South African Yeasted Hamantaschen. Photo: Michal Herbstman
South African Yeasted Hamantaschen. Photo: Michal Herbstman
Recipe

South African Yeasted Hamantaschen

Thought you'd eaten every kind of hamantashcen under the sun? Think again. This South African yeasted version is of the original Ashkenazi preparation

We know what you’re thinking – another hamantaschen recipe?! But stay with us here, cause these Purim classics are made with a yeasted dough which makes it a completely different cookie.

This iteration is a lesson in the evolution of the Purim staple: hamantaschen were born in Germany as large yeast pastries in the shape of a triangular pocket. The German Jews adopted the mohntash – a poppy seed pastry – and changed its name to “Hamanatsch” or “Haman’s Ear”.

The original way of preparing hamantaschen, the one that existed before the availability of commercial leaveners, was preserved in South Africa as a result of the largely isolated Jewish community which settled there, the bulk of which hailed from Lithuania. Just so we are clear, all of Eastern European Jewry originally prepared hamantaschen dough with yeast. But the creation of commercial “quick” leaveners, like baking soda and baking powder, cut the preparation time to mere hours instead of days, and Ashkenazi Jewish communities within the Northern America and Europe took to the time saving innovation like moths to a flame. Meanwhile, as one of the sole Jewish communities within Southern Africa, South African Jews retained the tradition of making hamantaschen with yeast as the norm.

And so we introduce to you a completely different version of this well-known and beloved Purim staple made with yeasted dough, filled with airy ricotta filling, and topped with sweet streusel.

Ingredients for Yeasted Hamantaschen

For the dough:

  • 2¼ tablespoons fresh yeast
  • 3/4 cup (180 grams) milk
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon (60 grams) Sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3½ cups (490 grams) flour
  • 1/2 cup (115 grams) butter room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams) Salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract OR lemon zest from 1/2 a lemon

For the streusel:

  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (90 grams) flour
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) butter
  • 3 tablespoons (30 grams) Sugar

For the cheese filling:

  • 7 oz (200 grams) ricotta
  • 1/4 cup less one tablespoon (50 grams) whipping cream sweetened
  • 3 tablespoons (30 grams) Sugar
  • 1 egg separated
  • 1-2 tablespoons flour or cornstarch

For the simple syrup:

  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) Sugar
  • 1/2 cup less 2 tablespoons (100 grams) water

For brushing:

  • 1 egg beaten

Instructions

Prepare the dough:

  • 1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, add the crumbled yeast, milk, sugar, eggs, flour, soft butter, salt, and the lemon zest or vanilla. Mix for about 6-8 minutes until you get a nice smooth dough. Cover and place in the refrigerator to rise for at least two hours and up to 24 hours.  

Prepare the streusel and filling:

  • 2. Mix the streusel ingredients together by hand or in the bowl of a stand mixer until you get a sandy mixture with some small crumbs. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

  • 3. Mix all the cheese filling ingredients together (except the egg white, reserve that for assembly) by hand until smooth and place in the refrigerator to set.

Assemble and bake:

  • 4. Roll the dough out on a floured surface to a thickness of about 1/8 of an inch (3-4 mm). With a glass or a cookie/biscuit cutter, cut out rounds with a diameter of about 9½ inches (24 cm) for a giant sized cookie and 2-2¼ inches (5-6 cm) for regular sized cookies.  

  • 5. Brush each dough round with the egg white reserved from the filling and sprinkle or place a teaspoon of the filling in the center. Create the signature shape and seal the dough by pinching together at 3 evenly spaced points around the circle. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

  • 6. Brush each circle with the beaten egg and set aside to rise until doubled in volume.

  • 7. Preheat the oven to 350F (175C) degrees.

  • 8. Once ready to bake, sprinkle the streusel on top of each hamantaschen and bake for 10-12 minutes for regular sized cookies and about 20-25 minutes for larger ones.  

  • 9. Meanwhile, bring the water and sugar to a boil until the sugar dissolves. Brush the hot cookies with the hot syrup to preserve freshness. Cool completely and serve.

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