Hamantaschen are triangular stuffed cookies, (kind of like fancier jam thumbprints, usually filled with jam or poppy seeds. They’re traditionally eaten during Purim, a joyful late-winter holiday marked by costume-wearing and merrymaking that celebrates a foiled plot in ancient Persia to eliminate the Jewish people. Why triangular? They’re said to represent the triangle hat worn by Haman, the villain in the Purim story.
Recipe developers are reinventing hamantaschen, which used to have a reputation as dry, crumbly, and bland. And Instagram seems to have only accelerated the process. You can now find marzipan sprinkle hamantaschen from Food Network’s Molly Yeh, savoury pretzel-hotdog hamantaschen, vanilla-and-chocolate marble hamantaschen from Instagram star and cookbook author Jake Cohen, marble cheesecake hamantaschen from Smitten Kitchen’s Deb Perelman, and so many more fun and fabulous takes on these humble biscuits.
As we approach pandemic year two, it seems like more and more hamantaschen recipes are flooding my Instagram newsfeed. Some, like me, are embracing holidays and cultural traditions as a way to find meaning and joy in a trying time. Others just need a new baking challenge—and hamantaschen are the perfect quarantine project. Even if you don’t celebrate Purim, here’s why you should make hamantaschen this season.
1. Hamantaschen are easy to master
Unlike linzers, you don’t need a set of cookie cutters or any fancy baking equipment to make your basic hamantaschen recipe—just a rolling pin and a round water glass to act as your cookie cutter. Just make sure your glass is at least three inches in diameter, recommends food blogger Tori Avey. (Triangular cookies might look fancy, but they’re simple to make.)
To get the shape right, cut out circles with your glass, drop your filling in the centre of each round, and pinch the sides together, leaving some filling peeking out—the opening usually expands in the oven, and you don’t want your filling to overflow. To help the sides stick together, and to make your cookies shiny, brush with an egg wash or milk (especially the edges) before baking.
2. They’re perfect to make with kids
From helping mix the ingredients to cutting out the circles, there are many ways to bring kids into the hamantaschen-making process. After you cut out your first round of circles, re-roll out the leftover dough scraps and let little ones fill and shape their own hamantaschen—even if they mess up the shaping, the results will still be delicious.
3. You can clear out your fridge and pantry
There are few rules when it comes to filling hamantaschen. While jam and mohn (poppy seed) are traditional, hamantaschen are often stuffed with chocolate chips, preserves, and even Nutella. If you prefer savoury to sweet, you can find recipes for sweet-potato parmesan hamantaschen, boureka-inspired spinach and feta, and so many more dinnertime-appropriate options.
If you go the classic sweet route, now is the time to use up those half-filled jam jars and bags of Chipits. Dried fruits and nuts on hand? Try Dorie Greenspan’s fruity homemade filling—or my personal favourite made with dates. For variety, use a few different fillings per batch, like apricot and raspberry jam.
4. Homemade hamantaschen are undeniably impressive-looking
Bread—banana, sourdough, and soda—was so spring 2020. While these will never leave your baking roster, if you’re looking for something new to ’gram, hamantaschen photograph beautifully. Try shooting them from overhead while they’re still on the baking tray. The grid-like pattern, with all the different fillings poking through, is particularly mesmerizing.
5. They’re highly portable for deliveries
One way many celebrate Purim is by delivering food-filled gift baskets, or mishloach manot, to family and friends, and no mishloach manot is complete without a handful of hamantaschen. If you find yourself with an abundance of hamantaschen on hand, take another cue from Purim and drop them off for loved ones to share some much-needed sweetness.