Poppy Seed Hamantaschen

Like we need an excuse to make cookies! Well, if you do need a reason, Purim is the perfect one. The holiday is approaching fast, and the Curls and Carrots clan is testing hamantaschen recipes. So many fillings to try!

Purim is the pinnacle of the Jewish festival year and delivers the full messages of Shavuot and Pesah. The rabbis stated Mi-shenikhas adar marbin be simhah. This roughly translates to “With the beginning of the month of Adar, we will multiply our joy!” The holiday of Purim is all about festivities and fun. Hence the multiplying cookies!

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Long ago, Haman did not succeed in decimating the Jews. Esther and Mordecai saved our people from a frightful fate. The story dates back to ancient Persia. When I think of Persia, the first thing that comes to mind is amazing food. Correspondingly, the food eaten on Purim is abundant and scrum-diddly-umptious. Cookies! Cookies! Oh, and did I mention that at any Purim celebration worth its salt, libations flow like a river? The vantage point from a Purim celebration is like peering through a kaleidoscope. Colorful, circus-like, celebratory and joyful… upside down, right side up, topsy-turvy. You get the picture.

hamantaschen

The gastronomy of Purim is unique from many Jewish festivals; there are no food restrictions for this holiday. Still, it has its time-honored culinary traditions. Legumes, beans and seeds (like poppy seeds!) are often enjoyed during Purim. There are even rumors that Esther was a vegetarian; So, it is typical to consume many plant-based foods. Purim recipes often include a bounty of seeds, legumes, fruits and vegetables. A long-simmered pea soup, prepared with sweet, succulent lamb is a lovely way to enjoy both vegetables and legumes during the holiday meal.

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In America, hamantaschen with traditional poppy seed filling may be the most well-known food of Purim. The playful, scrumptious sweet is special for its triangular shape Supposedly, the triangle symbolizes evil Haman’s funny, three-pointed hat. These cookies not only make for a fabulous nosh, but are excellent mishloah manot. Mishloah manot, or giving (preferably delectable!) gifts of foods to friends, is an important Purim tradition.  A kind present of hamantaschen – delivered in a whimsical, colorful box or a bright bag tied with vibrantly colored ribbons – incorporates both the jubilant and giving spirit of Purim.

Asher Hamantaschen
There are many arts and crafts for children to enjoy during the holiday.  Still, my children most enjoy baking with their Ima (that’s me!). My daughter was devastated to learn that dough for hamantaschen must chill for hours before being rolled out into cookies. If your kids are eager bakers like mine, pre-chill your dough – and maybe whip up a double batch for good measure! Feel free to fill the hamantaschen with your family’s favorite thick jam or jelly, or even dark chocolate chips. Create variety of color, flavor and fun with each hamantaschen.

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Happy Purim! Have a good holiday: Gut Yontiff!

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Hamantaschen with Poppy Seed Filling

Makes about 14 large hamantaschen

Ingredients for the dough:

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) pareve margarine (such as Earth Balance Buttery Sticks) or butter, room temperature
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. almond extract
  • 2 Tbsp. brandy
  • The zest of one orange
  • 1 cup white, granulated sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp. fine salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

Ingredients for the poppy seed filling (or, omit and use your favorite, thick jam):

  • 1 cup poppy seeds
  • 1 cup dairy milk (or nondairy milk substitute, if preferred).
  • 2 Tbsp. orange juice
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • Dash of salt, about 1/8 tsp.
  • 1 Tbsp. pareve margarine or butter
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp. orange liqueur
  • 1 large Bosc pear, peeled and grated

Preparation for the poppy seed filling:

  • In a mini-chopper or coffee grinder, grind the poppy seeds until fine.
  • In a small saucepan, over medium heat, place the poppy seeds, milk, orange juice, honey, raisins and salt.
  • Bring the ingredients to a simmer. Allow to lightly bubble until thick, about fifteen minutes.
  • Stir in the butter, vanilla extract and orange liqueur. Allow to simmer for a minute more.
  • Stir in the grated pear.
  • Allow to cool completely before filling the hamantaschen.

Preparation for the dough:

  • Preheat your oven to 375•F. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper or a Silpat.
  • In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, on medium speed, cream together the margarine or butter, egg, almond extract, brandy, sugar and orange zest.
  • In a large bowl, sift the flour, salt and baking powder.
  • With the mixer on low-speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the margarine/butter and egg mixture, just until the batter in uniform.
  • Use your hands to form the dough into a disc. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least two hours or overnight.
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch of thickness.
  • Use a round, glass cup or circular cookie cutter to cut out rounds.
  • Place a small dollop, about a tablespoon, of poppy seed filling or your favorite jam in the middle of each dough round.
  • Fold the edges of the dough to form a triangle. Pinch each edge to seal in filling.
  • Evenly divide the cookies between two cookie sheets.
  • Bake on the prepared cookie sheets for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cookies are lightest hue of gold.
  • Cool completely on wire racks before serving.

