Purim is a rad holiday. It’s got costumes and noisemakers, plus its own villain and its own cookie. The villain is Haman. The cookie is hamantaschen.
The triangle-shaped cookies are filled with chocolate, poppy seeds, or fruit. The ones we're sharing today are filled with dried apricots! You’d be hard pressed to find Purim festivities without some of these cookies.
Why Make Hamantaschen for Purim?
Purim is not a solemn occasion. It’s a party! At a Purim celebration, the story of the Book of Esther (which rivals a soap opera in complexity) is recounted, and every time Haman’s name comes up, you are obligated to jeer, hiss, and clang your noisemakers.
What do these delectable cookies have to do with any of this? In the Book of Esther, Haman plotted to destroy the Jews of Persia, but he was thwarted by Queen Esther and her cousin, Mordechai.
It is said that the cookies were designed to resemble either Haman’s ears, or his tricornered hat. Both of these origins are untrue, but they make good stories.
In any case, hamantaschen are about the sweetness of triumph over adversity, and are worth making when Purim arrives in the spring.
For This Hamantaschen Recipe
Hamantaschen dough is a lot like sugar cookie dough, but I’ve made a few changes to boost the flavor and make the dough less puffy and more crispy. The cookie part does not overpower the apricot filling. These hamantaschen are like tiny pies ... and who can say no to that?
- I added citrus zest for some zip. It nicely complements the apricot filling.
- I use just a little baking powder (1/2 teaspoon). You get crispier cookies with a buttery flavor that really comes through. If you prefer puffier cookies, up the baking power to one teaspoon.
- Classic hamantaschen recipes call for using oil or margarine in the dough instead of butter. I’m using butter here, because I prefer the taste and texture when made with butter. If you want to enjoy these with a meat meal and keep kosher, you may certainly use margarine instead.
Tips for Making Hamantaschen
Both the dough and the filling are easier to work with if they are thoroughly chilled. Shaping the cookies takes time, and the baked cookies look much better if you don’t rush through it.
- Break the work up over two days. It makes the dough easier to work with.
- This dough can be on the crumbly side when it’s straight from the fridge. Let it come to temperature 10 minutes before rolling, and it’ll be much easier to handle.
- Don’t cut rounds smaller than three inches. These are tricky to shape if the rounds are little.
- If you don’t have a three-inch cookie or biscuit cutter, use the mouth of a drinking glass that comes as close to three inches as possible, and dip it in flour.
- Pipe, don’t spoon, the filling. It’s way easier to transfer the chilled filling to a zip-top sandwich bag, snip off the corner, and pipe dabs straight onto the dough rounds.
- You only need about 1-1/2 teaspoons per cookie. Overfilling makes them hard to shape.
Do not eat these cookies straight from the oven. The filling will be hot, hot, hot. Not only will it be too hot to actually taste, but it can burn your mouth. It’ll hurt and make you feel like an idiot, to boot. Trust me!
How to Shape Hamantaschen
I’d always pinched the corners of my hamantaschen and wind up with cookies that blew out on one or two sides as they baked.
The solution? Fold the dough instead of pinching it. It’s faster, and it gives you a more professional-looking result. If the dough cracks when you fold it, don’t sweat it. Just keep on shaping cookies. The imperfect cookies should be the first ones you eat.
How to Make Ahead, Store, and Freeze
Hamantaschen are best the day they are baked, because the pastry is crispy and contrasts so nicely with the filling. The following days, they soften up and are still plenty tasty (tasty enough for me to eat six in row). Even still, you can prepare a few steps ahead of time.
To prepare ahead of time: You can make both the filling and dough up to three days ahead.
To store hamantaschen: The cookies will keep at least three days in a tightly covered container.
To keep them from getting stale, slip a silica gel packet (the kind that comes with fancy crackers or cookies) in the container. They keep commercially prepared baked goods from getting soggy, and they do the same thing for homemade treats. I stockpile silica packets for this very reason.
To freeze hamantaschen: These cookies freeze well, but may be soft when you thaw them. Layer them in a tin or plastic container between waxed paper or freeze them in a single layer in a zip-top freezer bag. They’ll keep for a few months.
