Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Rebecca's Apricot Filled Hamantaschen

All from scratch this time!

This year, Purim begins at sunset tonight! To celebrate, I decided to revisit a favorite treat, but with a twist. Some of you might remember I’ve made hamantaschen before. One of the great things about them is how versatile they can be. Although the traditional flavors are apricot and prune, you can fill them with just about anything, and even tweak the dough to make chocolate, almond, or orange cookies. 

But whenever I’ve made them in the past, I’ve always gone the lazy route and used a store bought filling. This time, I decided to shake things up and see just how difficult it would be to make my own from scratch! 

Will it be worth it, or proof that going store bought isn’t so bad? Read on to find out!

Purim commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, a vizier under Xerxes I who was planning on killing all the Jews until Esther, a Jewish woman who was Queen of Persia, thwarted his plans. Hamantaschen are named after his triangle shaped hat. Although Purim is not featured in any of Rebecca’s core series stories, she takes inspiration from Esther’s bravery in A Bundle of Trouble, a Rebecca mystery involving Rebecca investigating kidnappers and a case of mistaken identity. 

Apricot jam is my favorite traditional filling for hamantaschen (although my favorite non traditional filling is Nutella!), and I thought it might be fun to try making my own jam or apricot butter from scratch. Although it’s possible Mrs. Rubin, Aunt Fannie, or Bubbie would have bought apricot jam from a store, it’s equally possible they would have decided to make their own for their hamantaschen. One of the things I’ve enjoyed about this blog is exploring how easy or difficult it is to make food from scratch. Sometimes it turns out to be totally worth the effort, like the really delicious bagels I made back in the early days of A Peek into the Pantry, while others have felt like a little bit of a time waster, like the peaches I sliced up for my VJ Day cobbler, which ended up tasting exactly like canned peaches! 

Once again, I turned to my favorite food blogger Tori Avey for a recipe for apricot hamantaschen filling. Her blog features a lot of different delicious sounding fillings to try, and I’ve always enjoyed making recipes from her blog, so I was decided to give this a try. 

You start out with two cups of dried, pitted apricots. I love dried apricots, but I have to admit, buying two whole cups of them did give me a little sticker shock. I know living in DC means most of my groceries are more expensive than if I was living in the suburbs, but I was still cringing a little to know that they were costing me about $12 when a jar of apricot jam is usually at least a little cheaper than that, if not significantly cheaper! 

You put your apricots in a pan with 1 cup of water, 1/4 cup of orange juice, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and a pinch salt. Mix it all up, and then bring it to a boil. Let it boil for one minute, and then reduce the heat to medium low to get it simmering. Cover the pot, and let it simmer for 30 minutes. I stirred it a couple times to make sure nothing was burning or sticking to the base of the pot. 

When you uncover the pot, you’ll see your apricots have plumped up a lot. Let it continue simmering until about 2 to 3 tablespoons of liquid are left in the pot.

Get out a potato masher, immersion blender, or just two forks if you want more of a work out to mash up your apricots. You’ll be left with a thick, tasty looking jam. 

The jam should be allowed to cool to room temperature at least before you try to fill your cookies, but is probably most cooperative when fully chilled in the fridge, so I let mine sit overnight to get nice and cool.

Now you’re ready to make your cookie dough! There are lots of great hamantaschen dough recipes out there. You can follow the one I used in my first hamantaschen post, or Tori Avey has a great one that makes an almost shortbread like cookie, especially when you’re eating them almost straight out of the oven. 

My homemade jam was pretty thick because I decided an immersion blender wasn’t historically accurate, so it was a bit of a pain getting the teaspoon of filling I needed to fill my three inch in diameter cookies. I felt like I had to keep picking out chunky bits of skin that hadn’t quite mashed up enough.

But they baked up into nice looking cookies!

I really love hamantaschen. They don’t have to be enjoyed only during Purim – it’s a perfect cookie for a tea time snack or after dinner treat. Let me tell you, it was really hard sitting in my apartment with the packed up cookies waiting to bring them into the office for everyone to try. 

Speaking of which, I was also really pleased to discover that some of my coworkers are very, very into hamantaschen and were very excited to see the cookies in the kitchen. It’s fun bringing in new treats for people to try, but it’s always fun to realize you surprised someone with a favorite snack or dessert. It also meant I didn’t have any left overs to bring home, which is good for someone who’s really trying to stay on track with eating better in 2018. 

But I bet you’re all wondering what I thought of the filling. It was really tasty, and honestly tasted a lot like most apricot jams I’ve bought from stores. It was super thick, and mine was definitely chunky, but it was still scoopable and spreadable, so it works for hamantaschen, other jam filled cookies, sandwiches, or toast. It also wasn’t sickeningly sweet, and the apricot flavor is definitely what shines through the most, as it should! 

It also really wasn’t hard to make. Although anything involving a stove should have some form of adult supervision, any younger Rebecca Rubin fans out there could confidently make this themselves. It’s a great one pot recipe that basically just requires dumping, boiling, stirring, and mashing. As long as you don’t forget it on the stove, you should do fine. 

That being said… 

I’m not sure this was actually worth it outside of being a fun peek at what making hamantaschen would have involved for people who didn’t have access to prepackaged jams. It wound up being a little pricey to make, and also made a lot of jam. I don’t think I used half of it to make the hamantaschen, which means I’ve got a huge amount of leftovers. I’m even considering making another batch of cookies to bring into work since they were such a big hit. I don’t eat a lot of jam on a day to day basis, and while it does keep in the fridge for a while, I do think it would have been more cost effective just to use a store bought jam. This might be one of those times where the product of convenience ends up creating a finished product that can be just as good as the homemade version. 

But hey, I’m not really complaining. I love hamantaschen, and folding up the corners to make the triangle shaped cookies is always going to be a favorite way to spend an afternoon. I guess having extra jam really does just give me an excuse to make more!

Happy Purim!


  1. Chag sameach!

    Pueblo people make prune and apricot pies with filling prepared much the same way as these apricots!

    1. That's awesome! Now I want an apricot pie...

  2. I recently discovered your blog, and I'm very happy to have found it. Being both 18-inch doll collector, and gourmande in search of always new recipes, while not really loving the modern kitchen, I found at home everything I like.
    Thank you very much :-)

    1. Thanks for the kind feedback! I hope you enjoy my future posts as well. :)

  3. Can I come to your house for dessert? My parents best friends were Jewish and growing up we went to their house all the time. They often served Hamantaschen and in different flavors even Poppy. They were more excited to come to our house for dinner and have American food...but that is long story be it funny.

    1. I'm always happy to have more taste testers! :) One of my very good friends growing up was the first person to introduce me to hamantaschen and it's a super fond memory for me as well. Her mom would make chocolate ones for the kids, apricot and prune for the grown ups, and even let us sneak some cookie dough!

  4. Wish I could have tasted the jam! I love apricot jam. It would have been nice to have some homemade.

    1. I should have said I still had some when you were visiting last time! I've still got a ton of it in the fridge. I'm not really sure what to do with it...