These dairy free hamantaschen are incredibly sweet! They have a delicious cookie outside and can be filled with anything, including prune or fig preserves, jam, chocolate, or Nutella.
Hamantaschen means Haman’s hats in Yiddish, and are traditionally eaten on the Jewish holiday of Purim.
In Israel, pretty much as soon Chanukah is over, hamantaschen replace sufganiyot in the bakeries.
Growing up, whether I was living in Israel or New York, Purim was my favorite holiday! While there is so much that I love about it, my mother’s hamantaschen are one of the best parts.
Purim commemorates G-d saving the Jews, through Queen Esther (pronounced Ester), from being massacred throughout the Persian empire by Haman.
In honor of this miracle, for almost 2,500 years, we celebrate by feasting, dressing up in costumes, mishloach manot (food-filled gift bags), and give charity to the needy.
These cookies are made as a triangle because Haman is said to have worn triangular hats. Though, in Hebrew they are called Ozni Haman, which means ears of Haman, because he is said to have triangle shaped ears, so who knows.
Either way, my family’s mishloach manot were never without these hamantaschen. I hope your family enjoys them as much as mine does.
Traditionally, hamantaschen are filled with fig or prune preserves. However, in Israel they are usually filled with jelly or chocolate. Chocolate seems to be the most popular.
Personally though, I always go for the apricot jelly ones and then the strawberry jelly. As the sugar bakes, it turns the jelly into a sort of candy that I just love!
HOW TO MEASURE FLOUR AND OTHER DRY INGREDIENTS
Using a dry measuring cup, scoop ingredients from the bag or spoon them into the cup.
Next, level off the ingredient by removing the excess with an upside-down butter knife.
The one exception to this is brown sugar. Brown sugar should be packed down, and then any excess should be scraped off as well.
DRY VS LIQUID MEASURING CUP
Ever wonder why measuring spoons often come with a set of measuring cups? I used to. I didn’t see why we needed a set when we could have one large measuring cup.
After a quick search, I had my answer. I discovered that the large measuring cup is used for liquids, whereas the set is used for dry ingredients.
As it turns out, if you try to measure dry ingredients with a liquid cup, the measurements get messed up.
First, you pour the flour or cocoa in, next you shake it around to get it level, and then you add more.
By shaking it, you are causing the powder to settle, and when you add more, you end up using more than called for.
WHY SIFT FLOUR and Other Powder Ingredients
There are a number of benefits to sifting flour and other ingredients like cocoa:
It removes any unwanted debris and you can get a more accurate measurement than when packed tightly in a bag.
It also removes any lumps that can get into the batter and be hard to break up later, or be missed altogether before baking.
If you sift the powdered ingredients together, it helps combine them and mix more evenly with other dry ingredients like sugar.
BAKING WITH OIL
In general, oil in baked goods makes for a superior texture than those made with butter.
Oil cakes tend to bake up taller with a better crumb. They also stay moist and tender far longer than recipes made with butter.
Furthermore, since oil is lighter than butter, the texture of oil cakes is lighter too.
Also, given that oil is 100% fat while most American butter is 15% water, it creates a more tender crumb.
This is due to the fact that the extra water strengthens the gluten, resulting in a crumb that’s more dense.
Which Type Of Oil to Use
I use neutral oils like canola oil, safflower oil, and vegetable oil. However, it’s not unheard of for oils with stronger flavors like olive oil or coconut oil to be used.
If using olive oil, I recommend using pure olive oil for its milder flavor and higher smoking point.
Baking with Oil Conversion Chart
If you want to convert your butter recipes to oil recipes, check out my baking with oil – butter to oil conversion chart.
Sugar may seem very basic if you’ve baked before, but I’ve been asked about it in the past – so I’ll explain.
There are many different types of sugar, including white sugar, brown sugar, vanilla sugar, powdered sugar, turbinado sugar, and demerara sugar.
When a recipe (any recipe, not just mine) says “sugar” without specifying anything else, it is regular white sugar.
White sugar (sometimes called granulated sugar, table sugar, or white granulated sugar) is made of either beet sugar or cane sugar, which has undergone a refining process.
It is the easiest to find and most commonly used.
