Purim: Chocolate hamantashen recipes for cheaper, slightly healthier holiday

Hamantashen have not been spared the general rise in the cost of food prices. But here's a solution: Make your own.

 Hamantashen with chocolate and poppy seeds (photo credit: Greenhill Books)
Hamantashen with chocolate and poppy seeds
(photo credit: Greenhill Books)

Adar is in the air. Kids are wearing funny hats and masks on the streets, Purim songs are playing on the radio, and hamantashen are on display in the bakeries.

Unfortunately, hamantashen have not been spared the general rise in the cost of food prices and there have been a lot of complaints out there about the steep hike in the cost of the traditional Purim pastries.

It’s gotten so bad that prominent religious-Zionist Rabbi Shlomo Aviner called on people not to eat hamantashen. Aviner gave three reasons: First, there is no ancient source for the custom and the name hamantashen probably comes from “mohn taschen” – German for “pockets of poppy seeds,” and not anything really to do with Haman, the villain of Purim. Second, they’re not healthy and it is a mitzvah to be healthy. If you must, Aviner wrote, “one hamantashen won’t hurt, but we eat enough unhealthy food all year.” And third, the steep increase in price.

Well, we have a solution for at least one and a half of Aviner’s problems with hamantashen: Make your own. Doing so will save you money. I won’t pretend that these are healthy foods, but at least you can make sure you’re avoiding food coloring and preservatives.

This hamantashen recipe and alternative filling suggestion come from the book Babka, Boulou and Blintzes: Jewish Chocolate Recipes from Around the World, compiled by Michael Leventhal.

 Olive oil chocolate spread (credit: Greenhill Books) Olive oil chocolate spread (credit: Greenhill Books)

I cannot encourage people enough to go out and buy this book. First of all, Babka, Boulou and Blintzes collects recipes from some of the best Jewish chefs and cookbook writers in the world, like David Lebovitz, Gil Hovav (a personal favorite), Joan Nathan, Michael Solomonov and more.

Plus 100% of the profits of Babka, Boulou and Blintzes go to Chai Cancer Care. Leventhal has already raised thousands of pounds through the book for the British organization that operates 11 care centers across the UK and was supporting over 3,600 patients at the time of the book’s publication last year.

Hamantashen with chocolate and poppy seeds

By Judi Rose and Evelyn Rose

My tip for this recipe or any other with poppy seeds is to buy them fresh, meaning, go to a spice shop and get them, rather than buying them from the supermarket. Of course, poppy seeds are divisive, so you can always go with just chocolate, from the next recipe, fruit jam, or anything else you like.

Makes about 20 hamantashen.Prep. time: 25 minutes, plus cooling and chillingCook time: 30 minutes

For the filling:

  • 1 cup poppy seeds
  • ½ cup whole milk or water
  • 2 Tbsp. (¼ stick) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • ¼ cup soft brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup or runny honey
  • 2 Tbsp. sultanas or raisins
  • 30g. good-quality dark chocolate, finely chopped, or dark chocolate chips
  • ½ cup ground almonds
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract a pinch of fine sea salt

For pastry:

  • 1¾ cups plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • A pinch of fine sea salt
  • ⅔  cup (1¼ sticks) unsalted cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • 2 Tbsp. cold water
  • 1 Tbsp. orange blossom
  • Water, or 2 tsp. lemon
  • Juice and 2 tsp. extra cold water
  • 1–2 Tbsp. icing sugar, for dusting
  1. First, make the filling. Grind the poppy seeds in a nut– or coffee-grinder, then place in a saucepan with all the other filling ingredients and heat gently, stirring constantly, until a very thick paste is formed that leaves the bottom of the pan clean when stirred, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl and leave to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, make the pastry. Put the flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor with the well-chilled butter. Pour the cold water and orange blossom water or lemon juice/water mixture into the bowl, pulsing until the mixture looks like a moist crumble, then tip it into a bowl and gather it together to form a dough. Press the dough into a slightly flattened disc, then wrap it in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge until the filling is cold and you’re ready to make the hamantashen. To make the pastry without a food processor, simply sift the flour and salt into a bowl, then lightly rub in the cubes of butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the cold water and orange blossom water or lemon juice/water mixture and mix to a dough, then shape, wrap and chill as above.
  3. Preheat the oven to 190°C or 170°C with fan. Line two baking sheets with non-stick baking paper.
  4. Unwrap the chilled dough and roll it out on a lightly floured work surface to a thickness of 3mm. Cut the pastry into approx. 20 circles, each about 7.5cm. in diameter (an empty, well-washed tuna makes for an ideal cutter, or just use a round cookie cutter).
  5. Put a heaping teaspoonful of the cooled filling in the center of each pastry circle, then bring the edges of each up and over the filling to form a triangle, pinching them together with your fingers to ensure a tight seal but leaving a gap in the center of each to allow steam to escape. Place on the prepared baking sheets, leaving a space between each one.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes or until firm when gently touched, but uncolored. Remove from the oven, transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool for 10 minutes, then lightly dust with icing sugar. When quite cold, lightly dust them again, then serve.
  7. Store any leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week, or freeze for up to 3 months (defrost before serving).

Olive oil chocolate spread

By Adeena Sussman

Sussman, author of the excellent Israeli food cookbook Sababa and the co-author of model and TV host Chrissy Teigen’s three cookbooks, wrote this recipe as an alternative to the Hashachar Ha’Oleh chocolate spread that Israeli children love in sandwiches. Like homemade hamantashen, it’s hard to call this a health food, but it has healthier ingredients than the store-bought stuff. I suggest using it as a hamantashen filling – you can do that right after cooking, instead of refrigerating it for two hours. And while I’d like to postpone the nightmare of Passover cleaning as much as possible, it’s still a good idea to clip this as a delicious spread for matzahs or Passover cake filling.

Serves 8.Prep time: 15 minutes, plus chillingCook time: 5 minutes 
  • ⅓ cup water
  • ⅔  cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 cup bittersweet, semi-sweet or dark chocolate, roughly chopped (milk chocolate can be substituted but that is different from the classic flavor)
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract matzah, to serve
  • Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, for sprinkling
  1. In a small saucepan, bring the water, sugar, cocoa powder and kosher salt to the boil over a medium heat.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, whisking until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture thickens, about 2–3 minutes.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the chocolate, olive oil and vanilla until the chocolate is melted and smooth.
  4. Transfer to a heatproof bowl, press a piece of cling film onto the surface of the chocolate mixture, cool slightly, then refrigerate until thick but spreadable, about 2 hours.
  5. Remove from the fridge to soften for 30 minutes, or microwave on medium for about 10 seconds, then stir before serving. Spread on matzah and sprinkle with flaky sea salt, then serve.
  6. Store the chocolate spread in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 months.■