In Season: Pop the poppy seed

Prepare your own Purim basket, using top chef’s recipes: Whole wheat and fruit hamantashen, vanilla and chocolate chip, sour cream pastry with poppy seeds.

hamantashen 311 (photo credit: Oren Shalev)
hamantashen 311
(photo credit: Oren Shalev)
The name hamentash is commonly supposed to refer to Haman. The pastries are said to symbolize the defeated enemy of the Jewish people, and thus resemble “Haman’s ears.” A more likely source of the name is a corruption of the Yiddish word montashn or the German mohntaschen, both meaning poppy-seed-filled pouches. Over time, this name was transformed into hamentashen, likely by association with Haman. In Hebrew they are called oznei Haman, “Haman’s ears.”
The three-cornered shape is achieved by folding in the sides of a circular piece of dough, with a filling placed in the center. Hamentashen are made with many different fillings, including prunes, nuts, poppy seeds, dates, apricots, apples, fruit preserves, chocolate, dulce de leche, halva, or even caramel or cheese. Their formation varies from hard pastry to soft doughy casings.
Most bakeries offer excellent variety of oznei Haman for Purim, but if you wish to prepare your own here are a few recipes we collected from local pastry chefs:
Chef Oren Becker of Bleecker Bakery offers this traditional version of very tasty, poppy-seed filled hamentashen.
For the pastry: ✔ 3 cups flour ✔ 200 gr. butter ✔ 1 cup powdered sugar ✔ 2 egg yolks ✔ 1 egg ✔ 1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract
Mix flour, butter, sugar and vanilla in a mixer bowl until crumbly. Add the eggs and mix only until pastry begins to form. Take out of the mixer bowl, shape into a ball and refrigerate wrapped with plastic foil.
Poppy-seed filling: ✔ 3⁄4 cup milk ✔ 1 cup sugar ✔ Zest of 1 lemon
✔ 1 tsp. honey ✔ 2 Tbsp. butter ✔ Pinch cinnamon✔ 1⁄2 tsp vanilla extract ✔ 2⁄5 cups ground poppy seeds ✔ 1⁄2 cup cake or cookie crumbs
Put milk, sugar, lemon zest, honey, butter, cinnamon and vanilla in a pot and bring to a boil, mixing constantly. When boiling add the poppy seeds and cook over low heat until mixture separates from side of the pot. Remove from heat and cool, add crumbs and mix well.
Variation: if you don’t like poppy seeds you can use nuts instead. Grind 125 gr.walnuts and 125 gr. hazelnuts.
Roll the dough on a clean lightly floured work surface to 3-4 mm. thick. Cut out circles using a glass or cookie cutter. Place a tsp. of the filling in the middle of each round and close tightly, leaving a small hole at the top. Place on a lined baking sheet leaving a couple of centimeters between the cookies. Bake in at 170º for 20 minutes or until golden.
Moshe Ahuvi of Piece of Cake bakery and cafe in Jaffa believes in a healthier version. His whole-wheat butter cookies, filled with dried fruit is very tasty and light.
For the pastry: ✔ 200 gr. cold butter ✔ 100 gr. dark brown sugar (optional)✔ A few drops vanilla extract ✔ 2 egg yolks ✔ 1⁄4 cup orange juice ✔ 2 tsp. sesame seeds ✔ 325 gr. whole-wheat flour ✔ 1⁄2 tsp. baking powder✔ Pinch salt
For the filling:
✔ 100 gr. raisins ✔ 50 gr. prunes ✔ 50 gr. dried figs ✔ 50 gr. dried apricots✔ 40 gr. dark sugar (optional)✔ 1⁄2 green apple ✔ 1 Tbsp. lemon juice✔ 1⁄2 tsp. cinnamon
Prepare the pastry: place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse only until pastry forms. Do not overwork the pastry. Take out, form into a ball, wrap in plastic foil and leave in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
Put all the filling ingredients in the foodprocessor and process until mixed well.
Roll out the pastry on a floured working surface to about 3-4 mm. thick. Cut out rounds about 7-9 cm. in diameter. Using a spoon or pastry bag place a small amount of filling in the middle of each round.
Shape the pastry over the filling and arrange on a lined baking sheet. Bake at 170º for 14 to 20 minutes, until done. The cookies will keep in an air tight container about 10 days.
Chef Arnon Cohen of Arcaffe offers his very rich chocolaty version of the traditional cookies.
For the vanilla cream: (make a day in advance)
✔ 1 liter milk ✔ 1 vanilla pod ✔ 1 cup sugar ✔ 12 egg yolks ✔ 90 gr. cornflour
Slit the vanilla pod lengthwise, scrape the seeds into a cooking pot with the milk and bring to a boil. Beat sugar and egg yolks until mixture is light and add cornflour. When milk has boiled, remove from heat and pour a small amount slowly into the egg mixture while mixing well. Then pour the eggs into the pot with the milk, mix well and return to the heat. Cook whilst mixing until bubbles form in the mixture. Pour the cream through a sieve into a bowl. Tightly cover with plastic wrap and cool.
For the pastry:
✔ 300 gr. butter ✔ 185 gr. sugar ✔ 60 gr. ground almonds✔ 500 gr. flour ✔ 1⁄2 tsp. salt ✔ 1⁄4 tsp. baking powder Soften butter and sugar in the mixer, using the kneading part, until creamy.
Mix all dry ingredients together and add to mixer bowl. Mix until a dough begins to form. Take out of the mixer bowl, shape into a ball and wrap with plastic foil. Cool in the refrigerator for an hour.
Prepare filling: Mix 300 gr. of chocolate chips into the vanilla cream.
Roll out the cooled pastry on a clean and lightly floured working surface. Cut out rounds, 8-10 cm. in diameter. Brush rounds with beaten egg. Place a small amount of filling in the middle of each round and close, leaving a small hole at the top. Arrange on a lined baking sheet.
Brush the cookies with beaten egg. Bake at 180º for 16-18 minutes.
Poppy seeds are the traditional Purim ingredient not only for hamentashen but also for cakes. Here are two recipes given to us by Chef Oren Becker of Bleecker Bakery:
For the pastry ✔ 125 gr. butter ✔ 1⁄2 Tbsp. sugar ✔ 2 egg yolks ✔ 250 gr. flour ✔ 1 sachet baking powder ✔ 125 ml. cream Mix sugar and butter together in a mixer. Add egg yolks one by one. Add flour and baking powder and mix. Add cream and mix only until the pastry begins to form. Wrap and chill.
Poppy-seed filling: ✔ 3⁄4 cup milk ✔ 1 cup sugar ✔ zest of 1 lemon
✔ 1 tsp. honey✔ pinch cinnamon✔ 1 tsp. vanilla extract ✔ 2.5 cups ground poppy seeds ✔ 1⁄2 cup cookie crumbs ✔ 1 Tbsp. dried apricot, chopped✔ 1 Tbsp. light raisins ✔ 1 Tbsp. dried cranberries
Put all the ingredients except the poppy seeds and cookie crumbs in a pot and bring to boil. Add the poppy seeds and mix until it separates from the sides of the pot. Remove from heat, chill and add the cookie crumbs. Roll out the pastry and spread the filling evenly. Roll into a sausage shape and make shallow diagonal cuts on the top. Bake at 170º for 20 minutes. Let chill and cut into cookies.