Hamantaschen in New Guises

Gradually bakers have begun making hamantaschen with exciting fillings, such as chocolate and halvah and green tea.

Hamantaschen (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Hamantaschen came in two flavors when I was growing up in Washington, D.C.: prune and poppy seed. That was the case in my family and at the homes of my friends.
When I moved to Israel, some of my friends used jam to fill their hamantaschen, and others used dates. Gradually bakers began making hamantaschen with other fillings, such as chocolate and halvah. At first I didn’t like the idea of these heretical hamantaschen because I’m fond of the old-fashioned ones, but many of the new ones did taste good.
Most cooks stick to their favorite cookie dough and when they want variety, they create different fillings. Contributors to the Hadassah Jewish Holiday Cookbook came up with such fillings as honey hazelnut, made by heating the two main ingredients with breadcrumbs and grated orange zest; and pineapple filling flavored with chopped prunes, apricot jam, sugar, cinnamon, grated orange zest and chopped nuts. They even have hamantaschen with a filling that resembles haroset--it’s made of dried fruits, nuts and cinnamon.
Over the past few years the pace of hamantaschen innovation seems to have picked up. Maybe that’s why, when we were eating pastries flavored with green tea and filled with red beans at a Chinese bakery, we joked that hamantaschen might be good with those flavors. Indeed, Paula Shoyer, author of The Holiday Kosher Baker, has done it--she made hamantaschen with green tea dough. I haven’t come across red bean hamantaschen yet, but I won’t be surprised when I do.
Shoyer makes striking hamantaschen in different hues by using new kinds of dough. To make chocolate flecked hamantaschen, she blends tiny pieces of semisweet chocolate into her cookie dough, and adds a filling that’s as simple as can be--a square of chocolate. Her pink raspberry hamantaschen are made with dough flavored with raspberry extract and red coloring, and a filling of raspberry jam topped with a fresh raspberry, which shows in the center of each hamantasch.
For her pistachio hamantaschen, Shoyer flavors the dough with finely ground pistachios, vanilla and orange juice, and tints it with green food coloring. The filling is pistachio paste, either purchased or made at home by mixing ground pistachios with sugar and egg whites.
No coloring is needed for green tea hamantaschen; Shoyer’s dough gains flavor and a green hue from green tea powder. The crust of her vanilla bean hamantaschen is white but if you look closely, you can see the vanilla bean seeds in the pastry; the dough is flavored with vanilla extract also, and the filling is raspberry jam.
Orli Ziv, author of the just-published book, Cook in Israel, flavors the cookie dough for her hamantaschen with ground almonds. She fills them with poppyseeds cooked with sugar, honey and either milk or orange juice.
Ideas for new hamantaschen can be found in familiar flavor pairings. For example, the chocolate-peanut butter hamantaschen created by Marlene Sorosky, author of Fast and Festive Meals for the Jewish Holidays, is made of dough flavored with melted chocolate and a filling of peanut butter mixed with strawberry jam.  It’s inspired by two popular American flavor combinations--peanut butter and chocolate, which is used in candies, and peanut butter and jelly, a favorite sandwich filling.
* * * Faye Levy is the author of “1,000 Jewish Recipes.”
This recipe is from The Holiday Kosher Baker. Author Paula Shoyer wrote: “When I was visiting Paris in 2011, I saw macarons, chocolate candies, and even cakes made with green tea powder (matcha).” Citing green tea’s health benefits, Shoyer adds, “This is a hamantasch that is also good for you.” You can find green tea powder at natural foods stores. If you don’t have the powder, you can grind green tea leaves in a mini food processor or spice grinder. Shoyer fills the hamantaschen with apricot jam but you can substitute any flavor you like, including the prune filling in the next recipe.
Shoyer makes her dough with oil instead of butter or margarine, and advises chilling hamantaschen dough before rolling it out. She notes that using baking powder yields a puffier, lighter dough, and that those that are made without baking powder have a crisper, cookie-type crust that keeps its shape. Her special rolling technique helps prevent the dough from sticking without having to sprinkle it with much extra flour. You can store the hamantaschen in an airtight container at room temperature for up to five days or freeze them for up to three months.
Makes 3 dozen
3 large eggs
1 cup (200 grams or 7 ounces) sugar
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons green tea powder
3 cups (375 grams or 13 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
Dash of salt
1 cup (320 grams or 11 ounces) apricot preserves (for filling)
In a large bowl mix together the egg, sugar, oil and lemon juice; mix well. Add the green tea powder and mix well. Add the flour and salt and mix until the dough comes together. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and leave it in the fridge for one hour to firm up.
Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Line two or three large cookie sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats, or plan to bake in batches. Divide the dough in half.
Take another two pieces of parchment paper and sprinkle flour on one, place one dough half on top, and then sprinkle a little more flour on top of the dough. Place the second piece of parchment on top of the dough and roll on top of the parchment until the dough is about 6 mm (1/4 inch) thick. Every few rolls, peel back the top parchment and sprinkle a little more flour on the dough.
Use a 5- to 7.5-cm (2- to 3-inch) drinking glass or round cookie cutter to cut the dough into circles. Use a metal flat-blade spatula to lift up the circle of dough and place it on another part of the flour-sprinkled parchment paper. Place up to 1 teaspoon of jam in the center of the dough circle and then fold the three sides in toward the middle to form a triangle, leaving a small opening in the center. Pinch the three sides together very tightly. Place on the prepared cookie sheets. Repeat with the remaining dough and roll and cut any dough scraps, making sure to sprinkle a little flour under and over the dough before you roll.
Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, or until the bottoms are lightly browned but the tops are still light. Slide the parchment onto wire racks to cool the cookies.
Prunes make a flavorful filling on their own and need little else besides a few chopped nuts and a bit of jam. Plum jam, also known as lekvar or povidl, is the time-honored choice but you can also use strawberry or raspberry jam. Many people cook the prunes for making the filling, but if they are already moist, soaking them is enough to make them tender.
For a departure from tradition, use this filling with the green tea dough from the recipe above. Since the flavor of prunes matches well with tea, you can soak the prunes in tea instead of water. Of course, you can use this filling in your favorite hamantaschen cookie dough as well.
Makes about 1 cup
225 grams (8 ounces) pitted prunes
3 tablespoons chopped blanched almonds, walnuts or pecans
1/4 cup plum jam or jelly
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Put prunes in a small bowl. Pour enough boiling water over prunes to cover them. Let them soak 15 minutes.
Grind almonds to a fine powder in food processor; transfer to a bowl. Drain prunes and chop finely or puree in food processor. Mix prune puree with almonds, jam, and lemon rind.