Growing up, I always looked forward to Purim, mostly because our local Jewish bakery, The Bread Basket, made outstanding apple hamantaschen. They made a cookie type version and a yeasted dough version. Both brought me endless joy. On my quest to recreate the cookie version, I developed these Apple Cinnamon Spice Hamantaschen.
What are hamantaschen?
Hamantaschen are triangular shaped cookies (or pastry) that are made with a variety of different fillings. Why are they triangular? Long story short, they are traditionally made for the Jewish holiday of Purim — a joyous holiday that commemorates the saving of the Jews from an evil dude named Haman. According to legend, Haman wore a three-cornered hat. (Very fashion-forward for such a hateful man!) Why they decided to shape cookies like his hat is beyond me. All I know is that, made properly, they are delish.
From Apple Hamantaschen to Apple Cinnamon Spice Hamantaschen
I spent decades making different recipes in an effort to recreate the apple hamantaschen of my youth. Many of them were good, but none of them were nearly as good as The Bread Basket’s. It was not until I bought Shannon Sarna’s Modern Jewish Baker when it came out in 2017 that I found a recipe that seemed like a cousin to The Bread Basket’s hamantaschen. (I have no affiliation whatsoever to Shannon or her cookbook, but I will tell you that it’s a great cookbook to have! Her recipes are really good, and her instructions on things such as braiding techniques are super helpful.)
Although I was happy with Shannon’s hamantaschen dough recipe, I decided it was time to crank things up a bit. Growing up, the cookie dough versions of hamantaschen generally tasted like orange juice, almond, or vanilla. Even today, I do not see much variety in the dough component of hamantaschen. I knew I was going to fill my hamantaschen with apple, but I wanted something different in the dough. Because I am a cinnamon addict, I added some spices to complement my apple filling.
While I love Shannon’s recipe, I found it a bit difficult to work with in my always too hot kitchen (due to the heating in our building), which caused the dough to crack as I was working with it. I found that adding an extra egg yolk and slightly increasing the flour made a delish dough that was a bit friendlier to work with.
How to Make Apple Cinnamon Spice Hamantaschen
1. Make the hamantaschen dough
The dough is very simple make. Whisk together the dry ingredients and set aside. Cream the butter with the sugar, add the eggs and other liquid ingredients. Marry the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients,. Divide the dough in half and wrap each half of dough in plastic wrap, and flatten them out. Pop them in the refrigerator for at least a couple hours and up to 24 hours.
2. Make the apple filling
Do not be scared of making a homemade fruit filling. It’s actually quite simple. Peel and cut the apples, and combine them with all the other ingredients in a pot. Allow the mixture to simmer with the cover slightly off to allow steam to escape. Give it a stir every 5 minutes or so. It will take approximately a half hour for the apples to be translucent and the liquid to have evaporated. If it overcooks, the apples will break down and look like applesauce. If that happens, don’t sweat it! You can absolutely still use the apple filling if it turns into applesauce.
3. Roll out the hamantaschen dough
Take one of the dough packages from the refrigerator and roll it out into a circle on top of a lightly floured piece of parchment paper. No need to strive for perfection here. You just want to roll the dough out so it is approximately ¼ of an inch thick. If you roll it too thin, the dough will rip as you remove it from the parchment. Use a round cookie cutter approximately 2½ inches in diameter to cut circles out. Place the circles on parchment lined baking sheets. Gather any dough scraps, form them into a mound, and roll it out again to cut as many circles as you can. Keep repeating until you’ve used all the dough. If the dough becomes too warm and difficult to work with, place it in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
Once the circles are cut, place them on the prepared baking sheets into the refrigerator. Repeat with the remaining half of dough in the refrigerator.
4. Fill the hamantaschen dough with the apple filling
Spoon approximately 1 teaspoon of the apple filling into the center of each circle. Do not over fill them! Lightly flour your fingertips and form each circle into triangles by folding up the rounds and pinching them tightly in three corners. (If they are not sticking together, wet your fingertip and rub it on the inside where you are trying to create the point.) You want to make sure that the seams are fully closed so that the filling does not break through the barriers while baking. Place the shaped hamantaschen on the prepared cookie sheets.
5. FREEZE the Apple Cinnamon Spice Hamantaschen and then bake
This is such a critical step for success! The hamantaschen will not keep their shape if they enter the oven at room temperature. Pop them in the freezer for 15 minutes before baking.
For those of you wanting a parve (non-dairy) version, I recommend substituting the butter with Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks and replacing the milk with soy, almond or oat milk.
Looking for other hamantaschen flavors? Check out:
Frequently Asked Questions About Making Apple Cinnamon Spice Hamantaschen
Can apple hamantaschen be made dairy free?
Yes. Substitute vegan butter and non-dairy milk in the recipe.
Do I have to freeze the apple hamantaschen before baking?
Yes. The hamantaschen will not hold their shape if you do not freeze them before baking.
Can I make the apple hamantaschen components in advance?
