Nutella-filled hamantaschen update one of my all-time favorite cookies, hamantaschen. These three-cornered filled pastries are a delightful way to celebrate the Jewish holiday, Purim. But honestly, they’re delicious anytime. And to paraphrase an old commercial, you don’t have to be Jewish to love Nutella -filled hamantaschen .
Still, it is one I love to celebrate. The Purim story, found in a book called the Megillah or Book of Esther, features everything you could want in a political potboiler – an evil guy, a plot to kill innocent people, a beautiful and intelligent heroine, suspense, and a happy ending. Why bother watching House of Cards when you could hear this tale instead?
The Megillah is typically read on Purim with great merriment; often those reading the story dress up in costumes and the congregants get noisemakers called groggers to use when the story mentions Haman, the evil protagonist. I am not sure why I kept this grogger, but it definitely comes in handy when we celebrate Purim. Whether it’s to drown out Haman’s name or just to sit next to my hamantaschen, I had to smile when I found this one hidden among my driedels and other Jewish “stuff.”
While it seems rather bizarre to me, there is a tradition that the adults should get drunk before they read the Megillah. So drunk, in fact, that they can’t tell the difference between the good guys and the evil ones.
And then there are hamantaschen! No Jewish holiday is complete without food. In this case, we feast on a cookie made in a triangle shape. Traditionally we fill hamantaschen with sweetened prunes, apricots, or a poppyseed-based mixture.
Why Call these Cookies Hamantaschen?
Hamantaschen literally means Haman’s pockets. In Israel, hamantaschen are called oznei Haman, or Haman’s ears. Sometime in the 18th or 19th century in Germany and Eastern Europe, a triangular pastry pocket filled with poppy seeds often called mohntaschen — mohn meaning meaning poppy seed, and tasch meaning pocket — came onto the scene. The word became a pun around Purim: oznei Haman plus mohntaschen created hamantaschen.
Why Are Hamantaschen Shaped Like Triangles/Three-Cornered?
- There is an old legend that Haman wore a three-cornered hat.
- Alternatively, an ancient Jewish text says that when Haman recognized the merit of the Three Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob), his strength immediately weakened.
- An archaeologist named Simcha Jacobovici showed that hamantashen look like dice from the ancient Babylonian Royal Game of Ur, suggesting that the pastries are meant to symbolize the pyramidal shape of the dice cast by Haman in determining the day of destruction for the Jews.
- As the events which became the Purim story unfolded, many Jews did not believe they were going be completely wiped out. Mordechai convinced them of the seriousness of the threat by sending them numerous letters warning them of the impending doom. Afraid to send the letters by conventional routes lest their enemies intercept them, he sent the letters hidden inside pastries. In commemoration of this, we eat pastries with a filling.
- Another explanation is that the shape derives from traditional Jewish baking techniques in Central Europe for folding dough so as to form a pouch around a filling, also common for making dumplings.
- Finally, some think that the shape represents the female reproductive organs, and that traditional poppy-seed filling is a fertility symbol.
While I do love the time-honored story, I prefer more creative hamantaschen. Last year my hamantaschen featured a filling reminiscent of charoset, with a dash of chocolate. This year, chocolate is at center stage; I went for the jar of Nutella, sitting in my pantry just begging to be part of the fun. The result is a sweet, not-too-thick dough (pâte sucrée to Francophiles) surrounding a Nutella brownie-cookie center.
By the way, if you prefer a more traditional but still creative bent or just don’t do chocolate, try my apricot-filled hamantaschen. Slightly more adventurous but still fruit-based is my apple pie hamantaschen. If you’re nut-free but still like chocolate, I’d recommend Jenn Segal’s nut-free chocolate filling.
While the dough recipe is close to the one I used in the past I learned a few tricks to simplify the dough making from Rose Levy Beranbaum, in her book, The Baking Bible. The Nutella center for the hamantaschen is an adaptation of my Nutella cookie recipe.
And now for the tips. After all, making hamantaschen may be second nature to some, but for the hamantaschen novice, they can be intimidating.
Tips for Making Great Hamantaschen
- Keep the dough and filling cool. Chilling is key. Keep the dough and filling chilled. If you have to chill the dough or filling in-between, or if your kitchen is hot and the dough and/or filling is getting warm, chill. Figure that the default is to chill as often and as long as necessary to keep them cool. If you have time, it even helps to chill hamantaschen after you form them, before baking.
- Remember the egg wash. Although it may seem like a frill, egg wash is critical. Besides making outside shiny and darker than it would be without egg wash, the egg wash acts as glue when you paint the outer edge of the dough circle before pressing the three corners together.
- Don’t overfill hamanataschen. No matter how tempted you are to add more filling, don’t do it.
