When I was a child, our hamentashen came from Gelbstein’s Bakery on Clifton Avenue in Lakewood, NJ, where I grew up. Oozing with poppy seed or prune or apricot fillings or chocolate (if we were lucky!), eating these traditional cookies was one of the ways we celebrated the joyous holiday of Purim. We dressed like our favorite character from the Purim story (I, along with every other young girl my age, always chose to be Queen Esther or Vashti) and attended the Purim festival at our synagogue, listened to the Megillah being read (this tells the story of Purim), turned our groggers (noisemakers) whenever Haman’s name was mentioned, marched in the annual Purim Parade, and ate the traditional cookie of Purim known as hamentashen, the traditional three-cornered cookie meant to represent the hat of Haman, the mean villain of the story.
When I first found out I had Celiac Disease four years ago, one of the first online things I ordered was a box of gluten free hamentashen from Sugar Kisses Bakery in Berkley, Michigan. When the box arrived and I opened it, I was immediately 10 years old. Examining them closely, turning them this way and that, I could see that this new-fangled gluten free version of one of my favorite cookies looked like hamentashen and smelled like hamentashen. And surprise, surprise, they tasted like hamentashen too!
For some reason, it took until now, four years later, for me to attempt making my own hamentashen. I shouldn’t have been intimidated – it was easy. If you’re thinking about it but you’re still on the fence, hop on off and give it a try. Honestly, they were really fun to make.
There are quite a few recipes on the internet for gluten free hamantashen. There’s Gluten Free Bay, Elana’s Pantry, About.com’s Guide to Kosher Food, RecipeZaar and Hey That Tastes Good. One of the best tutorials for making hamentashen is from Is that my bureka? While not gluten free, you can adapt his recipe by using gluten free flour (make sure to use xanthan gum too).
Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose Gluten Free flour isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Truth-be-told, I’m not a huge fan of this particular blend, mostly because of the bean flour aftertaste, but when time is of the essence, it does the trick. And today was one of those days. Peter and I are prepping to perform a Purim concert for 200 preschoolers next week – we’ve written six new songs and made 5 huge Purim masks to use in the program. We’re all things Purim in our house. Not to mention making hamentashen!
Three of the four fillings were homemade by moi – apricot, prune, and poppy seed. The fourth filling I used was jarred strawberry jam. If you don’t want to make the fillings from scratch, using jam from a jar is a cinch. There are also pre-made fillings you can buy specifically for hamentashen.
It took a few tries until I got the hang of forming the three-cornered cookies, but once I figured it out, I knocked ’em out like an old pro. I will explain it in a note below the recipe, just in case you’re a novice hamentashen maker.
Ellen’s Hamentashen (gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free)
makes approximately 24 cookies
2 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose flour (or use your favorite blend of GF flours)
2 tbsp potato starch
2 tbsp potato flour
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp pectin
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 flax eggs* (or use two regular eggs)
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tsp grated orange zest
1 tsp almond extract (or vanilla extract)
*two flax eggs = 2 tbsp flaxmeal mixed with 6 tbsp hot water or soymilk (or other alternative milk of your choice). I have found that using hot liquid AND blending this at high speed in a small food processor makes this mixture perform admirably.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place parchment paper on two large baking sheets.
Homemade Hamentashen fillings (or use already prepared filling)
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
Put the apricots, cinnamon stick, and sugar in a pan and cover with water. Simmer for 15 minutes or until the apricots are tender and most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove the cinnamon stick, then puree the apricots in a food processor with a little bit of the cooking liquid until the mixture looks like thick jam.
Poppy Seed Filling
1/2 cup poppy seeds
1/4 cup soymilk (or alternative milk of choice)
1/4 cup golden raisins, coarsely chopped
1 – 2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp light corn syrup
1 tsp grated lemon rind
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Put the poppy seeds, soymilk, raisins, sugar, corn syrup, and lemon rind in a saucepan. Simmer for 5 – 10 minutes or until the mixture has thickened and most of the milk has been absorbed. Stir in the vanilla extract.
1/2 cup dried, pitted prunes
hot water to cover the prunes
2 tbsp jam (I used orange marmalade to complement the orange in the cookie dough)
Put the prunes in a bowl and add enough hot water to cover. Set the bowl aside for 30 minutes. Drain, then puree in a food processor with the jam.
Use jam from a jar of strawberry preserves or jam.
Making the hamentashen:
In a medium bowl, sift the flour, potato starch, potato flour, xanthan gum, pectin, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a stand mixer (or use a bowl and hand mixer), cream the sugar and oil. Turn off the mixer and let this mixture rest while you continue.
In a small bowl, combine the flax eggs, orange juice, orange zest, and almond extract.
Turn the mixer on and slowly add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the sugar/oil mixture. Gradually add the remaining flour in three batches, alternating with the flax egg mixture.
The dough will be somewhat crumbly, but don’t despair! Pour it onto a piece of waxed paper and use the paper to help you form the dough into a ball. Try to avoid touching the dough with your hands, but rather use the paper to guide the dough into a ball. Put it in the frig to chill for 1 – 2 hours, or overnight if possible.
Removing the dough from the frig, remove it from the waxed paper and place in a small bowl, then place the small bowl in another bowl filled with ice water – this will keep the dough chilled while you make the hamentashen.
With your hand, scoop off a large piece of the dough and place on either a piece of waxed paper or on a silicone pastry mat (GREAT for gluten free baking). Flour a rolling pin and roll the dough out to about 1/8″ thick. Using a 3″ cookie cutter (or use a juice glass), cut into circles, removing the excess dough and adding it back into the bowl of unused dough. Flour the rolling pin each time you use it to roll out the dough. Place 1 tsp of filling in the center of each dough circle. Fold three sides of the circle together so that the cookie becomes a triangle, pinching the corners to seal them.
NOTE: Place pointer fingers underneath the 12 o’clock point on the dough circle. Pinch them together, then use your thumbs to lift the dough at the 6 o’clock point on the dough circle, simultaneously pinching the dough at the 2 and 10 o’clock points on the dough circle. This will form the triangle. Practice makes perfect, trust me.
If the dough doesn’t seem to stick together adequately, use wet fingers to seal the dough where needed. Place each cookie on the cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.
Bake for 15 minutes, rotating trays back to front and from one shelf to another, until golden on top and browned on the bottom. Let cool for five minutes then remove to cooling rack.
NOTE: I think that gluten free baked goods ALWAYS benefit when left to rest for awhile after baking. See how long you can wait!