These chocolate and rosemary halva hamantaschen cookies are filled with a chocolate halva ganache and crunchy toasted sesame seeds. They're one of my favorite Purim treats, and I hope you'll like them as much as I do!
Purim usually falls in March or April each year, and is one of the most fun Jewish holidays, imo. Hamantaschen are triangular cookies with a variety of fillings and they're very fun to make.
If you've been around here a while you know I love combining rosemary and chocolate, as I did in this rosemary chocolate chip loaf cake, and this double chocolate rosemary ice cream. And if you need some other serving suggestions, both would go really well with these hamantaschen!
🍾 About Hamantaschen and Purim
For the uninitiated, hamantaschen get their name from Haman, the villain of the Purim story, who famously wore a triangular three-pointed hat.
Though Purim's signature cookies get their name from the holiday's villain, you might be more familiar with Esther, the hero of the story (though Vashti remains tragically overlooked as a feminist icon), who saves the Jewish people from Haman's scheming.
Yes, it's another holiday about the Jewish people surviving an attempted genocide. (You know, just your typical light food blog fare.)
Unlike Passover, which requires us to relive the entire story in excruciating detail, Purim is celebrated by an all-day fast followed by an evening of raucous partying, drinking, and making merry. Everyone dresses up in costumes, gives each other sweet treats (mishloach manot), drinks wine, and boos and jeers every time Haman's name is mentioned as the Purim story is read aloud.
🍬 What Makes These Hamantaschen Different
Traditionally hamantaschen are filled with jam or a poppyseed filling called mohn that tricks you by looking like chocolate but not actually being chocolate.
And, if I'm being honest, I've never really liked a lot of the traditional hamantaschen fillings. When we used to get hamantaschen at school or shul, I'd nibble around the edges, trying to only eat the delicious cookie bits.
So when I set out to make my own hamantaschen recipe I knew I wanted a light, flaky cookie that had a unique flavor of its own. And I definitely wanted a chocolate filling.
I also wanted it to have a cohesive, layered flavor profile from the outside in, rather than tasting like a plain cookie with any random filling. I've been obsessed with Smitten Kitchen's olive oil shortbread with rosemary chocolate chunks for a while now, so that was my starting point for flavors.
Shortbread is a bit too crumbly for hamantaschen, so I turned to Alex Lau's butter based hamantaschen dough from Bon Appetit, and added finely chopped semi-sweet chocolate and fresh rosemary to the mix.
UPDATE 2/2022 — Friend of the blog and excellent food writer and educator Abigail Koffler wrote about many of the issues with Lau's recipe last year, so I've given this whole recipe an update to make it parve (dairy free). Hamantaschen don't have to be parve, but if you're not sure if your guests keep kosher or not, better safe than sorry. This time I adapted Tori Avey's Dairy-Free Hamantaschen recipe and I actually think it's a much better cookie overall!
For the filling, I took inspiration from the poppy seeds of mohn, but went in a slightly sweeter, nuttier, and more affordable direction and used sesame seeds instead.
The filling is made from a crumbled bar of halva (a candy-like bar made from tahini aka sesame paste and sugar) mixed with a semi-sweet chocolate ganache (made with tahini instead of heavy cream) and whole sesame seeds.
📋 Ingredient Notes
Here's what you'll need to make these rosemary and chocolate halva hamantaschen! Some of these ingredients may be a bit harder to find in your local grocery store, but I've included links so you can order online. See recipe card for quantities.
For the Hamantaschen dough:
- Flour - Regular all-purpose flour is just fine here.
- Sugar - Plain granulated sugar.
- Vegetable Shortening - I used Crisco because it is Parve, but any brand of shortening will work just fine.
- Eggs - Large eggs. To quickly bring eggs to room temperature, submerge them in hot water for 5-10 minutes.
- Baking Powder - The leavening agent in this cookie dough. Baking powder has a shelf life of 6 months to one year, so make sure you know your baking powder is still good. There aren't any other ingredients working to leaven these cookies so you want to make sure the baking powder is ready to go!
- Salt - I use Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt which isn't as salty as other brands of salt (including other kosher salts). If you're using a different brand, use half the amount of salt this recipe calls for.
- Rosemary - Fresh rosemary, minced very finely. You don't want to bite into a cookie and get a big piece of rosemary leaf!
- Chocolate - I used a semi-sweet chocolate, but you can use any chocolate you like as long as it is a bar chocolate that you chop by hand. Chocolate chips, even mini chocolate chips, are too big for these. You need to be able to roll and cut and shape the hamantaschen dough and if you have big chocolate chunks, they'll tear the dough when you fold it. Use a dairy-free chocolate to keep these hamantaschen parve.
- Vanilla Bean Paste - I use Heilala vanilla bean paste but you can also use vanilla extract or scrape the seeds from one whole vanilla bean.
For the Hamantaschen filling:
- Halva - Halva is a sesame candy made from tahini. If you can't find Halva at your grocery store, you can get it online at Amazon, Target, or at speciality stores like Seed + Mill. I've made these with plain and marbled halva, but if all you can find are chocolate covered halva bars that's fine too.
