaschen fillings?
- Hamantaschen dough , recipe options linked in blog post above
- Filling of your choice , filling recipes linked in blog post above
- Roll dough between 1/8 - 1/4 inch thick and cut into circles with a cookie cutter or glass rim that is at least 3 inches wide. Place a teaspoon of filling (whichever filling you choose) into the center of each circle. Do not use more than a teaspoon of filling, or you run the risk of your hamantaschen opening and filling spilling out during baking. Cover unused circles with a lightly damp towel to prevent them from drying out while you are filling.
- Assemble the hamantaschen in three steps. First, grasp the left side of the circle and fold it towards the center to make a flap that covers the left third of the circle.
- Grasp the right side of the circle and fold it towards the center, overlapping the upper part of the left side flap to create a triangular tip at the top of the circle. A small triangle of filling should still be visible in the center.
- Grasp the bottom part of the circle and fold it upward to create a third flap and complete the triangle. When you fold this flap up, be sure to tuck the left side of this new flap underneath the left side of the triangle, while letting the right side of this new flap overlap the right side of the triangle. This way, each side of your triangle has a corner that folds over and a corner that folds under-- it creates a "pinwheel" effect. This method if folding is not only pretty-- it will help to keep the cookies from opening while they bake.
- Pinch each corner of the triangle gently but firmly to secure the shape.
- Repeat this process for the remaining dough circles. Bake according to recipe instructions.
See recipe links above for nutritional information related to specific recipes.