Yes. You can make both the dough up to 24 hours in advance, storing it in the refrigerator. The apple filling can be made up to one week in advance, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Apple Cinnamon Spice Hamantaschen
- 283 grams all purpose flour (2 cups plus 2 Tablespoons)
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- 1¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- 1¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 113 grams unsalted butter at room temperature (8 Tablespoons or ½ cup)
- 150 grams sugar (¾ cup)
- 1 egg, at room temperature
- 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
- 15 grams whole milk (1 Tablespoon)
- 5 grams vanilla (1 Tablespoon)
- 375 grams Golden Delicious apples, peeled, halved and cored, weighed after peeling, halving and coring (about 2½ medium sized apples)
- 63 grams sugar (¼ cup plus 1 Tablespoon)
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- 10 grams lemon juice (2 teaspoons)
- 20 grams water (1 Tablespoon. plus 1 teaspoon)
- Prepare the Dough. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Put aside.
- In a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together for 2-3 minutes. Add the egg, the egg yolk, milk, and vanilla and beat until all the liquid ingredients are fully incorporated.
- With the mixer off, pour the dry ingredients into the mixer bowl over the liquid ingredients. Turn the mixer on the lowest speed and mix just until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated. (Alternatively, you can mix the dry ingredients in by hand using a rubber spatula.) Do not overmix.
- Place half the dough on top of a large piece of plastic wrap. Using the plastic wrap, shape the dough into a disk, pushing down on it to thin it out. Fully cover the disk of dough in the plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least two hours and for as long as 24 hours. (I usually make the dough the day before I am going to bake, so I let it sit overnight in the refrigerator.) Repeat with the remaining portion of the dough. While the dough rests in the refrigerator, make the apple filling.
- Make the Apple Filling. Cover a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet with plastic wrap. Set aside.
- Cut the apples into ¼ of an inch squares and place into a 2-quart saucepan.
- Add the sugar, vanilla bean paste (or extract), cinnamon stick, lemon juice and water to the saucepan.
- Gently mix all the ingredients together. Cover the saucepan with its lid tilted to the side so that steam can escape easily. Cook mixture on a low flame, stirring occasionally (every 5-7 minutes). The mixture is done when the apples are translucent and the water has evaporated, approximately 30-35 minutes. (If some of the apples cook to the point of applesauce, do not panic. It will taste just as good!)
- Pour the cooked apple mixture onto the plastic wrap and allow it to cool. (You can also pour it into a heatproof dish to cool.) Once cool, remove the cinnamon stick and discard. If not using immediately, transfer the apple mixture to a container and refrigerate for up to seven days. (If refrigerating, you can keep the cinnamon stick in there to add some additional flavor.)
- Line 2 or 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- Shape Hamentaschen. Take one of the dough disks from the refrigerator and roll out in between two pieces of parchment paper. Roll the dough so that it is approximately ¼ of an inch thick. If you roll it too thin, the dough will rip as you remove it from the parchment. Using a round cookie cutter (I use a 2½ inch diameter), cut as many rounds out as you can. You may need to dip your cutter into some flour to avoid it sticking to the dough. Use a metal spatula dipped in flour to release the rounds. Gather the scraps and roll that clump of dough out and cut more rounds. Keep repeating until you have used all the dough. If at any point the dough becomes too sticky or difficult to work with, cover it in plastic wrap and let it cool in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes.
- Fill each round with approximately 1 teaspoon of the apple filling. Do not over fill them! Lightly flour your fingertips and form each circle into triangles by folding up the rounds and pinching them tightly in three corners. (If they are not sticking together, wet your fingertip and rub it on the inside where you are trying to create the point.) You want to make sure that the seams are fully closed so that the filling does not break through the barriers while baking. Place the shaped hamantaschen on the prepared cookie sheets.
- Place the cookie sheets with the shaped hamantaschen in the freezer for at least 15 minutes. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP.
- Preheat oven to 400° F.
- Repeat steps 11 through 12 with the remaining disk of dough.
- Bake the frozen hamantaschen for 9-10 minutes until they are lightly brown around the bottom edges.
- Cool completely on pan or a wire rack before serving.
- For a non-dairy version, substitute vegan butter and non-dairy milk.
- If making these in one day, for time management purposes, I recommend making the dough, and while the dough disks are in the refrigerator, make the apple filling. By the time the apple filling cools, the dough should be ready to roll out.
- You can also make either or both the filling and the dough the day before and store both in the refrigerator.
- Although I have not done this, both the dough and the apple filling should freeze well. Take them both out of the freezer and place them in the refrigerator the night before you plan on rolling, shaping and baking. They should both be defrosted by the time you roll out the dough the next day.
- You can also roll and shape the hamanteschen and freeze them for up to 3 months. This way you can bake as many as you want right from the freezer.
- Once baked, store at room temperature in a sealed container. They will remain fresh for at least several days.
- Once baked, these freeze beautifully. Defrost at room temperature for 10-15 minutes.