December 1: Hamantaschen


See, I promised you some new recipes. 

Whenever I do the December cookies, I’m always a tad jealous of families with rich cultural backgrounds who have some recipe or tradition that goes back to the old country, and it just isn’t Christmas without whatever it is.

My family, while cool and crazy (putting the “fun” in dysfunction), is about as cultural as a bag of microwave popcorn. Both of my parents are the youngest (or almost…my mom is the 8th of 9 kids) in their families. Three out of four of my grandparents were the youngest in their families. One of my grandfathers was born in 1888. (Seriously.) I do genealogy as a hobby, and I can tell you that my family has been in America a long, long time. Any cultural traditions from Ireland, England, Hungary, or Germany have long been lost. 

However, I do know that I’m 50% Ashkenazi Jew genetically from my dad’s family. My grandfather converted in the 40s, and again, there’s no cultural influences from that side of the family either. Years ago when my beloved Aunt Barbara died, we went to her celebration of life and I met my Jewish relatives–cousins of my dad and aunt. And they were loud, talkative, bubbly, and tad strong-willed–just like me. I was like, “Where have you been all my life?!” Since then, I’ve been curious about this part of my heritage. When we moved this summer, we happen to settle in a part of the Chicago suburbs with a high Jewish population, and my kids are learning way more about our heritage than I ever have. (My daughter even went to a Bat Mitzvah a couple weeks ago, and holy cow, that party was bigger than my wedding!)

Making Hamantaschen today is my way of celebrating this part of my cultural heritage. Yes, I get the irony that I’m making a traditional Jewish cookie as the first day of my Christmas cookie baking. Life is full of these sort of juxtapositions. 

Dear Kitchenaid, I will be your loyal follower forever.

The recipe for the dough was pretty simple. A stick of butter and some sugar, creamed together until creamy, and then an egg, milk, vanilla, and lemon zest. 

Also, let’s take a moment to admire my new Kitchenaid bowl. I’ve been wanting another one for a few years, and finally decided to invest in one. Let’s not admire the mess around it. I made a batch of royal icing for other cookies and haven’t cleaned up the powdered sugar quite yet. 

The lemon zest made this dough really pop. I actually zested way more than the 1 teaspoon needed and put the rest in a prep bowl for later use. 

What the dough looks like all mixed together with the extra flour.

After I put the rest of the ingredients in, I put it in the fridge to chill. The recipe calls for 1 1/4 cups of flour, but I ended up with 1 3/4 cups because with the 1 1/4, it looked like cake batter. 

After being the fridge for about an hour, I took it out and rolled it. I also had to put Zelda (one of our cats) away because she kept trying to steal some dough. I don’t really blame her, as this dough is pretty amazing. 

12 cut-out cookies, reading for filling. 

The recipe calls for using a round cookie cutter, and I don’t have one. I used a drinking glass instead, and I think it turned out okay, if not a little large. More on that later. 

I only got about a dozen cookies, which should have tipped me off that I made them a tad too big. Hamantaschen are traditionally filled with poppy seed filling, which I bought. I also bought almond filling (my favorite), and I also tried a sweet canned pitted dark cherry and some fresh blueberry buttercream that I made for another recipe. 

I filled the centers with about a teaspoon of filling and folded the dough around it. Traditionally, Hamantaschen is shaped like a tri-corner hat. I had to look up how to fold them, and I still didn’t get it quite right, but I don’t think it was too bad of an attempt.

Into a 400 degree oven they went for 10 minutes. The blueberry buttercream ones didn’t turn out, which I really didn’t think they would. But the rest seemed to. They ended up really big, so if I make these again, I will definitely make my circles smaller. 

Poppyseed Hamantaschen, cooling on a rack.

This recipe is from The Nosher

Hamantaschen Cookies


  • ½ cup butter (or margarine)
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 T milk (or almond milk)
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt


Beat the butter and sugar together until smooth. Add egg, milk, vanilla and lemon zest until mixed thoroughly.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add dry mixture to wet mixture until incorporated.

Note: if the dough is too soft, increase flour amount by ½ cupfuls until firm.

Chill dough for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

Dust surface with powdered sugar to keep from sticking. Roll the dough to about ¼ inch thick.

Using a round cookie cutter, cut out and place onto cookie sheet. To keep the dough from sticking to your cutter, dip in powdered sugar before each cut!

Fill each round with your favorite filling, and using your favorite method, pinch corners together tightly.

Bake at 400° for about 7-9 minutes.

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