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How to pronouce hamentaschen and find a good version?

There is a little discussion about the sorry state of hamentaschen on the SF Board.

It is that triangular Jewish cookie filled with poppyseed or fruit preserves. Wiki says it can also be filled with cheese or even caramel ... hmmm, sounds good

First how is in pronouced? Webster gives two versions. Interpreting what the dictionary says

I never knew there were two types ... according to this old Chowhound post there are ""yeast hamantashen" vs "cookie hamantashen"

I think I've only had the cookie version. What makes the cookie great in either category.

Good goy that I am, I never knew there was a religious significance and it was associated with Purim. I just thought they tasted good. I'm a fan of the prune or apricot myself.


Hmmm ... never knew about fazuelos. Will have to keep an eye open for them.

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  1. In Brooklyn we used the first pronounciation. I don't think I've ever seen/heard of the yeast version.

    2 Replies
    1. re: southernitalian

      And you're from Brooklyn? My father only bought the yeast version from all the bakeries on Brighton Beach Avenue (pre-Little Odessa days). Darn, I hate those. They taste just like plain, old danish.

      Mewantfood has it mostly right. You can't buy good ones but I bake a mean hamantash, as does my gluten-free, vegan, no-refined-anything friend (okay, she bakes using butter, flour, and white sugar - she just doesn't eat her own baking).

      As far as flavors go, the sky's the limit. Prune, apricot, raspberry, and mohn (poppyseed) are more traditional but chocolate is very popular with kids. This year I baked:

      red bean
      green tea dough with red bean filling

      My dough is a little more like a soft sugar cookie than a shortbread cross but it's still basically a sugar cookie.

      1. re: rockycat

        I think you're pretty close to right about not being able to find good ones store bought anymore. They're still realllly tasty, but they tend to be overcooked. I taste tested them from a few different bakeries last night, and they were all a little off, and a little too well done. Still yummy though!

    2. rworange, the different pronunciations are due to the ashkenazic and sephardic Hebrew/Yiddish dialects. And I'm of the opinion that you can't buy good hamantashen, they can only be baked by your Grandma. . . )

      1. I use the first pronunication.

        I think the cookie is great if it's like a simple delicious sugar cookie, or almost a shortbread. You can taste butter and sweet, and let the filling speak too. Many hamentaschen are pareve (made without dairy products) and they just can't taste as good as with butter.

        I have about 200 cooling right now. Phew!

        2 Replies
        1. re: milklady

          That's a great way of describing them....somewhere between a sugar cookie, and a shortbread. I was struggling to come up with words on the SF board that wouldn't be misleading.

          1. re: sugartoof

            I agree with sugartoof (for once, eh?). That is the perfect description. It has been so lt ong since I had a good one that I couldn't even remember what made me love them originally. I think that the local versions that I tried might be parve which doesn't give me that buttery hit that I like.

        2. I use the first pronunciation. I have been meaning to bake them this week but I have had to bake cupcakes and brownie shortbread in the last few days. Hope to get to it soon with my son. Let me know if you want the recipe.

          1 Reply
          1. re: bistro66

            Terrific. If you have time it would be nice to have the recipe on the home cooking board.

          2. I have used and mostly hear the second pronunciation.

            By far, my own preference is for the cookie style. 40 years ago, in my early teens, I lived in Rochester NY, and this is the only place I have ever had the yeast version, which is more like a sweetroll. I dont know if the dominence of one style over another is regional, an Ashkenazy VS Sephardic thing, a Litvak VS Galitzianer thing, an Orthodox VS Conservative VS Reform thing, but I think it would make an interesting study.

            I've never had cheese in a hamentasch before (mainly blintzes and knishes), and now that I think about it, I cant remember ever having caramel in any traditional Jewish item. The apricot and the poppy seed are my favourites.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Fydeaux

              Might be because of the difference in accents btwn Rochester and Brooklyn, pretty big. Now that I am reading these posts, I'm remembering the yeast version but I think we called it something different. Can anyone think of another name for them? And my grandmother only made the cookie version. I used to think they looked like the triangular hats they wore during the American Revolutionary war period!

              1. re: Fydeaux

                Sephardic Jews didn't eat Hamantaschens. They have other symbolic things they eat instead.

                Southeritalian - they are shaped to represent the hat that Haman wore, which is depicted as looking triangular in that American Revolution style you referenced.

