I grew up in a half-Jewish, half-Christian household where the extent of our religion only went so far as to celebrate the major holidays – Hanukkah, Christmas, Easter, Passover – with more consideration given to tradition rather than religion. I went to Jewish Sunday school for about a year before deciding I’d rather honor my Jewish heritage than the religion itself. Basically, I’m about as Jewish as Bernie Sanders.
The last lesson I remember having in Sunday school was all about the Jewish holiday of Purim, aka the least depressing and most fun of Jewish holidays. People wear masks and are supposed to drink so much that they can’t tell apart the villain and the hero from the story. And more appetizing than gefilte fish for Passover, Purim is celebrated by eating delicious hamantaschen cookies, filled with jam, chocolate, poppy seeds and anything else you can stuff into pastry.
I’ve only made hamantaschen once, but making it was one of those rare moments when my family and I went beyond the basics of our Jewish heritage, and it’s a memory that has stuck with me. If I remember correctly, these cookies tasted pretty good, which proves just how simple they are if an 11 year old and 7 year old can make them from scratch.
There are a million different variations on the classic hamantaschen, from caramel macchiato to black and white cookie versions, and I highly recommend trying your hand at making them yourself or picking some up at a deli in honor of Purim and cookies of all faiths.
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
1 cup sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1/2 orange
2 tablespoons brandy
Raspberry or apricot preserves, or Poppy Seed Filling, recipe follows, for filling
1 egg, lightly beaten
In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk the oil, eggs, egg yolk, sugar, zest, both juices and brandy until smooth. Gradually stir in the flour mixture until a sticky dough is formed. Wrap in plastic wrap, flatten into a disk and chill overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Working with about one quarter of the dough at a time and leaving the remaining in the refrigerator, roll on lightly floured surface a little less than 1/4-inch thick. Cut circles (or other fun shapes) using cookie cutters 2 1/2 to 3 inches. Place a spoonful of filling in center (about 1 teaspoon per cookie) and then pinch one side up. Turn and pinch second and then third to make a triangular shape. Leave a little bit of the filling showing at the top. For non-traditional shapes, use your imagination: tubular, squares, bite-size or even some flat cookies depressed in the center with a bit of filling there.
Place cookies on parchment paper on cookie sheet, brush with a little beaten egg for sheen and bake until nicely browned, 10 to 15 minutes.
Keep room temp in airtight container but consume within 3 to 4 days, tops.
Embarrassing childhood photos courtesy of my mom
Mia is an aspiring cat lady and obsessed with books, beauty, and pop culture. By day she works in publishing in New York City, and by night she can be found in bed, drinking Moscato and binge-watching YouTube videos.