Get excited because the Jewish response to Halloween, Purim, is almost here and we get to eat Hamantaschen! What are hamantaschen? Triangle-shaped cookies, that just so happen to remind us of the biblical villain, Haman.
Growing up, our synagogue in San Diego used to have Purim carnivals where kids would come dressed up in costumes while we rejoiced in the retelling of the story of Jewish deliverance from their enemies, as it’s written in the Book of Esther, which, sounds like a rager, right? What? It was moving at five.
We played carnival games and competed to win crappy prizes like Chinese finger-traps and those little plastic puzzle games where you hold the piece just the right way and try to get the tiny silver balls through the maze before it rolled into a hole.
One year, I went as a vampire Michael Jackson, and my older brother was Alfalfa from The Little Rascals; I remember throwing rings onto a pegboard and winning a goldfish in a plastic bag. My parents wanted nothing to do with it. “We need a goldfish like we need a hole in our heads,” my father said. Three bothers, a dog, a housekeeper…I don’t blame them, I wouldn’t want a goldfish either. But I was a brat, and once I explained to my father that getting a fish would be like my first interior design project—he agreed to let us keep it.
We filled a fishbowl with some water and dropped a packet of royal blue fish tank rocks we bought from the pet shelf at the gas station store on our way home from temple. My brothers and I were obsessed with Goldie. That’s what we agreed to call her because we weren’t looking to give the other fish at school a reason to tease her. By the next morning, Goldie was the newest member of our family, and my parents had to pry us away from the tank or we’d be late for school.
Later that day, I came home from school to Goldie floating near the surface of the bowl.
“Mom!” I yelled from near the bay window where the tank was prominently featured, “guess what?”
“What?” she replied.
“Goldie can swim on her back!”
And that was the day I learned that fish tanks shouldn’t be left in sunny windows! The reason hamantaschen remind me of Goldie is because a giant hamantasch from DZ Akins Deli was the only thing that could make this crying drama queen forget the day he was an accomplice to a slowly torturing and murdering a fish in the living room window.
You’re in our thoughts always Goldie! And may your memory be a blessing.
Apricot and Boysenberry Hamantaschen
For the dough
- 2 cups pastry flour
- ⅔ cups whole wheat flour
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¾ cup unsalted butter chilled and cut into pats
- ⅔ cup sugar
- 1 egg white
- 1 whole egg
- 1 heaping tsp of lemon zest (can use orange zest too)
For the filling, you’ll need a total of 1.5 cups of whatever filling/s you’re going to use.
My thoughts on the fillings are that you can totally make something from scratch, but you don’t have to. If you’re going to make the filling from scratch just follow your favorite preserves recipe. Otherwise (and this is what I’ve done with the boysenberry preserves) just buy one of any of the wonderful preserves for sale at specialty stores or the local farmer’s market by those whacky jar-fanatics. They need your business and it will save you a ton of time.
For making the shapes:
I used a fluted round cookie cutter (about 3 inches in diameter unless you want your cookies larger or smaller) because I like the way they look, but you can use a smooth round (circle) cutter if you’d like.
For the dough:
Add the two flours, baking powder and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times until combined. Add the chilled pats of butter and pulse about 10 times.
In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, egg, egg white, and lemon zest.
Once combined, add it to the food processor bowl and pulse to mix until the mixture just comes together and starts moving around the bowl. You don’t want to over process the dough so once it comes together stop.
Turn the dough out onto a slightly floured surface and push it together and then divide it in two. Form each half into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 mins.
Roll out the dough on a floured work surface until it’s ¼ inch thick. Cut out disks using your cookie cutter. Place the disks of dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat and put about 1 tsp of your filling of choice in the middle of each.
Pinch the disks in three places to form a triangular shape with the filling still exposed in the center. They’re meant to look like three-cornered hats, which are rumored to have been worn by Haman, the villain from the Purim story. I like to think he had pointy ears and the filling is symbolic of his ear wax. Who know! Place the circle two inches apart, because they will expand a little while baking.
- The traditional fillings are apricots, poppy seeds, prunes, raspberry, and cherry.
- This dough is sweet but not overly sweet, so it’s okay if your fillings are sugary.
- I like the majority of the flour to be pastry flour because it’s nice and fine, making the cookies melt in your mouth. The whole wheat is just to add a hearty flavor and the slightest amount of texture. You can totally use regular flour for the whole thing and they will still be great.
- After cutting out your circles, reform the dough and keep going. You’ll definitely have more filling that you think in the end.
- I use a little lemon zest in my dough, but Gail Gand’s recipe (which was the inspiration for this one) calls for orange zest which also works.