Although the kichel ranks as the lowest form of Jewish dessert, Hamentaschen has historically ranked for me as a pretty close second. From my childhood until now I have found most Hamentaschen cookies extremely dry and tasteless. And for decades all we put inside them was prune and poppy seed fillings, decent flavors but not ones that appeal to anyone under the age of 40. Homemade Hamentaschen are at least moister than the commercial ones because you can avoid baking them into oblivion, as every kosher bakery seems to do. Yet home bakers think that placing an interesting filling into the center can somehow turn a cardboard-textured vanilla cookie into something tasty.
Every Purim I remove all the Hamentaschen out of the mishloach manot bags to see if there are any standouts. Sometimes I am surprised, but usually only if someone is willing to think out of the box and try something new. My baking mantra has always been, “Can’t we do better?” We now have available so many great kosher ingredients, fillings and jam flavors so we have to tools to update this traditional cookie. It is time to think outside the triangle.
For the past 5 years, Hamentaschen has been a personal challenge, added to the list of desserts I never liked (pumpkin pie, honey cake, lemon meringue) until I created my own delicious versions. For these lackluster desserts I endeavor to develop I recipe that I truly like, to try to change my mind about them. After trying many basic Hamentaschen doughs, I ended up using my husband’s grandmother’s recipe. In The Kosher Baker I have recipes for that basic Hammentaschen dough, and then I experimented a bit and included orange poppy seed Hamentaschen, lemon curd and chocolate candy-filled ones. For my next book, The Holiday Kosher Baker (Sterling, October 2013) I present a rainbow of flavors.
Now that I know what is possible in the world of Hamentaschen, they are no longer on my list of desserts to avoid. Make sure you only bake and eat ones that are truly worth the calories.
Here is a delicious dough that tastes like chocolate cake with mint with a bittersweet chocolate filling. It will restore your faith in Hamentaschen.
And here is my go-to recipe that you can adapt and flavor any way you wish!