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Top Hamantashen

After a painstaking survey, Tablet Magazine awards title for nation’s tastiest triangular treat

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As Purim approaches, it’s time to pass judgment on one of the most pressing issues of the day: where to find good hamantashen.

Tablet Magazine investigated. A meticulous and hungry bunch, we ordered hamantashen from bakeries in six cities across five states, driven by recommendations of what different people claimed were the best hamantasheries in the country. The array of flavors and sizes that arrived boggled the mind: poppy, prune, apricot, cherry, and chocolate; crispy and chewy; compact and supersized. Dedicated to the cause, we tasted them all.

Our tasters graded each cookie on a scale of 1 to 5, higher being better, in five categories: appearance, filling-to-dough ratio, overall taste, texture and consistency, and how badly we wanted another. The judges’ scores were compiled, the individual scores were averaged, and we found a winner.

The results:

Russ & Daughters, New York

1. Russ & Daughters, New York. Family-owned and almost a century old, this Lower East Side institution is best known for its smoked fish. But it also sells all sorts of traditional Jewish sweets—rugelach and babka and macaroons and, of course hamantashen. We picked up a sampling—conveniently, it’s located right down the block from our office—and were thrilled with these small, soft wonders. A “sublime dream cookie,” one of our judges said. Score: 3.9

Silver Moon Bakery, New York

2. Silver Moon Bakery, New York. Celebrating its 10th year on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, this shrine to butter specializes in assorted continental baked goods. When they go traditional, however—as they do for nearly every major holiday of the year—Silver Moon is tough to beat. Their large and crispy cookies were elegantly shaped, with the dot of filling visible from the outside making promises the generously stuffed interior more than fulfilled. Our judges found themselves yearning for a cup of tea in which to dunk these “fantastic” cookies. Score: 3.8

Ricki’s Cookie Corner, Memphis

3. Ricki’s Cookie Corner, Memphis. Ricki Krupp, owner of this two-decade-old bakery, believes the secret to perfect hamantashen lies in the dough. Her hamantashen are tiny works of art, each hand-pinched in a way that perfectly resembles the three-cornered hat it is meant to evoke. The dough is also mixed with vanilla and laced with cinnamon, which makes for a sweet and enticing bite. While our judges were impressed by the “nicely pinched” shape, they were less enthusiastic about the filling, which they said recalled the horrors of Hostess’s baked goods. But, still, Ricki produces a delicious cookie. Score: 3.2

Pratzel’s Bakery, St. Louis

4. Pratzel’s Bakery, St. Louis. This European-style bakery opened its doors in 1913, and it keeps its baked goods pretty traditional. These hamantashen most resembled the home-baked kind, which charmed some of our judges and repulsed others, and the apple-pie filling flavor was a nice, creative touch. Still, all those around the tasting table agreed that “the strange smell” and the “undercooked texture” made Pratzel’s cookie less than perfect. “If these are Haman’s ears,” quipped one judge, “I’d like to see his nose.” Score: 2.3

Eilat Café and Bakery, Los Angeles

5. Eilat Café and Bakery, Los Angeles. A favorite late-night dessert spot in North Hollywood, Eilat, which opened in 1983, is known for its challah and other staples of Jewish baking. Our judges, however, found the hamantashen to represent all that’s lamentable about traditional pastry. “This cookie,” said one judge, “reminded me of something I may find at my shul’s Kiddush.” Another compared them to the handiwork of a talentless relative. The judges disliked nearly everything about this minuscule, hard, and largely flavorless cookie. “This,” one judge harshly mused, “is the bakery I would skip.” Score: 2.2

Kupel’s Bakery, Brookline, Massachusetts

6. Kupel’s Bakery, Brookline, Massachusetts. Since it opened in 1978, Kupel’s has been known for hand-rolling the best bagels in Boston. Our judges, however, liked little about Kupel’s hamantashen, wondering whether anyone at Kupel’s has “even been to a Jewish home.” The “cherry cough drop” filling and “formless and flavorless” dough suggested not. Score: 1.7

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3.9 is the best we can find for hamantashen? That is pathetic!

If you really want to taste Hamentaschen try my daughter-in-law Amy’s variations.
Check it out at playinghouseblog.com

Happy Purim

alan jay gerber says:

RUSS AND DAUGHTERS IS NOT EVEN KOSHER. THE KOSHER CERTIFICATION OF THE OTHER ESTABLISHMENTS SHOULD HAVE BEEN CITED.

If these weren’t so delicious, why are you giving them to us? A feast for the eyes and the readers would be nice, the Jews already have to deal with one half-baked idea on Purim.

Silver Moon also has the best challah I’ve ever tasted.

Also, shouldn’t 3.0 be the highest ranking for hamentashen?

Gablowo says:

You should have tried my Mom’s- hers are the *absolute* best!!!!

David Lissy says:

My wife’s would get 5.1– and they are pareve.

Eve Eiseman says:

how about sharing some of those recipes with us?

David Lissy says:

Recipe below. Maggie says any pareve margarine should work but she finds Nucoa is the best. When we are in California, we bring Nucoa back east just to have for this recipe.

Full credit must go to Phyllis Frucht. Maggie cannot remember if she has modified it all but it is a recipe from Phyllis Frucht from at least 35 years ago.