- Tahini - Tahini can often be found in the International/Kosher section of your grocery store, or might even be near the other nut butters. Tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds. It has a tendency to separate if it sits too long, so make sure you shake the jar well or give it a good stir before pouring. If you can't find it in your grocery store, you can order tahini online from Soom on Amazon, SoCo, or get Joyva Tahini from Target.
- Chocolate - The same chocolate you use for the cookie dough. This chocolate can be roughly chopped. Look for a chocolate bar that is 4 oz in weight and you'll have exactly enough chocolate for the cookie dough and the ganache.
- Sugar - Optional, to taste. Tahini is unsweetened and depending on how sweet the chocolate you use is, you may want to add a bit of sugar to the ganache.
- Salt - Optional, to taste. Again, if not using Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt, use half the amount the recipe calls for.
- Sesame Seeds - I like using toasted sesame seeds. You can buy pre-toasted sesame seeds or toast them yourself, but this is entirely optional. To toast, just place in a dry skillet over medium heat. Stir constantly until they're lightly golden brown and aromatic.
🥣 Instructions - Hamantaschen Dough
Start by melting the shortening in the microwave. Do this in short bursts and stop when there are a few pieces of shortening still floating around. They'll melt from the residual heat. Set aside to cool slightly while you measure your dry ingredients.
Sift the dry ingredients — flour, baking powder, and salt — together in a large mixing bowl. Then whisk in the minced rosemary and finely minced chocolate and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the room temperature eggs, shortening, vanilla bean paste, and sugar. (Yes, sugar counts as a wet ingredient here.)
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix with a sturdy spatula until the mixture is very crumbly and all the liquid has absorbed.
Pick the dough up in your hands and smoosh and knead it until all the flour absorbs. The dough shouldn't be super wet or sticky. Shape it into a ball and flatten it into a disc.
🍫 Instructions - Chocolate Halva Ganache
To make the chocolate halva ganache, we're first going to melt the chocolate together with tahini over a double boiler.
To make a double boiler: Fill a small sauce pot with about an inch of water. Place the chocolate and tahini together in a heat proof bowl that fits comfortably over the mouth of the pot without the bottom touching the water.
Without the bowl on top, bring the water to a vigorous rolling boil. Then turn the heat off, place the bowl on top of the pot and stir with a spatula until the chocolate melts completely.
Once the chocolate and tahini have been melted together, use a mini food processor to pulse the crumbled halva until it has the texture of clumpy wet sand.
Pour the chocolate tahini mixture into the food processor and process until smooth. Then transfer it back into the bowl you melted the chocolate in.
Stir in the sesame seeds and add sugar and salt (if needed) to taste.
Set the chocolate halva filling aside to cool to room temperature. If you're not using it right away you can cover it and put it in the fridge. Just take it out about 30 minutes before you plan to assemble the hamantaschen so it has time to soften slightly.
🔪 How to Shape Hamantaschen
Roll your cookie dough about ¼" thick and use a 3" round cutter to cut circles out of it. Plop in your chocolate halva ganache filling, use your finger to brush water around the edges, then fold the top two sides together to make a point.
Finally, use your thumbs to fold the bottom section up to meet the sides creating a triangle shape. Pinch firmly so they don't unfold in the oven.
Arrange the shaped hamantaschen in tight rows on a quarter sheet pan and chill in the fridge at least 30-60 minutes before baking. No need to cover them.
If you need to chill them longer, cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap.
Bake hamantaschen in a 350F oven on a lined sheet pan for 14-16 minutes. Hamantaschen don't spread out much, but you will want to leave at least 2 inches between them in case any unfold in the oven.
You may need to bake in a few batches. If you fit multiple sheet pans in your oven, just swap the pans halfway through baking for even browning.
👩🏻🍳 Practical Tips & Recipe Notes
- I used my favorite set of round cookie cutters for cutting the dough circles. I also recommend using a 1 teaspoon measuring spoon to ensure you have the same amount of filling in each cookie.
- ***IMPORTANT*** Chilling the dough and the shaped cookies makes a huge difference here. If you don't chill the dough before shaping the hamantaschen it will stick to your counter and tear when you try to roll it. Use a bench scraper to help get the cookie rounds off your counter if they stick. If you don't chill the shaped cookies before baking they are more likely to come unfolded in the oven.
- If you find the dough sticks to your rolling pin and counter even if you dust it with flour, try rolling the dough between two sheets of parchment paper. You may also need to chill the dough longer before rolling it.
- The filling will bubble and melt and spread out inside the cookies in the oven, and will harden as it cools, filling any gaps inside the cookie. Make sure the edges of the cookies are sealed tightly so the filling doesn't leak out.
Store baked hamantaschen in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week. Hamantaschen can also be frozen for up to 3 months. Defrost before eating.
