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Hamantashen Gone Wild: 5 Creative Ways to Fill Them Up

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With Purim around the corner, Leah Koenig, author of the new cookbook Modern Jewish Cooking, shares her tips on how to upgrade your hamantaschen routine.

Hamantaschen   Modern Jewish Cooking

Tradition is a beautiful thing, especially when baked goods are involved. On the Jewish holiday of Purim, it's a tradition to bake and eat hamantaschen, triangular cookies filled with sweetened ground poppy seeds or fruit preserves. In recent years; however, home bakers have gotten creative with fillings, spooning everything from spiced apple butter to marzipan into the three-cornered pockets. Can't decide whether to stick with a traditional filling or try something new? No problem. Just mix up two batches of dough and leave the tough choices for another day. 

Here are 5 creative ways to fill your hamantaschen:

1. Two words: homemade Nutella.
Let's be honest: It was only a matter of time before bakers started connecting the dots between Purim's choice dessert and the popular Italian chocolate-hazelnut spread. Try filling your hamantaschen dough with a decadent dot of Nutella. Or better yet, grind up a homemade version made with agave and coconut oil. 

2. Get a little spicy.
Turn up the heat by filling hamantaschen with pear preserves spiked with black peppercorns and fresh ginger. The jam features just the right amount of kick under a layer of jammy fruit.

3. Go nuts!
Cookbook author and Jewish food maven Joan Nathan's favorite hamantaschen filling is a delicious study in textures. She pulses dried figs, marmalade, a splash of Triple Sec, and a handful of toasted walnuts in a food processor until the mixture turns into a nubby paste that's perfect for filling the pocketed cookies -- or licking directly off a spoon.

4. Swap sweet with savory.
Hamantaschen are traditionally paired with jams and other sweet fillings, but there's no reason not to explore their savory side. Pizza-inspired hamantaschen, stuffed with sautéed onion, tomatoes, and goat cheese are a great place to start. Ground beef or sweet potatoes are other great bases for savory hamantaschen fillings.

5. Rework a classic.
Ground poppy seeds (called mohn in Yiddish) are the most traditional, and controversial, hamantaschen filling. People either love the nutty-sweet flavor or can't stand the idea. I've found that adding just a bit of melted bittersweet chocolate into the mix, like in the Chocolate-Poppy Seed Hamantaschen in Modern Jewish Cooking, silences the haters while bringing the familiar cookie to another level.


Chocolate-Poppy Seed Hamantaschen

Makes about 36 cookies

For the dough:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon water, plus more if needed
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs

For the filling:

1 cup poppy seeds
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 ounce bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Top photos by Sang An; nutella photo by Carey Nershi; nut-filled hamantaschen photo by James Ransom

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Tags: Cookie, Dessert, Purim, Bake, Lists