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Pink Purim Cocktail

Perfect for a Purim party: hamantaschen with a colorful and bubbly buzz.

Ingredients:

  • Champagne
  • pomegranate juice
  • pomegranate seeds
  • oranges, peeled and sliced into fourths (optional)

Preparation:

  • Place two tablespoons of pomegranate juice, and one tablespoon of pomegranate seeds, in a champagne glass.
  • Add a twist of fresh orange, if desired.
  • Top of the juice and seeds with enough champagne to fill the glass.

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©Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward, shannaward.com (2013-2014), unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author, Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward, and/or owner is strictly and completely prohibited.

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77 thoughts on “Poppy Seed Hamantaschen

  1. Hello Shanna!I can see that you’re doing very well!I read with so much interest about your Jewish festivity and traditions, for me that I belong to another religion it’s just so …I can I say? fascinating!
    And you have great foods for your festivities, too! I’m sure you’ll enjoy these days with your family (and you’re adorable kids 😉 ) Hugs – Cris

  2. I loved hearing more about Purim (I had no idea how festive it was) and of course reading the recipe for the hamantaschen. Before relocating to Southern Cal, I grew up in New York and was able to enjoy many traditional Jewish foods, including these. The shape looks very familiar to me and I think you noted this is the typical shape for this cookie. Also, I was curious is poppy seed the traditional filling for them? I love hearing about the foods and celebrations that I’m not familiar with and when you weave the history and the recipe together, it makes for such a fantastic post!

    1. Allison, Your experiences growing up in New York sound wonderful. I assume there is also a vibrant Jewish community in S. CA? Thank you for your lovely note. And, yes, poppyseed is quite traditional as a filling – as are apricot, fig and prune – though the sky is the limit. Best, Shanna

  3. Food gifts and charity

    Gaily wrapped baskets of sweets, snacks and other foodstuffs given as mishloach manot on Purim day.
    The Book of Esther prescribes “the sending of portions one man to another, and gifts to the poor.According to halakha, each adult must give two different foods to one person, and two charitable donations to two poor people.
    The food parcels are called mishloach manot (“sending of portions”), and in some circles the custom has evolved into a major gift-giving event
    .
    i didnt know anything About this great holiday,Shanna,Thank you for sharing,and if some for THE delicious Poppy seedy hammantaschen left,can you send some???

    1. You know more about Purim than I do, Massi! 🙂 I love the concept of giving to others or to charity; it is so important and spiritually fulfilling. I once mailed cookies to Europe (Germany) and they arrived as a box of crumbs and pieces! I would love to share these, though… hmmmmmmm…. 🙂 Thanks for your lovely words. Warmest wishes, Shanna

  4. These looks quite tasty. Sean will be looking forward to Purim since that means they have treats at the gym in the lobby! I know what you mean about baking with kids, mine don’t care for the chill time either. I may have to make dough at night to let it chill and then they can help bake right away!

      1. As long as I have spare time it is fun to have them in the kitchen, they do make for more work. I do love to watch them, especially when fixing a meal and not a sweet treat. They just love their veggies and talk about what has protein, calcium etc. Quite entertaining! Enjoy the weekend!

  5. Thanks for teaching me about Purim. I an fascinated by all religious traditions, their history and meaning, their practices both ancient and modern! Your poppy seed cookies look especially delicious. Enjoy your special festivities!

  6. Beautiful post, Shanna. It’s delightful to learn about Purim and the holiday foods. I love a good Hamantaschen myself, but have never made them, thinking it best to leave it to the experts. Your recipe has me thinking otherwise–maybe I should try it this holiday. Do I spy red chili jam in the filling there? Looks scrumptious! Thank you for the recipes!

  7. I’m absolutely right when I say that to discover new cultures through the food is one of the main reason to have a blog. Thank you for your post, I’ve really appreciated it, from several points of view!

  8. These look and sound amazing. I fear I have gained ten pounds just looking through the pictures in this post! They look so yummy! Nice job, Shanna…Enjoy!

