Kosher, Gluten-Free Hamantaschen for a Joyous Purim
Purim is a joyous Jewish holiday during which the victory of Queen Esther helping to outsmart and thwart the evil Haman, who had plotted to destroy all the Jews in ancient Shushan (in Prussia). The holiday is celebrated by reading the Megillah (Scroll of Esther) and using noise makers to drown out Haman’s name whenever it is read. It is also a time to dress in costumes, adults and children alike. Often Purim carnivals are held with games, food, music and costume contests. At all Purim celebrations hamantaschen, triangular fruit-filled cookies shaped like Haman’s tri-cornered hat, are served. Hamentaschen are also always one of the three foods included in shalach manos, which are gifts traditionally given to friends and relatives on this holiday.
This being the first year I am trying to celebrate the holidays gluten free I have been trying out different recipes for gluten free dough to make hamentaschen. I have cooked gluten free but baking is a whole different story. I didn’t realize that just substituting gluten free flour would not result in similar tasting cookies.
Some of the recipes I tried resulted in hamentaschen that ended up crumbling as soon as I lifted them from the cookie sheet. Others tasted gritty and once I got rid of the gritty taste I was left with a version that tasted like cardboard. Still others were too soft. So I kept tweaking and substituting over the last couple of weeks and finally ended up with both a dairy version and a non-dairy version of cookie dough that results in fantastic gluten free hamentaschen. Give them a try and please tell me what you think. For those celebrating Purim, I wish you a wonderful holiday. Eat, drink and be merry. Enjoy!
About the Recipes
These dough recipes use all-purpose gluten free flour which is a mix of garbanzo bean flour, potato starch, whole grain white sorghum flour, tapioca flour and fava bean flour. Using a blend for baking is essential as no single wheat alternative bakes in a similar fashion. Be sure to choose a gluten-free flour that includes xanthan gum or add 1 1/2 tsp of xanthan gum when you add the flour. This is needed as without gluten something must be used to serve as a binding agent for the flour to give it structure and hold in the moisture. Otherwise, there will be no elasticity or stickiness to the dough resulting in a dry, tough, brittle crust that breaks and crumbles easily.
The first dough recipe is dairy free while the second includes butter and cream cheese. They are both delicious options though the dairy version tastes a bit richer. Either can be used with any filling (except perhaps for some of the special gourmet ones that call for a particular taste combination that is an unusual choice for this cookie). The secret to filling is to use one that is not runny to prevent it from spilling or bubbling out of the crust and to prevent it from making the dough soggy or soft. Different options for filling are provided in the extra ingredients after the dough recipes. Some people also choose to mix either sesame or poppy seeds into their dough which you can try for a different taste.
A Note About Forming the Dough Circles to Fill
While the recipes I found said to cut the circles out of the dough with a biscuit or cookie cutter, I felt that it was difficult to judge the leftover dough and I always ended up with an amount that left me with a small cookie that overcooked. I started using the bottom of a glass to flatten balls of dough instead. I generally use about a third of the dough at a time, roll all the balls from that amount of dough then flatten which seems to save some time. It also leaves nothing to waste. If you prefer roll out the dough to about an eighth of an inch thick and use the edge of the glass, biscuit or cookie cutters to cut the circles out.
A Word on Egg Washes
An egg wash simply mean a whole egg or part of one diluted with water, milk or cream. Egg wash is often brushed on pastries and breads just before placing them in the oven in order to precipitate browning and sometimes to provide a glossy appearance.
How brown and glossy the finished product turns out depends on the makeup of the egg wash. A whole egg mixed with water or milk will come out nicely browned and slightly (water) or moderately (milk) glossy. An egg white used without anything added will produce an evenly browned finish with little shine. Using an egg yolk alone or with water will result in a well- browned appearance that is glossy though not as glossy as an egg yolk mixed with milk or cream. As hamentashen are not usually heavily browned I usually just use egg whites as I would with Challah though you can choose to use a different egg wash depending on your preference and whether you prefer a dairy or dairy free recipe.
Large mixing bowl, electric mixer, sifter, 3-inch diameter drinking glass or, if you prefer, biscuit or round cookie cutters, rolling pin (optional)
Dairy Free Dough
Servings: 22 - 24 hamentschen
- 4 1/2 cups gluten-free flower
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- * 2 teaspoons xanthan gum *(if your flour doesn’t have any – if it does omit)
- Pinch of salt
- 3 eggs + 3 egg whites (or what is needed for your preferred egg wash)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 solid coconut oil (mash to soften slightly if necessary)
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
- 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon pure almond extract
- ¼ tablespoon cinnamon
- ¼ tablespoon allspice
- Sift gluten-free flour, baking powder, xanthan gum, cinnamon, allspice and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to fully combine and set aside.