Brown sugar is white sugar with molasses added to it.
It is commonly used in chocolate chip cookie recipes, and it’s rare for a recipe that calls for brown sugar not to also call for white sugar as well.
When a recipe calls for “brown sugar” but doesn’t specify what type (light or dark), it is referring to light brown sugar.
In my recipes, you can use whatever type of brown sugar you have on hand, whether it is dark brown sugar, light brown sugar, or demerara sugar – which is very common in Israel.
Just keep in mind that the flavor and color will be slightly different depending on what you choose to use.
Turbinado sugar is better known as “raw sugar”. But, despite this name, the sugar is not really “raw.”
Instead, it’s partially refined sugar that retains some of the original molasses.
The term “raw sugar” may also give off the impression that it is somehow healthier.
In reality, turbinado sugar is nutritionally similar to white sugar.
Demerara sugar is very popular in Israel and is especially delicious in tea, but is also used for baking.
Unlike white sugar, demerara sugar undergoes minimal processing and retains some vitamins and mineral.
However, it is still not much healthier than white sugar.
Vanilla sugar is not very common in the States. However, it is common in Israel and parts of Europe.
This is sugar that sat for an extended period of time with vanilla beans, giving it a vanilla flavor.
This type of sugar is common in the United Kingdom.
It has a grain finer than white (granulated) sugar and larger than powdered sugar.
Caster sugar is often called for in recipes for delicate baked goods like meringues, souffles, and sponge cakes.
You can use a 1:1 conversion rate between caster sugar and white (granulated) sugar.
Powdered sugar, sometimes known as confectioners’ sugar, is a sugar with a powdered texture.
This sugar is rarely, if ever, used for baking. Instead, it is used for dusting desserts and making frosting and icings.
In some countries, you can also find powdered vanilla sugar.
It is made the exact same way regular vanilla sugar is made. However, the sugar used is powdered instead of granulated.
Vanilla Extract vs Vanilla sugar
In my recipes, I don’t specify what kind of vanilla to use.
The reason for this is that in the States, vanilla extract is exclusively used.
Meanwhile in Israel, along with many European countries, vanilla sugar is common.
In most, if not all recipes, both vanilla extract and vanilla sugar can be used.
In recipes where vanilla sugar can be used instead of extract, you can replace them 1:1.
Replacing Sugar with Honey
If you’d prefer to use honey instead of sugar, you can do so with pretty good results.
Honey can be two or even three times as sweet depending on the honey, so for every 1 cup of sugar, you can use 1/2 to 2/3 cup honey.
Since honey adds liquid, you need to remove some to balance it out. For every cup of honey remove a 1/4 cup of liquid.
Also, it burns faster than granulated sugar, so you want to lower the baking temperature by 25 F or 4 C. In addition, check it early and often to avoid burning or overbaking.
Types of Vanilla
Vanilla comes from a pod commonly known as a “vanilla bean”, which comes from the vanilla orchids.
Vanilla pod has been used for flavoring since the Aztecs, and was introduced to Europe by a Spanish conquistador, along with cocoa.
Vanilla extract is created by soaking vanilla beans in alcohol for some time. This is the most commonly used type of vanilla.
Vanilla sugar is common in Europe and some parts of the Middle East, like Israel.
It is made from vanilla beans sitting in sugar, vanilla bean powder mixed with sugar, or sugar mixed with vanilla extract.
In some countries, like Italy, you can also find vanilla powdered sugar, which is used for confections.
Vanilla paste is generally a specialty item. It is a thick paste that contains a blend of the scraped-out vanilla pod seeds and vanilla extract.
You can use it as you do vanilla extract and it will leave flakes of vanilla bean like you see in vanilla bean ice cream.
Imitation Vanilla, otherwise known as artificial vanilla or vanilla essence, is made from synthetic vanilla.
This is the compound that naturally occurs in vanilla beans and gives it its flavor.
Can I use imitation vanilla?
Many will tell you that you should use high quality vanilla, just like they say you should use the best cocoa.
However, most of us will probably not be willing to pay the hefty price that comes with exceptionally high-quality ingredients.
Overall, vanilla is very expensive, so the extract is as well.
So, if you’re not going to get regular quality vanilla extract, you might as well use imitation vanilla.
