Saturday, February 23, 2013


Hamentashen is a traditional Jewish pastry made for the holiday of Purim. In the Purim story (called the Megillah, there is a malevolent character named Hamen, who wishes to destroy all the Jews (a common theme in history unfortunately), and he wears a three-cornered hat. Hamentashen means “Hamen’s hat” and it is a triangular pastry. My Grandma Wachspress’s recipe for hamentashen, provided below in both a wheat version and a gluten-free version, uses the Hungarian Jewish kipfel dough. To make the hamentashen, first you prepare the kipfel. 


For the kipfel:
½ lb. butter (2 sticks) softened
½ lb. cream cheese softened
2 c. sifted flour (use whole wheat flour or, for a gluten-free pastry, use brown rice flour)
½ tsp. baking powder
2 tbsp. honey
¼ tsp. salt

For the hamentashen filling:
1 c. poppy seeds
¼ tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1/3 c. honey
1 tbsp. grated lemon rind
¼ c. raisins 


To make the kipfel dough, blend the ingredients well, working the butter and cream cheese into the flour. This dough has so much butter and cream cheese in it that it falls apart unless it’s chilled. Once you have it blended into a ball, put the kipfel in the refrigerator for 45 minutes or the freezer for 20 minutes before attempting to work with it. When you roll it out, only roll out half the dough at first, while leaving the other half in the refrigerator to stay chilled. Then roll out the other half of the dough.

While the dough is chilling, put the hamentashen filling ingredients  (except for the egg, leave that out for now) into a food processor and whirl them up for a couple of minutes. Honestly, the traditional way to make hamentashen requires that you grind the poppy seeds into a paste with a mortar and pestle, which Grandma W. did. I have done this and it makes the filling wonderfully flavorful; but I confess that I rarely have the patience to grind poppy seeds. Whirling them in the food processor works well enough for me, but for the gourmet version you can get out your mortar and pestle and go for it. After you whirl everything but the egg for a couple of minutes, then add the egg and whirl the filling some more to mix in the egg.

When the kipfel is chilled, roll half the dough out and cut it into 3-inch circles. I suggest using a drinking glass as your cookie cutter. For the gluten-free version, put a piece of parchment (wax paper works OK, just not quite as well as parchment) on the cutting board before you roll out the dough to prevent sticking. Rice flour dough tends to be more gooey, fragile, and harder to work with than wheat flour dough.

Drop a teaspoon of hamentashen filling into the middle of each round and fold up three edges to form a triangle (Hamen’s hat). Pinch the corners firmly to secure the dough and to prevent it from unfolding in the oven. You should be able to still see a little bit of the filling (about as much as the size of your pinky fingernail) in the middle of the pastry, but be sure to fold the kipfel tight or it will open up and flatten out while baking.

Bake the hamentashen on a greased cookie sheet at 375º for 20 minutes or until done. The gluten-free version needs to bake for a little longer than the wheat version – 25 minutes should do it.

It’s challenging to use up all the dough and all the filling in the hamentashen. I finish up this recipe by rolling out the last piece of dough into an oval and filling it with the last of the hamentashen filling, folding it over on itself and baking it for 20-25 minutes, then slicing it up (see my rugelach recipe).

Eat well, be well, live deliciously!

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