Hamentaschen

This traditional cookie is made for the Jewish holiday Purim.

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Hamentaschen

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The cookies themselves are made to resemble Haman’s hat. Haman, an anti-semitic noble, was the advisor to King Ahasuerus of Persia in the 4th century BCE. 

The story goes that King Ahasuerus executed his wife, Queen Vashti, after she refused to dance for him and his other male guests. So in the search for a new queen, Ahasuerus decides to hold a beauty pageant, where the fairest of young maidens all throughout the land could participate and win his favour. 

Now Esther is a young Jewish woman who lives with her uncle Mordecai, a leader in the Jewish community. He persuades Esther to enter the contest, but warns her not to reveal her faith, for at the time, Jews were subject to much suspicion and persecution. But Esther enters and wins, becoming the new queen of Persia. 

Shortly after this, Mordecai overhears a plot to assassinate the king, but quickly reports what he has heard and the traitors are hanged. 

Meanwhile, Haman is promoted to the king’s chief advisor, and issues a decree that everyone must bow as he passes. Mordecai refuses to do so however, so Haman quickly takes the matter up with the king. Haman requests permission to have all the Jews throughout the land killed on a specific day, the 13th of the Hebrew month Adar. King Ahasuerus grants his permission and the plan is set. Mordecai hears of this plot and rushes to Esther. 

Mordecai begs Esther to go to the king to plead their case, yet she is hesitant, for any person who goes to the king’s chambers unsummoned is put to do death. Mordecai persuades her however, and King Ahasuerus immediately asks her what she desires. 

Esther asks that the King and Haman attend a feast she has prepared. They immediately comply, but on the way out Haman once again passes by Mordecai, who still refuses to bow. Haman plots to have Mordecai hanged the following day, and rushes back to the king to ask. 

But while Haman was away, King Ahasuerus had heard of Mordecai’s earlier deed, of when he saved the king from an assassination plot. So when Haman enters, the king immediately asks him what the king should do for the man he wishes to honor. Haman, believing that the king means himself, answers that the king should have this man dressed in royal robes and paraded through the streets. But King Ahasuerus tells Haman to do thus unto the Jew Mordecai!

The next night, King Ahasuerus and Haman return for another feast with Esther. This time, she opens up and asks that the king prevent the plot to exterminate her and her people. She is so persuasive that King Ahasuerus immediately repents his earlier decree. Haman is sentenced to be hanged the very next day.

Throughout the retelling of the Purim story, listeners have noisemakers that they use whenever Haman’s name is mentioned. The holiday itself is very festive, people dress in costume and the story itself is acted out in a comic manner. The cookies themselves are shaped like Haman’s hat and have become the most symbolic food of the holiday.

 

Prep time: 2 hours

Yield: 48 cookies

Ingredients

  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • An assortment of jams
  • Poppyseed filling

Directions

  1. Mix together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.
  2. Cut in the butter, and gradually mix in the eggs and vanilla.
  3. Finally, slowly add the orange juice. The dough should have clumped into a large ball at this point. It is preferable to refrigerate overnight so the dough can harden slightly, but this step is not necessary.
  4. Roll the dough out onto a floured surface until it is approximately 5 mm thick. 
  5. Take a medium sized glass and use the top to cut out circles in the dough. 
  6. Take a very small spoonful of jam or filling and place in the center, then pinch the edges together to form a triangle. 
  7. Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet. 
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. 
  9. Cool on a rack for 10-15 minutes and you are set to go.