DO EGGS NEED TO BE AT ROOM TEMPERATURE?
The short answer is “no”. While a side-by-side comparison shows that baking with eggs at room temperature makes a better crumb, it’s not otherwise noticeable.
What are Eggs used for?
Eggs do three things in most recipes: they help bind the ingredients together, act as a mild leavening agent, and they add moisture.
EGG FREE OPTION
Eggs can be substituted with 1/4 cup of unsweetened apple sauce per egg. This means for recipes calling for 2 eggs, you’d need 1/2 cup of unsweetened apple sauce.
The reason applesauce makes a good binder is that it’s high in pectin. Pectin is a naturally occurring starch in fruits and berries that acts as a thickening agent and stabilizer in food.
This happens when combined with sugar and acid (if the fruit or berry isn’t naturally acidic).
Just keep in mind that it may change the flavor slightly.
ARE EGGS DAIRY?
No, eggs are not dairy. Dairy is milk and any food products made from milk, including cheese, cream, butter, and yogurt.
So, while eggs are an animal product, they are not dairy. In fact, eggs fall under the protein food group.
BAKING POWDER VS BAKING SODA
I’ve had a number of comments asking me questions about baking soda and baking powder.
I’ve also noticed that if the wrong one is used, things don’t come out as they should.
Using baking soda instead of baking powder can give your recipe a terrible metallic taste, while using baking powder instead of baking soda leaves your baked goods looking flat.
Baking soda is a leavening agent, which means it helps things rise.
It does this by creating carbon dioxide when it reacts to an acid, such as cream of tartar, lemon juice, yogurt, buttermilk, cocoa, and vinegar.
When the carbon dioxide is released, it causes the familiar texture and crumb in pancakes, cakes, quick breads, soda bread, and other baked and fried foods.
Baking soda works well with sourdough because sourdough is acidic. When combined, it makes a lighter product with a less acidic taste, since baking soda is alkaline.
A good rule of thumb is to use around 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda per 1 cup of flour.
Baking powder is also a leavening agent and it’s a mixture of baking soda, cream of tartar, and sometimes cornstarch.
Most baking powder sold is double-acting. This means that the leavening occurs in two steps.
The first time it’s activated is when baking powder gets wet, which is why you cannot prepare some batters ahead of time to bake later.
The second time is when the baking powder is exposed to heat. This happens when the batter is being baked or fried.
Since baking powder already contains an acid, it’s most often used when a recipe does not call for an additional acidic ingredient or too little of one.
A good rule of thumb is to use around 1 teaspoon of baking powder per 1 cup of flour.
WHY SOME RECIPES CALL FOR BOTH
Some recipes call for both baking powder and baking soda when the carbon dioxide created from the acid and baking soda is not enough to leaven the volume of batter in the recipe.
Too much baking soda gives a terrible metallic taste, so baking powder is added to give it more lift.
WHICH ONE IS STRONGER?
You may have already guessed the answer since baking soda is used to make baking powder, and you need more baking powder per cup of flour. But I’ll tell you anyway.
Baking soda is four times stronger than baking powder.
That’s why you will more often than not see recipes that only call for baking soda rather than recipes that only call for baking powder.
HOW LONG DO THEY LAST?
Baking soda is good indefinitely past its best by date, although it can lose potency over time.
A rule of thumb is two years for an unopened package and six months for an opened package.
However, to be honest, I’ve used very old baking soda with good results.
Like baking soda, baking powder is good indefinitely past its best by date, and can lose its potency over time.
For both opened and unopened, it’s ideal to use it within nine months to a year.
While storing it, make sure to keep it in a dry place and away from humidity.
HOW TO TEST IF IT’S STILL GOOD
To test baking powder, pour 3 tablespoons of warm water into a small bowl, add 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, and stir.
If the baking powder is good to use, it should fizz a little.
To test baking soda, pour 3 tablespoons of white distilled vinegar into a small bowl, add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, and stir.
The mixture should rapidly bubble if the soda is fresh.
Baking with Humidity
Humidity can have a big impact on how your baked goods come out.
This is because when humidity is extremely high (think 70 percent or more), baking ingredients like flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda soak up moisture from the air.
