Why make hamentaschen?

Hamentaschen are traditional cookies for Purim, which usually falls in late February or early March. Purim’s a celebration of Jewish religious freedom, and generally of freedom for all people everywhere, so it’s nice to have cookies when you’re celebrating! The name probably comes from the German/Yiddish mohntashen, meaning poppy-seed purses, and was transformed to hamentaschen because the evil vizier Haman is the villain of the Purim story of Esther.

Still got some energy after making hamentaschen? We always make rugelach for Purim too.

How to make hamentaschen:

First, figure out what you’re going to use for a filling. At my house, the kids like to use Nutella, which is not traditional but does taste good. Adults prefer strawberry jam, or strawberry-rhubarb jam, if there is still any left in February from the year before. Any kind of thick jam will work. A poppy seed filling is more traditional, but nobody here likes it so I don’t make it.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, melt a stick of butter in the microwave. Add 1/2 cup of sugar and mix, then add two eggs and mix again. Add 3 cups of flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder, and a pinch of salt, and mix once more, until the dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out on to a floured surface and knead for a couple of minutes. It should be a very soft dough.

Divide the dough in half, and roll out one half. Keep the other half covered with a dishtowel so it doesn’t dry out too much. Roll the dough out 1/4 inch thick, and then use the top of a water glass or jar to cut circles out of it.

Put a dab of the filling in the center of each circle, and fold the circle up three times so that you have a triangular base and three little flaps. Pinch the flaps together at the edges, leaving a hole in the middle to see the filling so you’ll know if this is a Nutella one or a strawberry-rhubarb one.

Butter a baking sheet and put the cookies on it as they are done. When you have finished cutting the circles, bunch up the rest of the dough and roll it out again so you can cut some more circles. Break an egg into a bowl and use a pastry brush to brush egg over the top of the cookies (this makes them shinier and browner). Bake 10-15 minutes or until the cookies are browned; remove and let cool.

Vegetarian or vegan

Just naturally vegetarian! Enjoy! If you want vegan hamentaschen, use coconut fat instead of butter, and an egg substitute for the eggs.

Can I keep this for later?

Sure. These hamentaschen will be good for a couple of weeks if you keep them on the counter in an airtight cookie tin.

Published by Karen Carr

Dr. Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

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