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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Alpha Bakers: Hamantaschen

This week we're making a cookie that I've never heard of nor tried before. Hamantaschen hamantaschen hamantaschen. Okay now say it 15 times really really fast :).

I was looking forward to this recipe. Not only this cookie has a story behind it, which I find very interesting, the main ingredient: poppy seeds, is banned in several countries.

According to Wikipedia, Hamantash, is a filled-pocket cookie in a triangular shape. The shape is formed by folding the 3 sides of a circular piece of dough, with a filling in the middle. Poppy seed is the oldest and most traditional filling, though you can substitute other "fruit" filling such as prunes, nut, date, apricot, raspberry, or fruit preserves. The name, Hamantash, is known as a reference to Haman, the villain of Purim. These pastries are supposed to symbolize the defeated enemy of the Jewish people, and resemble the three cornered hat of Haman. I am glad that Rose is exposing us to cookies like this one, cookies with a story behind it.

Onto the next interesting topic, did you know that poppy seeds is banned in Singapore and Saudi Arabia. I'm sure Faithy is substituting and probably is using her 3 year old lekvar from Rose's Heavenly Cakes bake-a-long. According to the Central Narcotics Bureau of Singapore, poppy seeds is banned because of its narcotics (morphine) content. In Saudi Arabia it is banned for various religious and drug reasons. In airports India, they advised folks not to carry poppy seeds to other countries as it can lead to false positives drug test result.

This leads me to wonder how much poppy seeds one has to consume to show a positive result in drug test. I am glad I am not doing drug test for a new job or a health assessment at the doctor's office any time soon. I would not want to have this on my record: "patient tested positive for morphine due to baking cookies containing poppy seeds for a baking club."

These cookies were a pleasure to make. I really enjoyed the whole process. Pie dough is always fun to make, especially rolling it out into cookies is a lot more fun than trying to fit it perfectly into a pie pan. I thought I would have difficulty trying to shape the circular pie cutouts into triangle but they were actually a breeze to do and really fun. I made lekvar out of 8 apricots and got about 6 tablespoons' worth. Only 2 tablespoon were used (I was generous in applying it on top of the cookies) - hubby will eat the rest of the lekvar as jam with bread.

Though I love the cookie making process, I am on the fence about the filling so I will make it again but will opt for a different filling. I love the sweet cookie tart crust. The leftover dough that I bake on its own, I ate it a few minutes after it came out of the oven and it was heavenly. It is not as good as Rose's Flaky Cream Cheese Crust but as far as pie crust goes, this is pretty damn good. The filling has an odd taste and after taste (is that the drug taste? :)). I think it's the taste of a whole lotta poppy seeds together. I have never had this much poppy seeds in one bite - usually only have it on sprinkled on a bagel or cookie. I don't even mind the texture from the poppy seeds not being grounded - I don't notice it much, though it is kinda funny to try to get every bit of poppy seeds from the corners of my teeth!

Hubby likes it. He said the texture and consistency is like caviar that's sweet. I've never had black/dark caviar, only the sushi caviar (Ikura, yummm). Okay, now I want Japanese.

The only substitution I made in the recipe is to use almond milk. We don't drink dairy around here and since the quantity used in the recipe is small, I figured it would work. For the high altitude, the only thing I did was to add more liquid to the dough. I first tried with the listed amount but the dough was still crumbly and won't hold together. So I added 1 tsp of heavy cream and that seemed to do the trick.

Step by step photos:

First divide all ingredients by 1/2. This is something that you all expect by now :). Then defrost a cube of frozen heavy cream at room temperature. This took over an hour.

After it melts, it will look creamy like this. Just mix it with a spoon and it will be more liquid/less creamy.

Like this.

As always, completely disregarding the instruction of making the dough using the food processor. I ran out of bleached AP flour and the grocery store only has a 10-pound bag. Stubbornly don't want to buy a 10-pound bag so this is 80% of unbleached AP and 20% of cornstarch. Plus salt.

Add turbinado. I had already processed this in the food processor a couple of months ago.

Butter cubes.


1/2 egg yolk + almond milk.

Crumbly dough.

After obsessive kneading.

