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Savory Hamantaschen Recipes to Spice up Purim

An excerpt from Leah Koenig’s new cookbook, Modern Jewish Cooking

Leah Koenig
March 04, 2015
Hamantaschen photograph from Modern Jewish Cooking: Recipes & Customs for Today’s Kitchen. (Sang An)
Hamantaschen photograph from Modern Jewish Cooking: Recipes & Customs for Today’s Kitchen. (Sang An)

Hamantaschen are cookies, and cookies are sweet. That’s the conventional wisdom I followed for most of my life, until a few years ago when it occurred to me that, despite their distinct three-cornered shape, hamantaschen are not so different from empanadas, calzones, or any other stuffed pastry. Buoyed by this bit of insight, I tweaked my favorite recipe for sweet hamantaschen dough, dialing back the sugar and adding dried herbs to create a “cookie” worthy of a thick, sweet potato–Parmesan purée, a tangy tomato-beef mixture, or any other savory filling you dream up.

Makes about 36 cookies.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp dried herbs, such as thyme, rosemary, or oregano, crushed with a mortar and pestle
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs

Possible fillings: sweet potato-Parmesan filling (see recipe below), tomato-beef filling (see recipe below)

1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, dried herbs, and salt in a medium bowl.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the water, vegetable oil, sugar, and eggs until combined. Slowly stir in the flour mixture, mixing until the dough begins to come together. Turn the dough out onto a flat surface and knead a few times with your hands until it is smooth, but not sticky. (If the dough appears too dry, knead in more water, 1 tsp—and no more!—at a time. If it looks too wet, knead in up to 1/4 cup more flour, 1 tbsp at a time, until you reach the right consistency.)

3. Gather the dough, then divide it in half with a knife and form into two flat disks. Wrap each disk tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or up to overnight.

4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove half of the dough from the refrigerator (keep the other half wrapped and chilled). On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Use a 3-inch round cookie cutter or glass to cut out as many circles as possible and carefully transfer them, about 1/2 inch apart, to the prepared baking sheet. Gather the dough scraps, reroll, cut out additional circles, and transfer them to the baking sheet.

5. Spoon 1 tsp of filling into the center of each dough circle. Fold the left side over on an angle, followed by the right side. Fold the bottom flap up, tucking one end under the side flap to make a triangle-shaped pocket (the filling should still be visible in the center); pinch the seams firmly to seal. Repeat the process with the remaining dough and filling.

6. Bake until lightly golden and browned at the corners—15 to 18 minutes for the sweet potato-Parmesan and 18 to 20 minutes for the tomato-beef, until it is cooked through. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. These are best served warm. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat leftovers briefly in a toaster oven.

Sweet Potato/Parmesan Filling:

Mashed sweet potatoes make a delicious and unusual filling for either Sweet Hamantaschen or Savory Hamantaschen. But the fresh thyme, garlic, and a hefty sprinkle of salty Parmesan in this filling place it squarely in the savory camp.

Makes about 1 1/3 cups

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Place the sweet potato and garlic in a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn the heat to medium and simmer until the potato is very tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain well.

2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a small pan set over medium heat. Add the shallot, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

3. Using a potato masher or fork, mash the sweet potato and garlic into a thick purée. Stir in the thyme, shallot, and Parmesan. Season with more salt and pepper and let cool slightly before filling hamantaschen. If desired, make up to 2 days ahead and store, covered, in the refrigerator.

Tomato-Beef Filling:

I had savory Middle Eastern pastries like bourekas on the brain when developing this “cookie” filling. The flavorful mixture of ground beef and tomato sauce spiked with chopped green olives and sweetened with just a touch of honey is the perfect filling for Savory Hamantaschen. These hamantaschen taste particularly good drizzled with a bright lemon-mint vinaigrette.

Makes about 1 1/3 cups

Note: bake until the filling is cooked through, 18 to 20 minutes.

8 oz ground beef
1/2 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped pimiento-stuffed green olives
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1 tbsp honey
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine the ground beef, onion, garlic, olives, oregano, paprika, tomato sauce, and honey in a medium bowl. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, then mix the filling with your hands until well combined before filling hamantaschen.

Variation: Swap some of the sweet paprika for smoked paprika, or add cumin or a splash of hot sauce to the mixture.

Excerpted from Modern Jewish Cooking: Recipes & Customs for Today’s Kitchen, by Leah Koenig, available March 17 from Chronicle Books.

The Recipe

Hamantaschen with Savory Fillings