Elizabeth’s Traditional Poppy Seed Cookie Hamantaschen

Recipe contributed by Elizabeth Schwartz; photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser Yield:  32 large cookies
Prep Time:  4 hours 10 minutes Cook Time:  20 minutes

Elizabeth’s Traditional Poppy Seed Cookie Hamantaschen

Hamantaschen are traditional Ashkenazi cookies enjoyed during the holiday of Purim, which commemorates Queen Esther’s foiling of Haman’s plot to kill the Jews of ancient Persia. Lore holds that these filled pastries are formed into a triangular shape in order to commemorate the shape of Haman’s hat or pocket. This cookie dough style recipe was inspired by Faye Levy’s International Jewish Cookbook. Be sure to allow at least 3 hours to chill the dough.—Elizabeth Schwartz Strom

Ingredients

Hamantaschen Dough:

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

3¾ cups (470 grams) all-purpose flour

1½ cups (171 grams) confectioners’ sugar

1½ teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) plus 5 tablespoons (298 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Zest of 1 orange, grated

½ cup fresh orange juice (from about 2 oranges)

Kutia-Style Poppy Seed Filling:

1 cup (128 grams) poppy seeds

⅔ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup honey

¼ cup hot water

½ cup finely chopped walnuts

Instructions

  1. To prepare the dough: In a small bowl, beat the egg with the yolk until blended.
  2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Process or mix briefly to blend. Scatter the pieces of butter over the flour and pulse or mix until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
  3. Sprinkle with the zest, add the egg, and mix until the dough starts to come together. Add the orange juice, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough is wet enough to stick together.
  4. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and knead by hand until smooth. If you are using a stand mixer, remove the paddle attachment and use a dough hook to knead until smooth. Shape into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to 4 days.
  5. To make the kutia: If you prefer a completely smooth filling, grind the poppy seeds in a small food processor, spice grinder, or with a mortar and pestle to form a paste. If you prefer a coarser texture, grind half of the poppy seeds and keep the rest whole.
  6. Combine the sugar, honey, and water in a small saucepan set over medium heat, and cook, stirring, for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from the heat, add the poppy seeds and walnuts, and stir to combine. Cool.
  7. When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll the dough out to a thickness of ¼ inch. Using a 4-inch biscuit cutter, cut the dough into discs. As you work, combine your scraps and refrigerate them to firm them up. Continue to cut discs of dough until you have used it all, including the scraps.
  8. Spoon a heaping teaspoon of kutia into the center of each disc, leaving a 1-inch border order uncovered all the way around.
  9. If you are using the egg wash, beat the egg and water with a fork. With a pastry brush or your fingers, moisten the exposed border with some egg wash or some water. Then, grasping  the edge closest to you between your thumb and forefinger (at the 6 o’clock position, as if the dough were a clock), fold it almost to the center of the filling to form a semicircular flap. Grasp the edge of the disc at the 2 o’clock position and fold that piece almost to the center, and then do the same with the edge at the 10 o’clock position. You will form a triangular pastry. Pinch the corners closed. Repeat with the remaining discs. Brush each pastry with egg wash, if you are using, or water on all three sides.
  10. Arrange on the prepared baking sheets. Refrigerate while the oven heats. (Prepared but unbaked hamantaschen may be refrigerated for up to 3 hours prior to baking.)
  11. Bake the hamantaschen for 18 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown at the edges. (Be patient and let them cook!) Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Kitchen Tips

  1. Well-chilled dough and firmly shaped pastries are less prone to spreading open when they are baked. Some cooks feel that pinching the edges makes them close tighter. Honestly, no matter what you do, some will pop open. They are still totally delicious.
  2. Kutia is incredibly simple to make and super sweet—a little definitely goes a long way. Kutia is a traditional Ukrainian and Polish dish made from cooked grains and poppy seeds. There are several variations; this version, though, is made without the grains. In addition to using it as a filling for hamantaschen, try spreading a spoonful on bread in place of jam, like they do in Poland. One word of warning when working with poppy seeds: Be prepared for a few to scatter to the far corners of your kitchen. It’s a small price to pay for the experience of making and eating authentic kutia! You’ll have some left over after using this in your hamantaschen. Don’t worry, it shouldn’t last too long.

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