This can negatively impact the outcome of your cakes, cookies, yeast breads, and quick breads.
There are some things you can do to try to save your baking.
Try to counterbalance the additional moisture
To help counterbalance the additional moisture your dry ingredients soak up from the air, try reducing the amount of liquid in the recipe by about one-quarter.
If the batter or dough looks too dry once all the ingredients are mixed together, add an additional liquid tablespoon at a time until you have the desired consistency.
This is not usually possible to do for cookies, but it does work for cakes and breads.
Store Ingredients in the Fridge
If flour and sugar are stored in the refrigerator or freezer rather than in a cupboard or pantry, they are better protected from humidity.
As an added benefit, keeping these ingredients cool also helps keep them fresher longer, in addition to helping them stay bug-free.
For the best results, let them warm to room temperature before using.
Bake for Longer
If you bake your goodies for a few extra minutes, it can help the liquid to cook off.
To avoid overbaking, continue testing for doneness every couple of minutes for breads, quick breads, cakes, cupcakes, and muffins. Cookies, on the other hand, need to be checked every minute.
Use Air Conditioning
To help lower humidity levels on humid summer days, air condition the room for at least an hour before you start baking.
Cooler air isn’t able to hold as much moisture as warm air.
Store your baked goods in an airtight container
Humidity can also ruin your fresh-baked goods because when they are left out, they can absorb moisture.
To avoid this, store them in an airtight container or resealable bag.
Adjusting for a Convection Oven
An ordinary oven cooks by enveloping food in hot, dry air. This air heats the outside of the food which slowly penetrates to the inside of the food until it’s cooked all the way.
Now, in a convection oven, the fan produces extra energy. It takes the hot air and blows it around, producing around 25 to 30 percent more energy, depending on the fan’s power.
Regular ovens also can have hot spots, but the fan in a convection oven will circulate the air to help even out the temperature variances.
Since convection ovens produce more heat, you need either lowering the temperature or shortening the cooking time to compensate.
When recipes specify temperatures and cooking times, it’s for conventional ovens. Of course, this is unless the recipe is specifically for convection ovens.
The simplest method is to set the oven 25ºF to 50ºF lower than the recipe says.
A simple rule to follow is to lower the temperature by 25ºF when baking cookies and pies, but 50ºF when roasting meats. Some convection ovens offer separate settings for baking and for roasting.
You can also leave the temperature the same and instead shorten the cooking time by 25 percent. For example, if your recipe calls for 60 minutes in the oven, check the food after 45 minutes instead.
However, keep in mind, some convection ovens actually make a heat adjustment for you. That is, if you set a convection oven for 350ºF, it might actually set itself to 325ºF to compensate. So, check your manual before making adjustments.
WHY IS IT TAKING LONGER THAN DESCRIBED TO BAKE?
Over time, the thermostat on ovens gets a little off causing some ovens to run hot and others to run cool. This is why recipes tend to say things like “10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.” So, if it takes you longer than expected, that’s fine, don’t worry about it. Just keep baking until ready.
WHY DID MY RECIPE COME OUT TOO DRY?
Just like some ovens run cool, others run hot. If your oven runs hot bake these at a lower temperature. Ideally, you should get an oven thermometer to know what temperature you’re really baking at.
TO CHILL OR NOT TO CHILL?
Oil cookies do not need to be chilled. I’ve tried chilling them as well as putting them directly into the oven. I haven’t found that chilling made any difference what so ever.
HOW TO STORE COOKIES
Let cookies cool completely. Place in a resealable bag or an airtight container. Store at room temperature for up to a week.
HOW TO FREEZE COOKIES
Let cookies cool completely. It is best to freeze cookies on a tray so that they freeze as individuals and then move to a resealable freezer bag.
If this is not practical for you, place cooled cookies in a resealable freezer bag and freeze that way.
Cookies will keep for up to 3 months. After that, the quality begins to degrade.
When thawing baked cookies, remove from bag and let sit at room temperature.
If desired, you can gently reheat thawed cookies to mimic that fresh-baked taste and texture: place them in a 275°F or 140°C oven until soft.
If you fold the sides over like you would the flaps of a box, they hold together better.