17 Feb

HamentaschenThese fruit, nut or poppy-filled cookies are popular on the Jewish festival of Purim, which commemorates the events told in the Book of Esther. This year, Purim fall on February 24.

The cookie’s three-cornered shape is supposed to represent Haman’s hat, though the word means “Haman’s pockets” in Yiddish. My mother wasn’t much of a cook, but she baked these hamentaschen every year. She got the recipe from our neighbor in Northeast Philadelphia, Ida Silver.

In 2007, I read a Hadassah magazine article by Judy Davis called “My Mother’s Hamentaschen” and I realized Judy Davis was the married name of Ida Silver’s oldest child, a few years older than me. But the recipe in the magazine was not my mother’s recipe!

I hadn’t seen Judy in at least 40 years but I tracked her down – she worked at the University of Massaschusetts – and emailed her. In her response she admitted it the recipe not her mother’s, which she either never had or lost. “I must have had a copy at some time, though I have no memory of it,” she wrote. “I love the idea of your mother having used her recipe (it means my mother must have shared some of them with her), and I love that it is being handed down to the next generation.”

Indeed it is! My children always enjoyed my hamentaschen – at some point, each of them served as my baking assistant. Now they are making the same recipe. And in all humility, I say that I know only one friend who has a recipe for hamentaschen as good as these. The cookie is tender, and the honey and lemon give it a nice flavor.

I usually double the recipe, though now that the children are out of the house and we are retired (with no office colleagues to share goodies with), I am going back to making a single batch. I don’t use a board to roll out the dough. I do what my mother did: cover the kitchen table with an old sheet and work some flour into it and use that as my workspace.

Use Solo brand pie filling or similar; regular pie filling is too runny and will make the hamentaschen soggy.


2½ cups flour
2½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1/2 cup sugar
⅓ cup vegetable shortening
¼ cup honey
1 Tbs. lemon juice
2 eggs
1 can Solo fruit, nut or poppy pastry filling


Hamentasch dough

The dough should be soft and pliable and form a ball.

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Cream the shortening and sugar. Add the honey and lemon juice. Add half of the flour mixture, then the eggs, then the rest of the flour.The dough should form a ball and pull away from the sides of the bowl; if it’s too sticky, add a little more flour. Take a third to a half of the dough ( less, if you make a double batch), pat it into a flattened disk, and roll it out on a floured board. Keep the rest covered with a damp cloth so it doesn’t dry out.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pinching hamentaschen into a three-cornered shape

Pinch the hamentaschen into a three-cornered shape.

Roll the dough out evenly to a thickness of about ⅛  inch.Filled hamentaschen Cut into rounds with a cookie cutter or the rim of a glass that you’ve dipped into flour. Add the scraps of dough not cut out back into the bowl with the rest of the dough. Place a teaspoonful of filling on each round, then fold into

Pinch the hamentaschen into a three-cornered shape: bring two “sides” of the circle together into a point and pinch to hold them together, then fold up the rest of the circle and pinch it to the two sides formed by the first pinching.

Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 12 -15 minutes until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 2-3 dozen cookies.


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