Yeast Hamantachen

Yeast Hamantachen
 Purim is coming in about 2 weeks, time to bake hamantachen.....

MEA, you'll notice these are not the regular hamentachen I've been making with (or without) you over the years. Mikah, I'll include another posting with the other reciepe.  Those hamentachen are leavened with baking powder, these are made with yeast. Fred remembers yeast hamentachen at a particular Jewish bakery in Chicago and after making many many experimental cookies this past week Fred thinks I've hit on something he likes, albeit not exactly the cookie he remembers as a kid.  Thank you to Fred's medical students, Judy and Sydney, staff in my office, colleagues of Adam's at TJ Maxx for eating the cookie "seconds" and helping ensure that we didn't eat them all at home.

The shape is crucial, although I'm not sure why. Like kreplach, hamentachen must be triangles, obviously it has nothing to do with the Trinity, but for some reason the shape does seem to be important. If anyone knows why, please let me know.

The symbol of the cookies are tied to the hidden messages (the jam/filling is "hidden" within the cookie) of the Book of Esther. Things are not always what they seem to be....

I would think, without any real research, that yeast was the original leavening agent for hamantachen and then as baking become the purview of specialized shops, baking powder, which simplifies the entire process took over as the preferred ingredient. The yeast cookies were more time consuming and the dough required several rest periods.  Fred murmured "hmmm, good," on the final batch, he assured me that they approached what he remembered and I said that that's good enough for me, so I'm going to document the baking of the last batch.  It was a fun process to work out, but I can see why a baker wanting to turn out many cookies as quickly as possible would opt for baking powder.
Here is my version of yeast dough hamentachen; the dough is made in several stages and the shaping of the cookie differs slightly from baking powder dough.

This recipe starts with a sponge, I mix the entire dough by hand.  Sponges are a bread baking technique that used to be used to ensure that the yeast being used was active, but also to affect the texture of the final dough.
The choreography is as follows:
  1. Make the sponge (let it proof /rise 30 minutes)
  2. Complete making the dough (let it proof/rise about 45-60 minutes)
  3. Roll out the dough, cut circle shapes - I used a glass that was about 3 1/4 inches in diameter
  4. Re-roll out each circle so that it is about 4 inches in diamter (and about 1/4 inch thick)
  5. Wash surface of cookie with egg wash- use a silicone brush or a small fork (one egg, slightly mixed). The egg wash helps seal the seams of the folds. You can wash the outside of the cookie as well to make it shine (I didn't do this on these particular hamentachen). 
  6. Add filling- I use canned or jar fillings including: poppy seed (muhn), apricot preserves, prune filling (lekvar), Israeli chocolate spread, chocolate chips, sweetened peanut butter. See the posting on ingredients for filling ideas. 
  7. Close up the cookie to "hide" the jam (in a triangle shape). Leave very little of the jam showing, the cookie rises in the oven, the opening will widen. 
  8. Place on parchment lined cookie sheet and let the cookies rest for about 10 minutes
  9. Bake - for 18- 20 minutes at 375 (a bit warmer than usual for cookies)
  10. Cook and cover well (these hamentachen will not stay as well as the baking powder variety)
  11. Freeze the cookies if you will not be using within a day or two. I stored them in the fridge for the first 2 days, they stayed well
The Sponge:
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/2 c soy milk or almond milk or rice milk (you can use milk, but my baking is almost exclusively non-dairy)
  • 4.5 tsp instant yeast (if you have it, I used SAF gold- meant for sweet dough), mixed with 1 Tbsp white sugar
  • 5 oz (1c) all purpose flour
  • 3 oz brown sugar
1. Place the flour in a large mixing bowl
2. Add the yeast and 1 Tbsp sugar to one side of the bowl
3. Pour the water around the yeast to make sure it is hydrated
4. Add the brown sugar
5. Mix, you should see some bubbles
6. Mix in the soy milk (slightly warmed to make the yeast happy)
7. Cover the bowl (don't allow covering to touch the mixture - it is wet and will stick!). Place in a draft free, warmish place ( cold oven is a good place) and allow to proof /rise for about 30 minutes
8. After 30 minutes it should be bubbly (it may not be wildly bubbly like bread dough) .  Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula.
Finishing the dough:
 Directly into the bowl, with the sponge, mix in the following:
  • 5.5 oz  (3/4c)  white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp lemon extract
  • 3 extra large eggs (slightly beaten)
  • 1/2 c neutral oil (I use canola)
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt (don't use table salt, the measurement is different)
  • 22.5 oz  (4 1/2 c cups)  all purpose flour - added in 2 parts
9. By the time you mix in the 2nd part of the flour you may need to turn the dough out onto a work surface, it will resemble bread dough but it will be sticky.  Flour your hands if you need to- but try to ignore the feeling that you want to add more flour - you can always correct the amount of flour later on.

 10. Knead for 3-4 minutes (with heel of your palm, stretch away from you a few times, fold toward center, reform the ball and continue the process).
11. Form into a ball.  Pour about 1 Tbsp oil into the bowl (use the same bowl, don't worry about washing it, this is enough of a project without creating more cleaning for yourself).
12. Roll the dough so that it has an oily covering. Cover with plastic wrap (this time the wrap should lay against the dough, don't make it tight, the dough needs to rise).
13. Place in a warm, draft free place and let proof/rise for about 45 minutes. It will not be double, but will be visibly puffier.

14. Uncover the dough, cut off a small piece (about 1/4 of the dough, perhaps a bit  smaller), recover to keep it from drying out.

15. Lightly dust your work surface with flour and roll out dough to about 1/4 thick.
16. Cut out circles - you can use a cookie or biscuit cutter,
I use a glass , about 3 1/4" in diameter.

17. Remember, this is a yeast dough, even after you cut out the circles, the yeast will continue to grow and your 1/4" thick circle of dough will begin to puff in a few minutes. Therefore,  after cutting the circles, you'll need to roll out the dough again, you'll find yourself with a circle slightly larger than you started with- this is exactly right!

18.  The dough will lay in your hand, you'll wash the edges (or the cookie, it doesn't matter) with an egg wash (one egg, slightly beaten). This will allow the edges to "glue" when you fold up the dough around the filling.  If you do this correctly you'll be forming a folded dough around the filling, there will be space under the folds for the filling to run into as it heats in the oven. This is the way you keep the filling from running over the side of the cookie.  It takes practice, I still loose a small percentage of cookies with filling running over - don't worry, these are the cookies that you have been eating as the "mistakes" all these years.  They tasted fine, didn't they?  You know.....FHB......:)

19. Place the cookies on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake in a preheated oven 375 degrees for approximately 18-20 minutes - or when you see that they are beginning to just turn brown at the edges.
20. Don't touch the cookies for a few minutes- the hot sugar in the fillings can burn you. After a few minutes, remove from the cookie sheet and cool on a rack.

21. Repeat the process, using small pieces of dough. You'll have several dozen cookies, but the final number depends on how large a glass you use to make the initial dough pieces. 


  1. The triangular shape is to mimic the shape of the hat
    worn by Haman.

  2. It may be about a hat - but "tachen" is not the word for hat in Yiddish, the meaning is closer to pocket or bag. And then why in Hebrew does the cookie refer to Haman's ears. And why are kreplach, also a food with a hidden filling, shaped as triangles. In the long run there is probably no no "real" or
    "true" answer to this. It may be nothing more than making a sweet ending out of a bitter experience.


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