💭 Recipe FAQ
Olive oil doesn't firm up in the fridge quite the same way shortening does. I tested this dough with olive oil (the base recipe I used uses olive oil) and found that with the addition of the chocolate chips and rosemary the dough was nearly impossible to roll without tearing, even after chilling it in the fridge for a good long while. You can give it a go, but I definitely recommend using shortening.
If your dough is crumbly when you try to roll it out it's probably a bit too cold. Knead it on the countertop a few times until it becomes smooth and malleable. This dough is very easy to roll — you shouldn't need to press too hard with your rolling pin!
This just means your double boiler cooled down before they melted. Bring the water back to a low simmer and keep stirring until they melt.
You probably forgot to chill them or didn't chill them long enough. Don't skip this step!
You can do whatever you want, but the triangular shape of Hamantaschen is specific to the Jewish holiday of Purim and it'll be kind of weird if you make them removed from that context. If you'd like to give this flavor combo and concept a try and you aren't Jewish, I recommend making them in a square shape instead. Just pinch four corners instead of three.
You can use a large food processor, though you'll likely have to pause and scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times. You could also use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or a hand mixer to combine the crumbled halva with the chocolate ganache.
Depending on how thin you roll the dough and whether or not you use an exactly 3" round cutter you may end up with more or fewer cookies than the recipe says! If you're using a smaller cutter or roll the dough thinner, you'll likely only need to bake these Hamantaschen for about 10-12 minutes. If you roll them thicker or use a larger cutter, they may need more time in the oven! No matter what, take them out of the oven when the edges and corners are just starting to brown.
Chocolate and Rosemary Halva Hamantaschen
- Melt vegetable shortening in the microwave. Remove and let cool slightly. In a large mixing bowl, sift together dry ingredients. Stir in finely chopped chocolate and minced rosemary. Set aside.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, and vegetable shortening until very well combined. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients with a sturdy spatula. Continue mixing until the mixture is very crumbly and all the liquid has been absorbed.
- Pick the dough up in your hands and squish and knead it together until no dry bits of flour remain. It shouldn't need more liquid, but if it does you can add water ½ teaspoon at a time (sprinkled directly onto the dried bits) until it comes together.
- Press the dough into a 1" thick disc. Wrap in saran wrap and refrigerate at least 1-2 hours until very firm to the touch.
Chocolate Halva Ganache
- Place roughly chopped chocolate and tahini in a metal or glass heat-proof (not plastic or rubber bottomed) medium sized bowl that fits over the mouth of a small sauce pot without touching the bottom. Set aside.
- Fill the pot with about an inch of water. Bring to a rolling boil, place the bowl of chocolate on top, then turn the heat off. The residual steam will be enough to melt the chocolate. Stir the chocolate and tahini together with a spatula until smooth and completely melted.
- Place halva in the bowl of a small food processor. Pulse until it has the consistency of wet, clumpy sand. Add the melted chocolate and process until smooth. Taste and add sugar and salt if needed, processing again to combine.
- Pour the chocolate halva ganache back into the bowl you melted the chocolate in. Stir in the sesame seeds. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to cool at room temperature.
- If not using immediately, refrigerate. Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before use to warm up slightly.
- Preheat oven to 350°F and arrange a rack so it's in the center of the oven.
- Lightly dust your counter and rolling pin with flour and roll the dough to about ¼" thick. If the dough is still slightly chilled it might be crumbly — knead it with your hands on the counter bit until it softens up.
- Use a 3" round cookie cutter to cut as many dough rounds as you can. Knead any scraps briefly to recombine, then wrap in plastic and return to the fridge to chill slightly before re-rolling.
- Scoop about 1 teaspoon chocolate halva ganache into the center of each cookie round.
- Dip your finger in a bit of water and run it around the edge of the cookie. Then fold the sides of each circle into a triangular shape, pinching to firmly seal the edges shut. If there are gaps of air inside the cookie that's okay — the filling will melt and fill in as they bake.
- Repeat until all the dough and filling has been used up. Arrange cookies in tight rows on a quarter sheet pan. Chill assembled cookies in the refrigerator (not freezer) for 30-60 minutes, no need to cover.
- To bake, arrange chilled cookies about 2-3 inches apart on a lined sheet pan. Bake for 14-16 minutes until the corners of the cookies are beginning to brown just slightly.
- Let the finished cookies cool on the pan for 5-10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Prep time includes assembly.
- You may need to bake the cookies in batches or use multiple sheet pans to fit them all in the oven at once. If you use multiple racks in the oven, just swap the sheet pans halfway through baking so the cookies brown evenly.
- If you're not Jewish and you feel weird making a Jewish holiday treat, you can shape these into squares by pinching four corners instead of three.
- I used Joyva Halvah which comes in an 8 oz pack with 2 bars in it. But you can find halva in many grocery stores usually in the international aisle with the kosher food or in the refrigerated section. You can also get it online at Target, From Soom Foods at Amazon, or at specialty stores like Seed & Mill.
This post was originally published on 3/2/2020.