  9. Many moons ago, I surprised my Jewish friends by inviting them for dinner and to honor them, surprised them with the Purim goodies and celebration. I did know about Esther (went to Catholic school and studied in our Bible class) but it was then that I investigated about the details of the feast. Very informative and delicious post. I wish I had couple of those cookies. 😛

    1. Fae, Your dinner sounds incredible; certainly the food was delectable. I am not surprised to hear that are you a generous and thoughtful host. We need more Fae’s in the world. Thank you for stopping by and for leaving kind words. Best, Shanna

  10. Shanna, love this recipe, such cute little treats! I love everything with poppy seeds. I also loved to learn about Purim, what a great holiday when food is such a central part of it! Enjoy it! 😉 And thanks for sharing this! Sylvia

  11. Those cookies look so cute and yummy! A local bakery makes these year-round and they’re one of our fave. If you look closely enough, I have them on my header behind some other cookies. Now I don’t have to buy them anymore; I have your recipe. Thank you! XOXO

  12. have been waiting for this post after seeing your facebook photo. Lovely 🙂 Wishing you and your family many blessings as you celebrate Purim and all that follows. And nice touch with the cocktail.

  13. Hi, Shanna! My first to read about Purim celebration. And, those cookies reminds me of sugar cookies. They’re making me hungry. Mm… Thank you for sharing this great post, Shanna. Enjoy the celebration. Best wishes for you and your family.
    ~Anna (PRCCSS) 🙂

  14. Good morning, Shanna! Once again we’re thinking alike, since I’ve been thinking about Purim and Hamantachen, too. We’re still in February birthday mode here. Today is my husband’s birthday, and his school has a snow delay. (The up side being that I made him an omelet for breakfast that he’s enjoying now while leisurely reading the paper.) Your Hamantaschen look super yummy (and your “helper” is adorable), and the cocktail sounds delicious! I will post my recipe when it gets closer to the holiday.
    Did you use also use the red chile jam as a filling? I’m trying to remember which fillings we liked best last year. 🙂

    1. Merril, we are always on the same foodie wavelength. A very happy (belated) birthday to your husband! I look forward to your Hamantaschen post! Yes, the fillings were poppy seed and also red chile raspberry jam. Thank you for your sweet comment! Best, Shanna

  15. A great post, Shanna. Loved your description of viewing the Purim celebration is like looking into a kaleidoscope. Thanks, too, for the explanation of Purim. Though I know a little of the Jewish holidays, I am by no means well-versed and welcome any opportunity to learn more of them. The poppy filling really does sound good and you could find no better endorsement than those photos of the Little Guy performing his taste tests. 🙂

  16. The poppy seed filling sounds yummy!

    Esther was one of my favourite stories – so brave! I liked all the stories about strong biblical women, but there was something about her being a queen and having to be clever in that political minefield that I really enjoyd, even age 9 or whatever I was.

  17. I love trying new and unique pastry recipes and this looks amazing Shanna! These look so portable and perfect for sharing too…I think they would make a great homemade food gift, assuming I don’t eat them all first, haha!

      1. I normally don’t love jelly in cookies, but for hamentashen I like rasberry and apricot rather than poppy which I always think is chocolate and then I’m let down!

  18. Thank you for your wonderful post and the education about Purim. Sounds very festive! Love the shape of your cookies and being the poppy seed lover that I am, well, lets just say I’m a bit smitten by them.

  19. Thanks for the lesson on Purim celebration. I have learnt a lot. You know what I love most about this post? The presentation and the photos. They look awesome. I wish I could pick a few poppy seed hamantaschen and gobble them all up. Have a lovely weekend. Best Liz

      1. I’m just looking at a poppy seed roll that I’m planning to make..it looks delicious. Have a lovely Sunday!
        Liz

  20. scrum didly umptious 🙂 wow you were in a good mood, is the time of unleavened bread past, or did you find loads of avocados today, or was it just looking at your adorable “brood” if I may call them that, that put the smiles on you, whatever I liked finding this post. Love the challenge. I just bought myself a new cookbook today: Stellas sephardic table. Not sure how I feel about it yet, but it got rave reviews and so I will read through it. My favourite book though in my jewish culinary tradition section was written by a rabbi and in the spirit of what you are currently doing has recipes and information following the alphabet, which I found fascinating. Has interesting stuff in there like Lechuach and Hillbeh, as well as stuff I wouldn’t be tempted to try like lungs, and historical details of the inquisition and how they found out which families were Jewish by asking the household help what types of meals were prepared. Not kosher households, just traditional dishes. I didn’t know this, I am sure you did of course. Anyhow I digress, love you blog as always Poli

    1. Thank you, “Polianthus!” I adore Sephardic cuisine. ADORE it. I may have been a Sephardic Jew in another life. The cookbook sounds amazing. Thank you for your lovely note; it’s great to hear from you. My best!

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