              2. I think we said "hom" or "hum" and not with a long A. Probably just dependent on how thick an accent one's Bubbie had.

                Cheese? caramel?... FEH!

                Prune or poppyseed were my favorites. The bready part was similar to shortbread.

                There were some pretty good ones from proper Jewish bakeries at one point but have not had one worth recommending in a while.

                2 Replies
                1. re: mlgb

                  I grew up on yeasted hamantaschen (I didn't read every single post, but I trust the fact that they're named for the evil Haman was touched upon), so every reference to "cookie" left me scratching my head. Those I remember and have baked now and again are closer to Danish pastry than anything else.

                  I grew up in a family that never, ever bought bakery desserts.

                  1. re: Fine

                    Now that I think about it, I do remember another type that had a softer dough, kind of brioche like; that was brushed with an egg wash. Maybe they were only the once a year Purim type, and the rest of the time we bought the shortbready ones from the bakery.

                2. I am from England and there they are pronounced with the gutteral CH sound which Scots can pronounce (as in Loch Ness) and Jews! It is pronounced Chumantashen (- rhyming with woman).

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: smartie

                    I was afraid someone would bring up the gutteral CH sound.

                    1. re: rworange

                      My first Hebrew teacher told us to make a sound like we were trying to cough up a fishbone. Crude, overly vivid, but effective. It had the added effect of preventing me from eating fish (other than gefilte fish) until I was 20.

                    2. re: smartie

                      That's so interesting because the guy who the cookies are named after (Haman) starts with a H sound in Hebrew, not a CH sound.

                      1. re: milklady

                        It's kind of like this - they're named after Haman, but most people call them Hu-mantaschens when it's not Purim time. Or Hom. Depends on your accent I suppose, and whatever rolls off your tongue best. They're all correct... but instead of mocking Haman year round, most Jews tend to go for something more human sounding. Who-man-taschen. Similar to the proper way of pronouncing Humus, which should sound like Whom, instead of Hum.... but that's a losing battle trying to correct at this point.

                      2. For me it's all about the yeast dough version - the cookie ones are just thick cookies to me. This will be a controversial view, but I've always thought they were just easier to make, so they've taken over. The yeast ones take hours. but it shouldn't be a heavy danish either - the yeast dough should be ultralight and ultra thin slightly crisp, delicately soft, and only slightly sweet and the triangles quite small and dainty (though stuffed with poppy seed filling (exclusively)). I don't know if they're sold anywhere even in NY any more - we bake our own. You can make them dairy with butter and sour cream, but we do the parve ones.
                        I've read that the word Hamantaschen was a play on words - (Yiddish) Mohn taschen means poppy seed pockets . Happy purim!

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: zatar

                          I think Haman comes from Haman, right sugartoof? The Purim villian? Hence the hat-like shape?

                          1. re: southernitalian

                            Yup, evil Haman sentenced the Jews to death, but he had a Jewish wife Esther who tricked him and saved the day. Now we eat cookies shaped like his hat. Another story/joke joke is that they're also shaped like his pointy devil ears.

                            1. re: sugartoof

                              The lovely Esther was married to King Ahashuerus. Haman was the king's right hand man. Haman convinced the king to make a law requiring everyone to bow down to Haman. When Esther's father, Mordecai, refused to bow down saying that Jews bow only to God, Haman got the king to sentence all the Jews to death by hanging. They were given gallows assignments by lottery (the name Purim means "lots"). That's when Esther intervened.

                              1. re: ola

                                The version I've head was that Mordecai was Esther's uncle, but that he had raised her.

                                1. re: MobyRichard

                                  I grew up with Mordecai being Esther's cousin, but that he raised her.

                            2. re: southernitalian

                              hamantasch is singular - hamantaschen is plural

                            3. re: zatar

                              "Danish pastry" in Copenhagen and homemade fits your description of good hammantaschen dough!

                              1. re: zatar

                                Would you share your recipe for parve--perhaps they're a little less heart-unhealthy than the dairy version!

                              2. I would assume um...forgive the idiosyncratic "phonetics": hah-mun-tash-en. It's German, right? There's absolutely no reason to drop the "en" unless you're beholden to some idiosyncratic Yiddish-ism.

                                8 Replies
                                  1. re: southernitalian

                                    wow...I knew Yiddish was "goofy," but I didn't realize it was Sicilian.