- Using a mixer beat 3 eggs on high speed for 1 minute until thick. Add sugar and beat for 1 more minute.
- Add coconut oil, orange juice, zest, almond extract and vanilla extract and beat until combined.
- Add flour combination 1 cup at a time to mixture. Mix until well combined and dough starts to gather together (dough may not be quite stiff enough to form a ball before refrigerating but it should hold together. If you don’t think it is stiff enough to remove from the bowl add extra flower a little bit at a time and combine well into the dough. Make sure not to add too much. The dough should be just stiff enough to hold together. The coconut oil will help the dough to become stiff enough to work with once it is chilled).
- Remove dough from bowl, wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate 4-6 hours or overnight. Dough can be stored in refrigerator for several days before baking.
Servings: About 14 - 16 hamentaschen
- 7 ounces butter softened at room temperature
- 8 ounces cream cheese softened at room temperature
- 1.4 cup orange juice
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon pure almond extract
- 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
- 2 cups of all-purpose gluten-free flour blend plus extra flour for working with the dough
- Cut butter and cream cheese into small chunks, place into a mixing bowl, and use an electric mixer to cream the two ingredients together.
- Add sugar to the mixing bowl. Continue to beat the mixture together for a few minutes untilllight and fluffy.
- Add the granulated sugar, vanilla, almond extract, and orange juice and mix until smooth. Let the mixture come to room temperature.
- Sift in the flour and mix until dough forms
- Refrigerate the dough for at least two hours – Due to the dairy ingredients this dough will not keep as long as the dairy free dough. It’s best if it is used within 24 hours of making.
Filling and Baking the Hamentaschen
Traditionally, hamentaschen are filled with prune, poppy seed and apricot, but you can fill them with any type of fruit preserves, and a number or other fillings. Suggestions are listed below.
- 3 egg whites (or ingredients for your preferred egg wash, optional)
- Confectioner’s sugar to decorate tops (optional)
- Milk chocolate or white chocolate chips for melting and dipping (optional)
- Sprinkles for decorating (optional)
- Apricot jam, poppy seed filling (mun), prune butter (lekvar), lemon preserves, strawberry spread or other type of fruit jams and spreads. You can also try pie filings like apple, pecan or pumpkin. (Do not use cherry pie filling however, as it is too runny and will make the cookies soggy and bubble over the tops). Kids love hamentaschen filled with peanut butter and jelly or try almond or apple butter instead. Parvella is a great option for a non-dairy Nutella alternative that is gluten, dairy, egg, peanut and palm-oil free. For dairy fillings try chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, or M & M’s. For a really delicious dairy filling use white chocolate chips and sprinkle with crushed candy canes.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Cover baking sheets with parchment paper and sprinkle the paper with flour to prevent sticking.
- If you choose to use an egg wash beat the egg whites lightly with a pinch of salt (salt breaks down the proteins in the eggs and thins them but needs a few minutes to be effective)
- It’s best to work with a quarter to a third of the dough at a time, leaving the remainder refrigerated until needed, so it doesn’t get too soft or sticky. If it becomes stick while you are working with it, kneed some more flour into the dough
- Coat your hands with flour and break off enough dough for an inch and a half ball to form when rolled between your hands.
- Coat the ball with flour and place it on the baking sheet
- Coat the bottom of a drinking glass with flour, and use to flatten the ball of dough to about 1/8 of an inch. (Press carefully to prevent the dough from sticking to the glass.)
- Place about a teaspoon of filling in the middle of the circle of dough
- Pull up sides and pinch three corners together to create a triangular shape, leaving the filling showing. Don’t worry if the dough doesn’t appear perfect. Just pinch together any holes in the sides. They’ll look fine when baked (for instructions on forming the triangular shape see the video below)
- Once cookie sheet is filled with hamantaschen, brush each with egg wash and sprinkle with granulated sugar if desired
- Bake about 15 - 20 minutes or until golden brown
- Decorate with confectioner’s sugar after they cool or dip one corner in melted milk or white chocolate chips, then in sprinkles, coconut or ground nuts if desired. For a really festive look melted milk or white chocolate can be drizzled lightly over the tops of the hamentaschen.