Last Call: What is your unvarnished opinion of hamantaschen?

Aimee Levitt
·3 min read
Will these pop open in the oven? Yes or no
Will these pop open in the oven? Yes or no

Purim sameach everyone! That’s “Happy Purim!” in Hebrew. Say it to a Jew with a throat-clearing sound for the “ch” and they will be very impressed! Tonight Jews all over the world will be gathering—on Zoom—for the annual reading of the Purim megillah, the Book of Esther. Some of them will dress up in costumes. They will make lots of noise to drown out the name of the villainous Haman. They will get so wasted that they won’t be able to distinguish the villainous Haman from the virtuous Mordecai. (It’s a commandment!) And they will eat hamantaschen.

Hamantaschen are triangular cookies—shaped like Haman’s ear or hat depending on where you come from—that are filled with... stuff. Poppy seeds are traditional. I think they are gross, but one year, I used lemon curd and dulce de leche (separately!) and was rebuked by my very traditional father.

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Everyone has an opinion about hamantaschen (even people who maybe shouldn’t).

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Should hamantaschen be dairy, and if so, should they be made with butter or cream cheese? Or should they be pareve (neither dairy nor meat) and made with oil so they can be eaten at all times? Is the Only True Hamantaschen Dough made with orange juice? What is an acceptable filling for a hamantash? (Anyone who suggests prunes is automatically kicked out of this conversation.) How do you keep the sides from popping open in the oven and leaving you with round cookies with puddles of... stuff in the middle? How do you keep your filling from leaking? What makes synagogue and Jewish bakery hamantaschen so lousy? (Answer: oil or margarine and preservatives in the dough, plus the annoying synagogue habit of putting baked goods in the freezer, letting them thaw, then popping then back in until it’s time for them to come out next Saturday.) Are they better than latkes?

For the record, I personally am excited about the latest Smitten Kitchen hamantaschen recipe: marble cheesecake hamantaschen. (Deb Perelman has been struggling for years now to create the perfect hamantash.) Because why should we have to choose between chocolate and cream cheese? My mother tried to appeal to my nostalgia by suggesting the hamantaschen from my childhood which have only four ingredients, one of them margarine, and were the reason I did not eat hamantaschen for years and years, until I was 25 and a non-Jewish friend invited me over to lend my expertise to her hamantaschen-baking endeavor. (I had none, but I thought the finished product was very good.)

There are so many things to have opinions on, which makes hamantaschen the perfect Jewish food! Share all of yours in the comments.