Every year, about a month before Purim, I make three to four batches of hamantaschen. Then, I post a pretty photo on Instagram of the last batch.
Want to know what really happens? The first few batches are a total disaster. The dough is too dry and keeps cracking, making assembly frustrating. The filling bubbles over in the oven creating a giant mess. I inevitably burn my mouth by stress-eating the ugliest hamantaschen right when it comes out of the oven so they disappear from my sight, and my husband comes home to find me crying and exasperated (yeah, I’ve cried over cookies) about my hamantaschen disaster. Unsure of what to do to console me, we just start eating the ugliest ones together.
I know this seems completely ridiculous (I realize there are much bigger, sadder problems in the world than a cookie disaster), but sharing this embarrassing story is the first step to my perfectionist recovery journey. Please tell me I’m not the only one who has had an experience like this?
This year, for the first time, I decided I had had enough! It was me versus the hamantaschen and I was going to master making perfect hamantaschen. I’d share my pro tips, so no one had to experience a hamantaschen disaster ever again. Or better yet, those of you who have never made hamantaschen can avoid all my mistakes the first time. I realize I should have recognized this as perfectionism, but I did it anyway and here’s what I learned:
- Don’t chill the dough for too long: Most recipes say to refrigerate dough for a couple of hours, which leads to dough that is hard to roll out and cracks. If you only chill it for 30 minutes, it’s still pliable and cracks less.
- The dough WILL crack: When it does, put down the rolling pin and take a deep breath.
- Thicken the filling: I like to use already made jams as fillings. Most jams are too thin for hamantachen, hence the bubbling over in the oven problem. Before I make the dough, I put the jam in a small pot and simmer it on low heat until it’s reduced. You should feel some resistance when stirring it when it’s hot, and it should solidify when it cools down.
- Use a 3.5 inch round cookie cutter: For years, I used 2.5 inch round and vowed every year to get a bigger one but never did. A larger round is MUCH easier to work with and allows more space for the filling to bubble (as long as you don’t over-stuff).
- Seal with egg wash: Once your cookies are folded, brush an egg wash over each of them, sealing in the folds.
- Have fun: If this is your first time making hamantaschen or celebrating Purim, don’t worry as much as I do about the outcome–enjoy the process and have fun with it! Purim is a very festive holiday, so share those cookies with friends, pour some drinks and enjoy.
Black Sesame and Strawberry Jam Hamantaschen
Makes: 25 cookies
Special tools needed: Electric hand mixer, pastry scraper or fish spatula, 3 1/2 inch cookie cutter
- 4 cups all purpose flour
- 1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 eggs, room temperature (reserve one for egg wash)
- 2 tsp. black sesame paste*
- 1 tsp. black sesame seeds
- 8 oz. jar good quality strawberry jam (or substitute with your favorite flavor)
*Black sesame is a common flavor in Japanese and some Asian desserts. I love the nutty, yet light flavor. Paired with strawberry jam, it’s a more delicate peanut butter and jelly-like combo. You can purchase it in jars at a Japanese market, online through the Japanese Pantry, or make your own (it’s really simple) using the link above.
1. Thicken jam (see notes above) and leave to cool.
2. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl, set aside.
3. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add 2 eggs only, one at a time. Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each egg is incorporated and beat again.
4. On low speed, slowly add in the dry ingredients. Mix just until dough sticks together and everything is well incorporated. Divide into four balls and press flat so they each resemble a disc. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. While the dough is chilling, line 2 baking trays with parchment paper, flour your surface, whip the last egg for the egg wash and turn the oven on to 350°F.
5. Roll out each disc on a lightly floured surface to about 1/4 in. thickness. The dough will crack in some areas, and it will also stick lightly to your surface. Using a 3 1/2 in. cookie cutter, cut as many rounds as you can. Use a pastry scraper or fish spatula to remove rounds from the surface and place them on parchment paper.
6. Fill each round with a teaspoon of jam and follow these folding instructions. Only work on one disc at a time. If you cut all of them and fill them at once, the dough will start to dry out before you fold, making this step more difficult.
7. You’ll end up with scraps of dough. Roll them back into a ball and roll it out again to make more rounds. If the dough cracks when you’re folding, use your fingers to seal any cracks the filling can leak out of.
8. Once all the cookies are filled and folded, brush the top lightly with the egg wash making sure to seal any corners and cracks.
9. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes, rotate the baking sheets, then cook for 10 more minutes or until bottoms are golden brown. Cool on baking sheets. Filling may seep over some cookies—about three of my 24 did with this method, which was a big improvement from years past. And be careful—the filling gets extremely, dangerously hot, so don’t eat them straight out of the oven.