My mother’s hamantaschen are the stuff of legend, delicate and flavorful. They stand in stark contrast to the mass-manufactured, gritty, crumbly, rock-hard pucks that circulated at childhood Purim parties. I love a food challenge – tinkering with a beloved recipe to make it accessible to everyone! So, in an effort to create a recipe worthy of Queen Esther’s Vegan Feast and my beloved vegan friends, I entered the world of mashed bananas, margarine, and egg replacements. I emerged victorious, and with a shockingly popular Instagram post as motivation, I find myself returning to this happy blog.
These triangular filled cookies are one of the traditional treats for the Jewish holiday Purim, a revelrous early spring festival often described as a Halloween-Mardi Gras hybrid. We celebrate Jewish survival and the defeat of an evil demagogue, the keen Queen Esther and wise Mordechai. However, at its core, this bacchanalian bash celebrates discretion, a mastery of political and interpersonal delicacy, and the painful sacrifice that is required of heroes.
My mother’s dough, unlike many (entirely delicious) American hamantaschen recipes, doesn’t contain cream cheese. The dough isn’t overly sweet, but is very flavorful as it contains brandy, vanilla, and citrus zest. It originally called for margarine, but I usually make it with butter. There’s no chemical leavening – it relies on an egg. So my mission was clear:
- Find margarine that is good enough to bake with
- Replace the egg with something
- BLOW PEOPLE’S MINDS
Earth Balance made the first point easy. Beloved of kosher bakers and vegans alike, this is the Cadillac of butter replacements. Boom! DONE.
Egg replacements are a harder nut to crack. I dusted off my research skills, and dove head first into fascinating options like mashed banana (sadly, I’m allergic), almond milk (sadly, behind a paywall), flax seeds, these arrowroot starch and rice flour gluten-free options (I featured the rice flour recipe in last year’s Queen Esther’s Vegan Feast round up). Finally, I landed on this Food52 piece about vegan replacements and some very scrumptious sounding sugar cookies. The author details when to use a premade replacement, make your own, or retool a recipe entirely. She recommends Ener-G, a powdered egg replacement that includes a leavening agent (crucial for my recipe), and re-enforces my Earth Balance decision. At the grocery store, I ended up getting a similar egg replacement from Bob’s Red Mill. Eggcellent!
And finally, I blow people’s minds! I used my mother’s poppyseed filling, which isn’t all that different from Uri Scheft’s in Breaking Breads, it calls for the poppy seeds to be ground, then cooked with sugar and honey (I used silan, date syrup, instead). This smoother, paste-like filling won over my grad school roommate who up until then had been an ardent opponent of poppy seed filling! I made another batch with a different, chocolate-ier filling, I’ll post an update early next week about that one!
I’ve encountered a bit of hand-wringing about how to shape these cookies. It really isn’t hard! I made this handy layout to show you how I do it, and I’ll be posting a gif on Instagram too!
The finished cookies are beautiful, in fact, much prettier than the butter version. The butter version is flakier, but has a craggy appearance whereas the vegan ones are picture-perfect, crisp, but very tender. Prepare to have your mind blown!
Interested in the contentious history of butter and margarine? Check out this fascinating, hilarious podcast.
Love butter? Click over to my flakey, gloriously buttery version of this recipe!