Here's a frustration-free, dairy-free dough for classic hamantaschen that's easy to make, pleasant to handle, and tastes great, too. Plus, a simple trick to keep the cookie's triangular shape from opening up in the oven. These bake up as crisp, citrus-scented cookies; for more of a soft, sugar cookie type of hamantaschen, see my buttery pastry hamantaschen (which you could make parve if you use margarine).Yum
Hamantaschen, the classic Purim treat, have been subject to some of the mass-bakery cookie's signal woes: dry, tasteless (on account of cost-effective, conveniently parve shortening), and filled with insipid jam, or maybe another filling no one is fond of. True, the process of making hamantaschen at home has a number of steps and the cookies are often consternating in their tendency to reopen themselves up into circles, leaking jam everywhere. But it doesn't have to be this way; not with this dough, the fruit of many, many irredeemable, crumbly, runny test batches over the years. I mean it when I say this dough is frustration-free: it handles beautifully, not sticking to your work surface when you roll it, getting willingly pinched closed, and baking up prettily. But, more importantly, these will give you a delicious cookie, crisp and crumbly but just a little tender in the center, plus well infused with citrus flavor—there's both orange juice and lemon zest in the crust.
Making hamantaschen dough
Hamantaschen dough is somewhere on the continuum between pie crust (shortcrust pastry) and roll-out sugar cookies. The dough will start off crumbly, stick together when pressed, then roll out obligingly.
The classic recipe included below uses oil as the fat in the dough (any neutral-flavored oil that's liquid at room temperature works). It'll make about 16 cookies, a good batch size for a family, that also doubles well if you're making hamantaschen to give out or for a gathering.
Another feature of this particular dough is that it doesn't require chilling before rolling out. You can mix it and roll it out right away, when it's supple and polite. I find that a 3" / 8 cm diameter round cutter makes the perfect size hamantaschen, a substantial cookie that holds the filling well.
This recipe uses classic apricot or strawberry jam for the hamantaschen filling. This is typically what you'll find bakery hamantaschen filled with. It's not quite old-country, where hamantaschen were probably filled with cooked, thickened fillings (lekvar) like prune, apricot (made with dried apricots), or poppy seed. (In the old country, I'll go on record guessing that hamantaschen were also made with yeast dough.) But it is the new-world classic, plus tasty and accessible. No extra step. You could instead use all manner of sweet spreads, such as nutella or another chocolate spread (pictured above), halva spread, cookie butter, or any nut butter (or peanut butter and jelly!).
The bane of all filled food things, from hamantaschen to, basically, any dumpling from the world over, is overfilling. To not, use a 1 teaspoon measuring spoon to scoop out the filling. It'll force you to put less than you think you want, which is actually what you need. It'll make the folding process smoother, too. If you think you'll be baking hamantaschen every year--homemade hamantaschen are wonderful to give out in mishloach manot (Purim food gift baskets)--do yourself a favor and get a spring-release ½ tablespoon (25 mm) cookie scoop (½ tablespoon = 1 ½ teaspoons, which, you'll note, is less than the 1 teaspoon I recommend when hand scooping, because it's easier to level the scoop). This scoop is too small for cookies, but it's perfect for fillings. And don't worry, there will be lots more flavor in that little bit of filling than it looks like.
Time for the fun part: forming the cookies' distinctive triangular shape. It's easy to make. You're starting with a circle, so pinch the top (doesn't have to be exact) together, forming a point. Then, pinch together the two "corners" formed by the first pinch.
Some people like to fold the edges over rather than pinching them. I've done both; they both look nice, although I find that pinching seals the cookie better. As for how closed to make it, I usually leave just a small opening, just the very top. This dough won't open up a lot, so it'll get just slightly bigger, encasing the filling well.
The (simple) secret to getting perfect-looking hamantaschen
Ready for this? Freeze them, just for 10 to 15 minutes. Like, while you preheat the oven, just stick them on a cookie sheet in the freezer. This one small, extra step will reap many rewards, as your hamantaschen stay neatly closed, encasing the filling like their destiny requires. It's kind of gobsmacking how effective this is.
Classic Hamantaschen (parve)
- ¼ cup + 1 Tbsp oil
- ⅔ cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 Tbsp orange juice
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 ¼ cup all-purpose flour - 315 g
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- ½ cup jam - for filling, approximately
Mix the dough:
- In a large measuring cup or small bowl, measure out the oil. Add the sugar, eggs, orange juice, lemon zest, and vanilla extract and whisk to combine.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir well.
- Add the wet ingredients over the top of the dry ingredients in the large bowl. Stir with a stiff spatula just until the dough comes together.
- Using your hands, knead the dough, right in the bowl, until it comes together and becomes smooth and elastic. If it is too dry, add orange juice just 1 teaspoon at a time.
Roll out and shape the cookies:
- Divide the dough into two parts. Roll out each on a floured surface, using a floured rolling pin, until fairly but not too thin, about ¼" / 6 mm.
- Using a round cutter about 3" / 8 cm in diameter, cut circles from the dough. Place 1 tsp of filling in each cookie and fold in the edges to form a triangle. Pinch until almost closed.
Chill and bake:
- Preheat the oven to 375F.
- Place the finished cookies on a cookie sheet and freeze for 10-15 minutes, while the oven heats up.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes, until the cookies begin to get golden at the points.