The Jewish holiday of Purim is in a few days. This festive holiday, commonly celebrated with wild costume parties and drunken escapades, commemorates the time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination. The villain of the Purim, a man named Haman, is remembered by the traditional food of the holiday – the Hamentaschen.
What’s a Hamentaschen? It’s a triangular-shaped pastry, filled with a sweet or savory filling. I grew up making Hamentaschen every year with my mom. She would make the dough, a sugary cookie dough, and then we’d assemble the Hamentaschen in a factory-like format. I’d roll the dough and cut the dough into circles with a floured cutter. She’d put a spoonful of filling (apricot and prune were my favorites) into the center of the circle and fold the corners to become triangle-shaped. We made dozens of Hamentaschen each year, we ate a lot of them, and gave others away in packages called Mishloach Manot – a Purim basket filled with sweets for family and friends.
Over the years, I made several variations of my mom’s Hamentaschen recipe. But this year, I decided to make a big change and make a raw pastry.
My interest in raw desserts began a few years ago when I eliminated gluten from my diet. I was always an avid baker, but quickly learned that gluten-free baking isn’t as easy as standard baking, especially given that I also preferred a plant-based diet. Without dairy, eggs, or gluten, making baked desserts isn’t so simple. However, raw desserts are nearly always gluten-free, as well as dairy and egg-free. I began experimenting with different raw recipes that I found online or in cookbooks. I developed my own recipes and enjoyed the new found freedom of eating decadent un-baked desserts.
This past fall, I spent a weekend learning the intricacies of raw desserts from a pro. I took an online intensive course from Matthew Kenney, one of the most well-known chefs in the raw food world. I made raw candies, cookies, tarts, and ice cream over the course of a short weekend, it was a delicious experience! As I learned different techniques, I started writing more of my own raw dessert recipes, and that’s where the inspiration for these raw Hamentaschen was born.
I’ll be honest, this is not an easy recipe, despite the short ingredient list. Working with raw dough takes some patience! However, you will be rewarded with the most deliciously complex Hamentaschen, and you may never want to eat a traditional baked Hamentaschen ever again.
Raw Nut-Free Cacao Hamentaschen
Ingredients: (use organic whenever possible)
1 C raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 C dates, pitted
2 t vanilla extract
1 1/2 T raw cacao powder
pinch of sea salt
1/2 C dates, pitted and soaked in warm water for 20 minutes
2 T Soom Chocolate Sesame Spread
Grind the pepitas into flour. This is best done with a dry container (made for a high-speed blender) or with a seed mill. Be careful not to over-grind and turn the seeds into a paste! Once all of the seeds are finely ground into flour, measure 3/4 C of the flour and place in the bowl of a food processor. (save the remaining flour for another use)
Add the dates to the flour and process until the dates begin to break down into smaller pieces. Add the vanilla extract, cacao powder and salt. Process until the dates and flour become a cohesive mixture – this will take several minutes. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl periodically, if needed.
Remove the dough, it may be crumbly, and use your hands to form it into a ball. Squeeze the dough together to release some of the oils from the seeds, to make a smooth dough. Place dough in a bowl, cover and chill for at least 2 hours.
While the dough is chilling, make the filling. Place the soaked dates and chocolate sesame spread in the food processor and blend, stopping the machine periodically to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Continue to process until a smooth mixture is formed. Remove from the food processor to a small bowl, cover and chill until ready to proceed.
Make the Hamentaschen. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Using your hands, take a quarter of the dough and roll it into a ball. Place the ball between two sheets of waxed paper and roll into a thin dough (approximately 1/8-inch thick), using a rolling pin. Use a 3-inch cookie cutter to cut the dough into circles. Place the circles on the prepared baking sheet and continue to roll and cut the dough until all of the dough is used.
Using a teaspoon, roll the filling into 14 balls. Put one ball in the middle of each circle of dough. With slightly damp hands, fold the dough into a triangular shape, pinching the edges closed. Once all of the dough is filled and shaped, place the baking sheet into the freezer for at least 2 hours to chill.
Recipe yields 14 Hamentaschen
Hamentaschen can be made many days in-advance. Keep frozen, in a covered container, until ready to serve. Remove from the freezer 20 minutes prior to serving.
Substitute ground almond for the pepita flour, if desired.