Dough:
1 cup butter or margarine
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup orange juice
4 teaspoons baking powder

Filling:
1 pound prines, soaked, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup raisins
2 apples, peeled and grated
Lemon juice to taste (suggest juice and grated rind of 1 lemon)
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup ground nuts, optional

To make dough, work butter or margarine into sifted dry ingredients by hand, until mixture is crumbly. Add eggs and orange juice and mix well. Shape into a ball, cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.

Make filling by mixing all ingredients together. Roll dough out to 1/8 inch thickness and cut into 3-inch circles. Put a heaping teaspoon of filling in center of each and pinch into traditional three-corner shape. Place on a greased cookie sheeet. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until lightly brown.

Russ and Daughters does NOT do their own baking. They repackage Brooklyn baked goods. See the current post at SERIOUS EATS. Their babka is MRS Green’s. You have to find out which Brooklyn company they use for their Hamentaschen- the same company will probably also be sold at Fairway, Eden, Whole Foods, Dean and Deluca et al

Judith Nusbaum says:

The best Hamantashen I have ever enjoyed came from Pat’s Kitchen in Rishon Letzion, Israel

David Lissy says:

Now as to babka (see Eater), Mrs. Green’s is clearly the best chocolate babka.

These are all the cookie type of hamentaschen, which is, I believe, an American innovation. The European version is more like a danish with a bready, only slightly sweetened, dough. The traditional fillings were prune, dried apricot or poppy seed jam. And the word was pronounced hoom-entaschen around my house. A Galitzianer thing?

Susan Zuckerman says:

Our synagogue, Knesset Israel in the Berkshires, has a team of
hamentaschen bakers and every year they make home-made delicious
pareve hamentaschen. Come up and see us sometime! Chag Samaech.

Jenny, I know you were only checking commercial bakeries, so though it’s sad, you missed my wife’s hamantaschen. Homemade apricot filling with a slightly crispy, not too sweet, dough. Now that they’re older the kids all go crazy making them. I’ve had a lot of ‘taschen in my day, but never bett than what I get at home. Drop in some Purim for a taste. I’ll be so drunk I won’t notice.

I recommend Glicks in Balaclava! Problem is, this is in Melbourne Australia!

Peter Ganong says:

Why do you have to hate on Kupels?

It’s very Jewish! Have you ever been there? I doth protest!

I am trying to be humble but MY FAVE hamantaschen are the ones I make yearly…check out my recipe with unique fillings such as pb&j and lemon custard! http://www.chefmonsta.com/2010/02/hamantaschen/

Hag Purim Sameach!

Deborah says:

Adam, I’m with you, preferring the European type of Hamantaschen. I don’t know if it’s a Galitzianer thing, but I miss my Lithuanian born grandmother’s (dairy) pastry of all kinds, which she called “Milchika”. Her Hamantaschen were as you described, completely closed — real pastry, not cookies. They were large, slightly glazed, and moist throughout, filled with “mon” or prunes. I’ve never seen them in bakeries.

DanilBorisovich says:

How can you mention Russ & Daughters (a fish place) and Silver Moon Bakery (which sells “Red Velvet cupcakes”) without mentioning Moishe’s on 2nd Ave, which clearly has superior Hamentashen?

I JUST FINISHED MAKING MY YEARLY HAMANTASCHEN. However I call them womentaschen, to honor the two strong women in the story. I use Judy Zeidlers cookie dough, with the butter, and make three fillings, poppy seed, chocolate and mixed dried fruit. I NEVER buy them.

Happy and joyous Purim to all!

i have mixed feelings about moishe’s (sadly, i feel its gone downhill in the last couple of decades, and the challah is SO hit and miss), but i agree with danil– they make a fine hamentaschen! i think the proportions work better in the smaller hamentaschen than in the full-size version.

but tomorrow my kids and i are going to try amy meltzer’s recipe (of fab blog homeshuling: http://homeshuling.wordpress.com/2009/03/01/the-best-hamentashen-ever/).

Marilyn Newman says:

I make my Romanian grandmother’s honey and nut hamantaschen–most favorite in my family.

I miss my Bubbie’s hamantashen. She soaked the “mon” ( which I think were poppy seeds) overnight in a wet dish towel.

She also made her own pastry. I’ve never tasted anything like them and I’m 63 years old.

Aharon Velvel says:

Try Moishe’s on 12 or 13th in NYC. Their Hamantashen can’t be beat.

We can debate the best hamantaschen (our favs are the gingerbread ones we made this year) but the BEST hamantaschen aprons and tshirts are surely these:

http://www.cafepress.com/JewnionLabel/7052394

Toby Harris says:

I agree with Adam and Deborah. I grew up in the southeast and the more bready kind were the ones we ate. Can’t find them anywhere now. Not even a good recipe. Anyone have ideas? A recipe?

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Why not include kosher bakeries in your eat-a-thon? Going no further than NYC, you would be pleasantly surprised!

Moishe’s Kosher Bakery makes some great hamentashen. For homemade, I like this recipe: http://www.jewishgiftplace.com/blog/best-hamentashen-recipe-in-new-york-dough-filling/

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Could it really be that no place in all of Brooklyn (Flatbush, Boro park, Williamsburg, Crown Heights) qualified for this list?

I think not

Rachel says:

I am heartily seconding (or thirding) the demand for Moishe’s recognition!! 2nd Avenue near 7th, they are BEST around and are available throughout he year.

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Top Hamantashen

After a painstaking survey, Tablet Magazine awards title for nation’s tastiest triangular treat

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