Alternative Hamantaschen Fillings
Interested in other fillings? We have a poppy seed filling recipe here. You can also buy canned apricot, prune, and poppy seed fillings. Tori Avey suggests using straight-up Nutella. Or just stir up some jam or fruit butter, and plop it on there. I like apple butter.
Whatever you opt for, you want it to be thick and hefty so it does not leak out of the cookies as they bake. You’ll need at least a cup of filling for these cookies.
If you have extra filling, you’ll eat it up, trust me! Spread it on buttered toast; stir it into plain yogurt, or even add it to a savory pan sauce for chicken.
More Great Cookie Recipes
- Lime Icebox Cookies
- Lofthouse-Style Frosting Sugar Cookies
- Chocolate Cranberry Rugelach
- Pecan Meringue Cookies
- Benne Wafers
- For the apricot filling:
- 1-1/4 cups (7 ounces) dried apricots, preferably Turkish
- 2 tablespoons honey
- For the dough:
- 2 cups (262 grams) all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup (156 grams) sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine, chilled
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
Make the filling:
Put the apricots in a small saucepan and add enough water to cover. Put on the lid, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the fruit is tender, about 10-15 minutes.
Remove the apricots from the saucepan with a slotted spoon and place in a food processor. Reserve the cooking water.
Add the honey and 1 tablespoon of the cooking water to the food processor, and puree until very smooth, scraping down the sides of the food processor from time to time. If the fruit is too thick for the machine to puree it, add 1 to 2 more tablespoons of cooking water.
Scrape the filling into a container, let it cool, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight or up to 3 days before baking.
Make the dough:
Lay a large sheet of plastic wrap on the counter.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Using the large holes of a box grater, grate the margarine or butter into the bowl (work quickly so the butter does not melt). Add the lemon and orange zest.
Work the grated butter into the flour with a pastry cutter or your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add the egg and knead with your hands for a minute or 2, until the dough is smooth and no longer crumbly.
Lay the dough on the plastic wrap, press into a flat rectangle, and wrap tightly. Chill in the refrigerator overnight, or up to 3 days.
Heat the oven and prepare the baking sheets:
Preheat the oven to 400°F and position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and let it come to temperature for 10 minutes.
Roll out the dough:
Lightly flour your countertop. Cut the dough in half; return one half to the refrigerator.
Dust both sides of the dough lightly with flour. Roll out to an even 1/8-inch thickness. Use a dry pastry brush or your hands to brush off the excess flour. Using a 3-inch biscuit or cookie cutter or a drinking glass, cut the dough into rounds.
Place the rounds on the baking sheets as you go. Once your first sheet is filled, pop it in the fridge so the cookies keep their shape while you work on the second baking sheet. Save and refrigerate the dough scraps.
Repeat with remaining half of dough, then re-roll scraps and get as many rounds as you can out of them. (You’ll have anywhere between 26 to 36 rounds).
Fill the cookies:
Transfer the chilled filling to a piping bag or a zip-top sandwich bag with the corner snipped off.
Working with one baking sheet at a time, pipe a circle of filling (about 1-1/2 teaspoons) on the center of each dough round. (You will likely have extra filling. Store it in the refrigerator and use it to spread on toast or stir into yogurt.)
Shape the cookies:
Start by folding one edge over. Fold the second edge over so one corner overlaps the other and forms a 60-degree angle. Fold the third edge over, creating the three distinct corners of a triangle. The first few cookies you shape might not be perfect, but you’ll get the hang of it quickly. There is no need to press, pinch or seal the edges.
Bake the cookies:
Arrange the cookies so they are about 2 inches apart (they should all fit on two baking sheets). Bake and set your timer for 6 minutes.
When the timer goes off, rotate the sheets front to back and top to bottom. Reset the timer, and bake the cookies for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. Total baking time will be 12 to 16 minutes.
Cool the cookies:
Cool the cookies on sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to cooling racks with a metal spatula. You may serve the cookies warm, but they are best at room temperature.
The cookies are crispiest on the day you bake them, but they will last up to 3 days in a tightly covered container.