- A firm but gentle touch is key to forming hamantaschen. After putting the ball of Nutella in the center of the circle of dough, press it down firmly but gently. Also do the same for the three tips of dough. I like to press and then go back over the tips and press them again. If you haven’t pressed the Nutella down and the tips of dough together, the hamantaschen will still taste delicious. But the tips will open up and the cookies will look rather misshapen.
These delicious nutella-filled hamantaschen have a traditional dough surrounding a nutella cookie-like center. Perfect for Purim or anytime you want an unusual nutella cookie.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour 8 & 1/2 oz/240 g
- 2 pinches salt
- 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 cup sour cream 2 oz/57 g
- 1/2 cup sugar 3 & 1/2 oz/99g (I use 1/4 cup white & 1/4 cup Turbinado or raw sugar.)
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into 8 chunks 1 stick/1/4 pound/4oz/113 g
- 1 cup Nutella 10 & 1/2 oz/296 g
- 1 cup minus 1 tablespoon flour 4 oz/113 g
- 1/2 cup sugar 3 & 1/2 oz/99 g
- 1 egg, mixed with 1 tablespoon water
- 1 egg, mixed with 1 & 1/2 – 2 teaspoons water
Whisk the flour, salt, and baking powder together in the medium-sized bowl and set aside. Mix the egg, vanilla, and sour cream in the small bowl and set aside.
Process the sugars in the food processor until they are finely ground. (Process for about 1 minute. This is how you turn ordinary white sugar into superfine sugar, and it will make the granules of the raw sugar, if you use it, much smaller.) Add the butter to the sugar(s) and process until they are well mixed. Add the flour, salt, and baking powder and pulse the processor until the mixture forms tiny pea-sized crumbs. Add the egg, vanilla, and sour cream mixture to the crumbs and pulse again – about 10 times – just until everything is combined. Mixture will still be crumbly.
Pour the crumbs into the food storage bag, close the bag (Ziploc works best) and knead the mixture for a short time with your hands. Divide it into 2 equal balls, loosely wrap them in plastic wrap and press into disks. Then freeze the disks for at least 15 minutes or refrigerate the disks for at least 30 minutes. Can refrigerate overnight at this point.
While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Then make the Nutella filling by putting all the ingredients in the large bowl and mix them together, preferably with a mixer. If you do use a mixer, start slowly so that the flour doesn’t fly out of the bowl. The mixture will be crumbly.
Form about 24 balls of dough about ¾ – 1 tablespoon of dough per ball and refrigerate them on a large plate or quarter sheet pan for a few minutes while you roll out one disk of the dough. (Form the rest of the Nutella filling into a log and put it in plastic wrap. You can either refrigerate the log, then cut it into coins to bake individual Nutella cookies along with the hamantaschen or freeze it for baking later.)
Making the Hamantaschen
Remove one disk of dough from the refrigerator. On a lightly floured mat, board, or counter, roll the disk until it is about 12-13 inches in diameter and ⅛ inch thick.
Cut 3 1/2-inch rounds as close together as possible, and place them on the lined cookie sheets, about 6 – 8 per sheet. Gather up dough scraps and re-roll them to use up all the dough. Repeat with the other disk. Chill the dough whenever necessary to keep it cool. Once you have done the first 6-8 hamantaschen dough circles, form the remainder of the disk back into a disk and refrigerate it until ready to make the next batch.
Lightly brush the egg yolk around the outside of each circle, put a Nutella filling ball in the middle and gently press it down. Pull together two sides of the circle and pull up the third, making a three-corned dough “hat” with the Nutella in the middle. Pinch each corner to seal it and lightly brush the outside with more egg wash.
If you have time, refrigerate the formed hamantaschen before glazing them with egg wash and baking them. This step is optional, but it does help keep the hamantaschen well formed while baking. When you take them out of the refrigerator, pinch the three corners of the "hat" again to make sure they are well-closed.
Bake one sheet of the hamantaschen at a time, each for about 20-22 minutes on the middle rack of the oven (turning it halfway through), until the outside corners get lightly brown. If you own enough baking sheets, double them up to make a thicker baking surface that helps prevent the bottoms from burning.
When they are done, let them sit on the doubled baking sheet for a few minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack for cooling. Store the nutella-filled hamantaschen in a tightly closed container or freeze them. Of course, that assumes there are any left to store.
As the first batch is baking, take out the remainder of the first disk and make the second batch. Continue the pattern until you finish making all the hamantaschen. You will make 3-4 sheet pans of hamantaschen, with 6-8 hamantaschen on each sheet.
At Purim, it is traditional to visit friends, family and others (especially those in need and the elderly), delivering Shalach Manot or baskets of sweets and drinks. Wouldn’t these Nutella-filled hamantaschen make a nice part of the basket – or simply a sweet reminder of your caring to someone in your community.