NEW YORK (JTA) — Just because they’re the same shape doesn’t mean they have the same soul.
Hamantaschen, the Purim season’s traditional triangle-shaped cookie, are conventionally filled with jam, but the pastry has come a long way since its namesake ruled in ancient Persia. From New Orleans, where hamantaschen centers are filled with pecans and honey, to Texas, where the cookies are stuffed with onions and chili, Jews across the country have revised, redacted and reworked the holiday treat to create a new core.
“The greatest thing about hamantaschen is that you can fill them with anything and they’ll taste great,” Gabi Moskowitz, a food blogger in San Francisco and author of the cookbook “Brokeass Gourmet,” told JTA. “You can really stick anything in there and they’ll still keep the tradition of the Jewish holiday. Even something as simple as Nutella is good.”
Moskowitz’s latest creation is a pomegranate ricotta hamantaschen, which she says makes the perfect dessert. The cookie dough is made with cream cheese, giving the pastry a creamy consistency that is light and flaky, Moskowitz says.
Liz Alpern, a baking artisan from New York’s suburban Long Island and co-founder of the Jewish foodie site Gefilteria, has created savory hamantaschen that are more side dish than dessert. These days she is filling her cookies with sauteed spinach, mushrooms, onions and cheese. The Gefilteria also makes a roasted beet and goat cheese hamantaschen.
“It’s something I’ve been playing with over the last few years because hamantaschen are a blank canvas you can just play with,” Alpern said. “My version is a savory sort of hamantaschen, and I’ve incorporated them in the last few parties we’ve catered as part of the meal.”
The variations on hamantaschen go beyond cheese and vegetables. Alison Barnett, a food blogger from Ohio, came up with an alcoholic version, fashioning a mojito hamantaschen after contemplating the different ways she could expand Purim’s drinking tradition.
“One of the focuses of Purim is to drink — responsibly, of course — so I thought this adult version could bring out the kid in all of us,” Barnett said. “I brainstormed some fun cocktails that I dreamed I could roll into a hamantaschen because I was getting bored of the same ones every year.”
Barnett’s cookie features mint leaves and a rum curd filling with fresh lime and a raw sugar coating. She said her cookies taste more like a sugar-rimmed mojito with a crunch.
Nechama Fiddle, a food blogger from Detroit who writes the Can’t Stop Baking blog, decided to incorporate an old dessert of apple pie into her cookie’s core.
“I find that many food blogs nowadays are more about twists on old recipes than creating brand new recipes,” Fiddle said. “Someone had asked me for a homemade filling recipe, so I figured this is a great time to bring a fresh take on an old recipe of apple pie.”
Fiddle noted that she never really liked to bake hamantaschen because she wasn’t a fan of the traditional recipes, but after playing with some batches, she created her apple pie version, as well as a brownie-filled one, and now happily bakes them for the Purim season.