Make Ahead

Hamantaschen & Prune Lekvar Filling

February 24, 2021
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Photo by Ilana Epstein
Author Notes

The way Jews have dealt with the precarious nature of our life in the Diaspora was by feasting in the face of adversity. That phrase of 'The tried to kill us, we survived, lets eat!" is never more true then on Purim.

Hamantaschen originate in Germany. In the early Middle Ages there was a pastry known as "maultasche" (mouth-pocket), it was triangle shaped and filled with jam or curd cheese.

The word "tasche" is Middle High German (which gives rise to the English words "task" and "tax") and referred to a place where money was put, meaning a pocket or a pouch. Around the late 16th Century, influenced by the word "mohn" (meaning poppy seed) which sounds very similar to the word Haman (when said in an Ashkenazi accent), German Jews started filling these Teutonic pastries with poppy seed filling and renamed them Hamantasch (Hamantaschen in plural), meaning Haman’s pocket.

One of the stories that comes across in the Biblical Book of Esther is that Haman was deeply influenced by the financial windfall that he would gain for the national treasury by issuing a genocidal edict against the Jews and their looted wealth. The original Hamantashen was alluding to Haman’s greed.

With time, subsequent meanings were added to the Hamantashen, the triangle shape came to represent not just Haman’s pockets, but his tricorn hat (though chances were that he didn’t wear a tricorn hat!). The tricorn hat only became popular in Europe around the 1690s, but it was seen as something a non-Jew would wear. 

In 1731 David Brandeis, a Bohemian Jewish merchant, was accused of poisoning his prune preserves (in Hungarian called lekvar). The chance of his coming out of the ordeal alive was slim. And yet just four days before Purim, he was acquitted and set free. In celebration of the very personal miracle of survival, his family celebrated by filling hamantaschen with prune preserves. Soon the recipe spread far and wide, and prune became one of the traditional hamantaschen fillings of the old world alongside poppy seeds. —Ilana Epstein

  • Prep time 1 hour
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • makes 60 cookies
Ingredients
  • Hamantaschen Dough
  • 470 grams all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 0.5 teaspoons salt
  • 200 grams granulated white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 180 milliliters vegetable oil
  • 60 milliliters orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Prune Lekvar (Preserves)
  • 350 grams soft pitted prunes
  • 240 milliliters water
  • 1 zest of a lemon
  • 60 milliliters fresh lemon juice
  • 75 grams granulated white sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Hamantaschen Dough
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt, set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using a wooden spoon, mix together the sugar, eggs, oil orange juice, zest, and vanilla. Mix until well combined.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, and mix until all the flour is incorporated into the wet ingredients. You should have a smooth dough that looks more like cake batter than cookie dough, but don’t worry it will set up in the fridge.
  5. Refrigerate for at least an hour but preferably overnight.
  6. Heat oven to 180℃ (350℉), line two cookie sheets with baking paper, and set aside.
  7. On a well-floured surface or on a baking mat, tip the refrigerated hamantaschen dough onto the work surface and knead a couple of times. Divide the dough into four equalish pieces.
  8. Working with one piece of dough at a time, on a well-floured surface using a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough about the thickness of a British Pound coin (about the thickness of a poker chip). Using a 3-inch cookie cutter or a large glass, cut out as many circles as possible, reroll the scraps and cut out more circles.
  9. Fill the cookie circles with desired filling, no more than a teaspoon, fold in the sides of the circle to make a triangle.
  10. Place the hamantaschen on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the cookie is golden brown. Repeat with the remaining dough.
  11. Cool completely (especially if you used jam/jelly, as the hot fruit preserve will burn your mouth – thus making it much harder to eat more hamantaschen!).
  12. Baked hamantaschen will keep for 3 days in an airtight container at room temperature, or well wrapped in the freezer for a month.
  1. Prune Lekvar (Preserves)
  2. In a small saucepan, combine all the ingredients, save the salt. Bring the liquid to a boil, lower the heat so that the liquid stays at a rolling boil, cover the pan and cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the prunes are very soft and most of the liquid has evaporated.
  3. Take the prunes off the heat, add the salt. Using a potato masher, or a handheld blender, mash the prunes to form a smoothish paste. Allow to cool before filling hamantaschen.
  4. The Lekvar will keep for two weeks in an airtight container in the fridge.

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