February 2018, four years ago, I wrote the blog post below, just before Purim. It was about my search for the best Hamentaschen in NYC. Like so many, I yearned for the Hamentaschen of my youth – yeast dough with poppy seed filling.
This year I found out that many of my students had never eaten, no-less made, Hamentaschen. So, this year all my kids are going to have a day of baking Hamentaschen – a rite of passage if ever there was one.
But my recipe is not the one of my youth – it’s a new favorite. My new recipe with buttery and flaky crust filled with scrumpteous chocolate has inched into first place!
Purim has always been a big deal in my life. Growing up in the small city of Newburgh, NY, we diligently learned the songs of Purim in Religious School and planned our costumes meticulously.
Now, Newburgh may have been small, but it had the best Jewish bakery. The challah. The rye bread. And the hamentaschen. These were yeast Hamentaschen – large, light and fluffy, with either poppy or prune filling. The dough was glazed with honey and topped with almond slices. When we moved from Newburgh in 1968 I mourned those Hamentaschen every year.
My freshman year year in college my friends and I tried to bake our own hamentaschen in a dorm kitchen. Nice try but really not so great. When I first got married I tried my hand at baking them again, but I could never replicate the yeast hamentaschen that I remembered from my youth.
In the ensuing years I never cared much for Hamentaschen since the only kind that seemed to be available were parve, with thick, tasteless dough and an excess of sugar. I would bight into one just because it was Purim and then through the rest away. What a waste of calories.
This year I thought it was about time to find out where to find yeast dough hamentaschen. Surely it must be somewhere in New York City.
So, I put it out on Facebook, asking my NYC friends where to find the best hamentaschen in NYC. Two names kept coming up: Andre’s on Second Avenue and 85th Street, and Breads Bakery on 16th Street west of Broadway.
And so, this Purim, Michael and I embarked on a tasting.
Purim Eve: I should have guessed that the hamentaschen of my dreams was right around the corner from me at Andre’s, where we bought one mohn (poppy), one walnut and one prune. We cut them up, made a pot of tea and sat down to evaluate. I dove into the poppy, but I was disappointed. The crust seemed too crusty – not light enough, and not enough honey glaze on the top to make the whole thing a little squishier. The walnut – ok now this was really good. It had a much lighter crust and a filling like I have never tasted before. But it was the prune that sent me straight to heaven. Perfect filo-light dough with a thick, smooth prune filling that melted in my mouth. Now that’s a hamentaschen!
Purim afternoon: off to Breads in Union Square. Breads is a Garden of Eden for carb addicts. Their hamentaschen were so popular that they had a separate area for procuring them, much like pies at Thanksgiving or round challahs on Rosh Hashana. But they did not have any yeast dough hamentaschen¸ only cookie dough.
We chose a box of six: chocolate, prune, poppy, white cream and chocolate chip and two apple. OK folks – this was unlike any cookie Hamentaschen I have ever eaten. First, if you’re kosher, don’t try eating it after a meat meal. It’s made with decadent amounts of butter which makes it melt in your mouth. The apple filling was extraordinary and the chocolate was whipped and milky. The poppy was practically perfect – not too lemony, not too gritty, dusted in powdered sugar. And the cream and chocolate chip was airy and delightful.
We only got to these two places, but I feel like I didn’t need to search any longer. I had found the best yeast and the best cookie hamentaschen in NYC. Of course, MY winner is – Andre’s Prune, because of the dough. But Breads were hands down the best cookie Hamentaschen I have ever tasted. Worth waiting another year to taste again! Chag Sameach!