Sara Finkel’s current (and also stellar) recipe for hamantaschen (from her new book Classic Kosher Cooking Vol. 2: Simply Delicious, Targum Press) is available here along with some suggested holiday recipes. If you are looking for a good hamantaschen recipe, I can highly reccomend both of Sara Finkel’s recipes. My mom just made Sara Finkel’s newer hamantaschen recipe and was thrilled with the results.
I think the key to good hamantaschen is proper handling of the dough, shaping, and baking. Whatever recipe you use for hamantaschen, you will get better results if you keep in mind these tips:
(1) Chill early and often. Refrigerate the dough before rolling it out, and freeze the cookies after shaping. THIS IS KEY! Take the tray of frozen raw cookies and pop the cold tray straight into the oven. Cold dough means the cookies will hold their shape better when baking.
(2) To avoid making the dough tough, don’t use lots of flour when rolling out. Roll out the dough between pieces of parchment or wax paper.
(3) After you have cut out circles from the rolled out dough ( 2.5″ or 3″ rounds are a nice size), use a small offset spatula to loosen and lift the circles. Just slide the spatula underneath the circle, and slide it back and forth until the dough round comes loose.
(4) Use a #100 cookie/ice cream scoop for apportioning filling. Just dip the mini-scoop into the filling, half fill the scoop, and plop the filling on the center of the cookie (I am assuming a 3″ cookie round; if you go larger, you can use more filling). I have found this to be easier than piping or using a spoon.
(5) Choose your filling wisely and do not overfill. The high sugar content of fillings can cause major damage to the shape of your hamantaschen. In the oven, the filling turns into boiling hot sugar lava that explodes open the dough. This is especially likely with regular jams and jellies. Stick with fillings that are ovenproof: apricot lekvar, prune lekvar, and ovenproof jams (if you can get them). Ovenproof bakery jams are formulated with special pectins to withstand oven heat. Do not try to jam in (no pun intended) too much filling or the cookies can explode open. If you like lots of filling, roll out your dough thick and cut out larger circles. Lots of filling +small, thin cookie shell = disaster.
(6) Seal the sides tightly. Don’t just fold over the sides: pinch, pinch, pinch, and then pinch!
(7) Check on the hamantaschen frequently as the first batch bakes. You may find that the hamantaschen bake a lot faster than the recipe indicates. They should be lightly golden on top and dark gold on the bottom.
Hamantaschen taste better when fresh. Bake as close to the holiday as possible. If you freeze the cookies in their raw state and then bake them close to the holiday, they will taste fresher than if you bake and then freeze.
update: I used shortening this year for my hamentaschen and the cookies stayed nice and soft for a long time. My mother used butter, and her cookies came out crisp.
Adapted from Sara Finkel’s Classic Kosher Cooking. I have found that 5 ounces of oil substitutes for the shortening or margarine. More oil, even just 6 ounces of oil, tends to make for an oily dough.
1 cup shortening (1 stick, 7 ounces) (or 8 ounces margarine or butter) (or 5 ounces safflower or corn oil)
1 cup sugar (7.25 ounces) (for a less sweet dough, use just 3/4 cup or 5.5 ounces)
4 Tbl. orange or lemon juice
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
orange or lemon rind (optional) (or 1/4 tsp. lemon or orange extract)
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour (15.75 ounces)
1/4 tsp. salt (
The original recipe does not call for it. if you use Earth’s Best or another salted margarine, adding salt is certainly unnecessary. Even using the unsalted shortening, I did not add salt, and it was fine. That being said, I would be inclined next time to add a little salt, maybe 1/4 tsp.)
Filling: a jar of apricot lekvar (or prune lekvar, or other filling of choice, about 10.5 ounces)
Combine the flour, baking powder, and baking soda (and maybe 1/4 tsp. salt if using unsalted margarine or butter, if desired).
In another bowl, cream the shortening, margarine, or butter with the sugar. Add the vanilla. Add the eggs. Add the orange juice (and rind, if using). If you are using oil instead of butter/margarine/shortening, do the following: whisk the eggs and sugar together, then whisk in the oil and juice. Stir in the flour, mixing just until combined. Divide the dough into two parts and place each part on a piece of parchment paper. Flatten each piece to about 1/4″ thickness and wrap the dough up in the parchment paper. Chill the dough until firm (if you use shortening, it will never get all that firm).
Roll out each piece of dough to 1/8″ thickness and cut out 2″ to 3″ circles ( 2 1/2″ is a nice size). Use a spatula to transfer the circles to a parchment lined sheet pan (chill the dough if the circles are too soft to transfer). Spoon a 1/2 tsp. of filling into each circle and pinch together the sides to make a triangle shape. Freeze the shaped hamantaschen.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the hamantaschen on the parchment lined baking sheet so that each is about an inch apart from the others. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until lightly golden on the edges and darker golden on bottom.
Makes about 3 dozen
Note about making dough with oil and less sugar: After having experimented, I found that the right amount of oil to substitute for margarine is 5 ounces. I like the dough a little bit better with a little less sugar (3/4 cup instead of a cup) because it makes more of a foil with the sweet filling. The dough might be a bit sticky after mixing and and need a little bit more flour, maybe 2-4 Tbl., but the dough will also get less sticky after resting in the refrigerator for an hour because this gives the flour a chance to absorb the moisture.
Note about making this into chocolate dough: Add about a half cup of cocoa (1.5 ounces) and an additional egg. Don’t reduce the amount of sugar–use a full cup of sugar. The dough won’t be very sweet.
Note about texture of hamantaschen made with oil instead of butter/margarine/shortening: the oil-based hamantaschen will be crisp when first baked, but will be soft and cakey after being frozen and defrosted.