The dough went into the fridge for a couple of hours. Meanwhile, make the poppy seed filling.

I get to use this fancy honey that we bought. We've had it once and it's really good. I don't really care much about the organic part, though somehow it claiming to be pure & raw means something. Less processed is good, I think. Fancy because the label looks fancy (I'm easily impressed) and the price is $12.

This is a lot of poppy seeds.

Heat up the almond milk and add the poppy seeds = invasion of the poppy seeds.

Meyer lemon zest.

The poppy seeds mixture is watering out. Maybe because I use non-dairy milk? I didn't take step by step photos of the lekvar but it's pretty straight forward. I used the immersion blender for it. Easier to clean than food processor.

My non-rectangle dough.

I feel like I'm making dumplings.

18 hamantaschens, shaped and brushed with egg yolk. It went to the garage for resting. Yes garage! My garage was 20'F/-6'C  and colder than the fridge (32'F/1'C).

They were there for a couple of hours while we went out for errands. In the afternoon, I baked them in a preheated oven for 25 minutes. They looked done by 19 minutes but the pastry was not brown, it took an additional 6 minutes for them to brown.


Alpha Bakers is a group of bakers who are baking through The Baking Bible, Rose Levy Beranbaum's latest cookbook. Come check out the rest of the group at Rose's Alpha Bakers.

Click here for a full listing of all the recipes we are baking.


  1. You are a pie crust master!! I love how flaky your crust is and how perfectly shaped each cookie is.

    1. Thanks so much Hanaa. Pie crust is so fun :).

  2. Poppyseeds do stick in your teeth, don't they? I like the idea of making the more or less authentic poppyseed filling and then experimenting with new fillings too.

  3. Your pastry looks beautiful and flaky! Next time I should follow you and make a fraction of lekvar. That's true. I cannot use poppy seeds! :( And in such great dose..hahaha.. Can you believe it? I made lekvar again?! Now the balance lekvar is going to sit in my fridge for another 2 years? LOL! Did you watch the Korean drama "My Love from the Star"? I really like that korean drama...very romantic but I also cried a lot at the same time. Now I'm watching a new one call Hyde Jekyll and I. Sometimes I think I watch Korean dramas cos the actors all very handsome..hahahaha..and actresses also very pretty..and they all can really cry.

    1. My friend told me about My Love from the Star. She has it with chinese subtitles. I need the english one LOL.

    2. Here, you can watch Eng Sub here.. I also watch with Eng Sub.. this site has the latest dramas..on-going ones right away from Korea. The episodes showing on our TV channels are usually a few episodes later, so if i cannot wait for the TV, I'll watch on this site. BTW, that Ikura sushi also my favourite! :D

  4. ...cos their complexion is like super pores. I wonder if it is the lighting, camera trick or plastic surgery or they laser facial all the time?

    1. Yes their skin is so smooth. Even the men! No pimple marks. Unfair. They must do facial all the time. I don't remember the korean drama I've seen - it was a long time ago. The one I remember was regarding F4 (taiwanese). I really liked it. And they all look perfect, perfect hair and skin.

  5. I forgot to ask you since you are not on Facebook, will you be joining us baking through the Bread Bible? Glori is organising it. Once a month posting. This month posting on 4-March.

    1. Faithy, thanks for letting me know about the Bread Bible bake a long. I joined yesterday! :)

  6. I read somewhere that to substituted dairy milk in recipe you'll get the result with coconut milk ( the one in the can), I did it couple times with cakes and it seems to work great.

    I buy this honey too, but not for this price ,$8 dollars that what i paid last.i love your post and how your dough looked like.

    keep warm!!

  7. great job as always, and there is my fav plate!

    1. Joan, the plate was a Christmas present. I love it too. I want more, :))).

  8. great job as always, and there is my fav plate!

  9. Gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous pictures! Your cookies look perfect!

  10. I loved making these too. Aand as much as I love poppy seeds, I didn't think I'd like them in the filling. I tried the prune and apricot lekvars - wasn't crazy about either of those either, but I really liked the pastry. Would definitely be open to making them with different fillings in the future. if you get a chance, I hope you'll stop by and see my post.

    Patricia @ ButterYum


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