In late winter around Purim time, hamantaschen floods every bakery and grocery store in Israel. But like with most things, homemade is always best.
This recipe will let you make this old-fashioned cookie the right way, with a buttery and delicious shortbread-type dough and lots of goodies on the inside. It has become one of the most popular items we sell at Lehamim Bakery.
When I bite into one, I want to taste the poppy seeds. This is why it’s important to take your time and roll the dough very thin. After baking, the dough turns into a crisp, buttery shell to hold the filling. And this is what makes these cookies so special.
Poppy seeds, though they seem dry, actually contain quite a bit of natural oil that comes out when we pulverize them into a paste. Then we cook the poppy seeds in milk, which makes the filling even more special. Because the seeds are rich, make sure to taste your poppy seeds before using them. They shouldn’t taste off, sour, or bitter—if yours have been on a cupboard shelf for a long time, invest in a new batch before making the filling.
- Cook Time
- Prep Time
- Yield: approximately 48 hamantaschenServings
- 230 grams (2 sticks) unsalted butter (cold)100 grams (scant 1 cup) confectioners’ sugar50 grams (1/4 cup) granulated sugar1 ½ beaten large eggs400 grams (3 cups plus 2 tablespoons, plus extra for dusting and rolling) all-purpose flour (sifted, 11.7%) or cake flour50 grams (1/2 cup) almond flour5 grams (1 teaspoon) fine salt
Poppy Seed Filling
- 220 grams (1 2/3 cups) poppy seeds315 grams (1 1/3 cups) whole milk110 grams (heaping ½ cup) granulated sugarLemon zest grated from 1 lemon45 grams (3 tablespoons) unsalted butter15 grams (1 tablespoon) apricot jam20 grams (1/4 cup) cake or muffin crumbs
- 1 large egg1 tablespoon waterPinch of fine salt
Make the shortbread dough:
1. Set the butter on a piece of parchment paper and use a rolling pin to whack it—you want to soften the butter but keep it cold. Place the smashed butter, confectioners’ sugar, and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and mix on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Increase the speed to medium-low and beat for 30 seconds (you want the mixture to be well mixed but not airy—you don’t want volume).
2. Add the beaten eggs and mix on low speed until just combined, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add the all-purpose flour, almond flour, and salt and mix just until almost combined. Turn off the mixer, remove the bowl from the mixer base, and use a plastic dough scraper to continue to fold and work the dough until it is of one consistency (finishing the dough by hand prevents overmixing and ensures that the shortbread will be very tender).
3. Transfer the dough to a large sheet of parchment paper and use plastic wrap or another sheet of parchment to press it into a 5-by-10-inch, ½-inch-thick rectangle. Leaving the plastic wrap (or parchment) on top, refrigerate the dough for 1 hour (the dough can be refrigerated for up to 5 days before using or frozen for up to 1 month).
Make the poppy seed filling:
4. Pour the poppy seeds into a food processor and grind them until they are almost finely ground, stopping before they start to turn into a paste (or grind them in batches in a spice grinder or coffee mill). Pour the milk and sugar into a medium saucepan, set it over medium heat, and stir often until the sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes; then stir in the ground poppy seeds, grated lemon zest, and butter. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring continuously (otherwise the poppy seeds could stick to the bottom of the pan and burn), until the mixture thickens and the poppy seeds have absorbed all of the milk and sugar mixture and it starts to bubble, about 5 minutes. Immediately remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the apricot jam and the cake crumbs, transfer the filling to a shallow bowl or baking dish, cover the surface directly with plastic wrap, and set it aside (or refrigerate) to cool completely.
5. Set the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Lightly flour the top, and roll the dough into an 18-inch square that is 1/8 inch thick. As you roll it, move the dough often, flouring the top and underside lightly so it doesn’t stick to the work surface or rolling pin. If the dough becomes warm and starts to stick or become difficult to work with, slide it onto a sheet pan and refrigerate it until it becomes firm again—about 20 minutes should do it (if the dough is too thin to move easily, then cut out the circles in step 6, transfer them to the prepared baking sheet, and chill them before filling).
Make the egg wash:
6. In a small bowl, whisk the egg, water, and salt together. Brush off the dough to remove any excess flour and then use a 3-inch round cookie cutter (or an upside-down glass) to stamp out as many rounds as possible, leaving as little space between them as possible so you don’t end up with lots of scraps. Divide the rounds between 2 parchment paper–lined sheet pans, setting them about 1½ inches apart. Gather the scraps and lightly press them together into a ball (don’t knead the dough—just firmly press it), flatten the ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and set it aside in the refrigerator for 10 minutes. Use a pastry brush to brush the entire surface of each shortbread round with egg wash. Using a spoon or a piping bag, place 1 tablespoon of the poppy seed filling (about 15 grams) on the center of each round (don’t put too much filling on the shortbread round or you won’t be able to shape the hamantaschen). Be sparing with the filling for the first few as you get the hang of shaping the hamantaschen—if too much filling is used, the cookie can be difficult to shape. Follow the photo above to pinch the dough into the classic triangular hamantaschen shape around the filling.
7. Flour the work surface and roll out the ball of scraps. Repeat the stamping, filling, and shaping process, refrigerating the dough for 15 to 20 minutes if it becomes too sticky to work with. Discard any remaining dough scraps, add the shaped cookies to the others on the sheet pans, and refrigerate the hamantaschen for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
8. Adjust the oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
9. Bake a sheet of hamantaschen on each oven rack for 6 minutes; then rotate the top sheet to the bottom rack and the bottom to the top rack and bake until the pastry is evenly browned, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the sheet pans from the oven and set the cookies aside to cool. Store the hamantaschen in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Excerpted from Breaking Breads by Uri Scheft (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2016. Photographs by Con Poulos
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