Poppy Seed Hamantaschen

 I've always loved the Jewish holiday Purim, as it falls around my birthday (today!) every year. It celebrates the story of how Queen Esther saved the Jews from Haman, who wanted to kill them all.

The holiday is kind of like a Jewish halloween, and children dress up in costumes. People give candy and cookies to their friends (and the old tradition is that the adults are supposed to get so drunk that they can't tell the difference between Mordechai (Esther's husband, the good king) and Haman.
My favorite part about Purim is hamantaschen, traditional cookies that are shaped into triangles, the supposed shape of Haman's hat.

The recipe for the dough (which at the moment I am not going to post) was passed onto my mother by an 84 year-old Jewish woman from our synagogue. Happily, I can say that she agreed to give me the recipe! She is a wonderful baker, and the dough is absolutely perfect. These, and I can say this with confidence, are the best hamantaschen I have ever had (and the local bakery was selling the cookies for $1.20 apiece!). 

The cookies can be filled with any sort of jam (raspberry is delicious), chocolate chips, prune filling, or poppy seed.

Pearl's Hamantaschen
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 2 c flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbs orange juice
Sift the dry ingredients together in a large bowl*. Work in the shortening, and add the egg and orange juice. Chill for a few hours in the refrigerator. Roll between waxed paper (I only used one piece of wax paper below, not above, though she says it makes them thinner) and cut into circles to be filled (see below for filling).

*This is simplified easily: put the dry ingredients in a Cuisinart, and add the egg and orange juice and pulse until combined (like making pastry dough). Chill and bake as above.

Poppy seed hamantaschen are my favorite, so I filled all of mine with the following filling. I adapted the recipe from an old cookbook of my mom's (which I now can't remember the name of).

Poppy seed Filling
  • 1 c poppy seeds
  • 1/3 c raisins, chopped into tiny pieces
  • 2 tbs (at least) orange peel, chopped into tiny pieces (you can zest the orange, but I like to slice off the skin and chop it into tiny pieces---it gives the texture more depth)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c water 
  • 1/4 c honey
  • 1/4 c sugar
         Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and cook on medium to medium-high heat, stirring frequently.  It is done when it has thickened, around 10 minutes. Let cool.

Roll out the dough (which has been chilled) as thinly as possible on a floured surface, and cut into circles (I used a biscuit cookie cutter). Don't do all the dough at once, but small sections of it. Keep the rest in the fridge while you roll out each section. Fill with a little bit of filling (it depends on how big your circles are!) and wet the outside of the circle with a little bit of water (dip your finger in a little cup of water and run it around the edge of the circle). Then, pinch the corners together.

Bake at 375º for 13-15 minutes.

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