                                    1. re: aelph

                                      I never said it was goofy! I had one grandma from Minsk (jewish) and the rest of the family was from Naples. Not a siciliana among us. And the combination is not that uncommon in the NYC area.

                                      1. re: southernitalian

                                        No. :) I'm saying it's goofy(not that you are saying its goofy). The same way that Sicilian-Americans in certain regions of the country drop the last vowels of Italian words. Ay yi yi. There's no linguistic precept to drop hamentaschen's "en." It's colloquial. And, not being a New Yorker I couldn't care less how it's pronounced there. I'll continue to pronounce it correctly...the same way I pronounce cappicola correctly(not gabbagul) and continue along my merry way.

                                        1. re: aelph

                                          Got it. But I don't think I have ever heard anyone drop the "en". Interesting. Not sure that's what the OP meant to imply. Meanwhile, I am now wondering again as to what the other word was for the yeast type. It was a different word all together. And BTW, I think it was my Neopolitan peeps who droped the last syllable, not the sicilians. And I think they dropped it way before they left Naples.

                                          1. re: southernitalian

                                            Ahhh...not trying argue, here. Just skimming the op's post about "pronouce" (sic) and didn't click on the links.

                                            1. re: southernitalian

                                              The "en" is plural. It's one hamantash, several hamantashen.

                                            2. re: aelph

                                              Then you must also pronounce "arugula" rucola, right?

                                    2. We always said something like "hummen-tahshin." But that was Yiddish, and referred to Haman's three cornered hat. Now I hear them called oznei haman, which is Hebrew and refers to Haman's ears. If the SF folks think the situation is dreary, the situation in the south bay would appear to be worse,except that I don't mind them kind of doughy. For me it's all about remembering my childhood on the east coast, when people didn't think the only Jewish holiday was Chanukah, grocery stores actually stocked Passover foods, there were real kosher butchers, and nobody ever wished anyone a "happy Yom Kippur."

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: Judith

                                        At my bakery we use hamentash for singular, hamentashen for plural. Pronounced hahmentahsh. And ours are cookie dough type crust filled with apricot or prune for every day, filled with poppy, cherry, lemon, or blueberry for Purim. Smaller versions are also very popular at Purim, especially with the temples around here.

                                        1. re: Catskillgirl

                                          if that's Cohen's in Ellenville you have the world's best poppy seed strudel and kimmel bread - but I've never been around for Purim

                                          1. re: zatar

                                            Thanks! I love our products so much that I've doubled in size over 2 years. *G* You're not missing much at Purim, but Passover is amazing around here! Stessful but amazing.

                                      2. The first time I had them they were made by my mother, who had the (yeast) version recipe from a church (not synagogue, church) friend. The dough is rich, and calls for both butter and sour cream and my mom's versions were about 3" in diameter before you pinched up the corners. My favorite was always the apricot.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: MobyRichard

                                          My mother's hamentasch dough recipe (which she got from my great grandmother) had a similar dough, and I actually have (and use) it. The only liquids in this yeast dough are eggs, milk, sour cream, butter, and solid Crisco (but that last was probably a post-immigration innovation). The dough has to rise for at least 12 hours, and makes the softest, most stretchy dough I've ever encountered. For hamentaschen, it gets pressed very thin - not at all like a danish or babke. However, the same dough also does make an excellent babke-like sweet-bread when used thick, covered with a filling, and, and rolled into a log.

                                          Your post is the only mention I've ever seen of another hamentasch yeast dough using both butter and sour cream. Do you actually have your mom's recipe? I'd be interested in comparing it to mine. And, do you know the geographic origin or the recipe? My great grandmother came from a town in Lithuania about 60 miles west of Vilna.


                                        2. Not sure where the pronunciation comes from but we've always said "huum-en-tosh-en". The "huum" doesn't rhyme with rum, but is a shorter sound than if it rhymed with 'zoom'. Can't think of a word the sound actually rhymes with, but it's more like the way hummus is pronounced, so long as it's not pronounced "hum-us". Makes perfect sense, right?

                                          9 Replies
                                          1. re: Midlife

                                            Actually, hummus is also transliterated as chummus, because the first sound is a guttural. Same with Chanukah and challah. You'll see them with ch or h in the Roman alphabet, but the sound is more like when you clear your throat.

                                            1. re: Judith

                                              Thanks for your point but I was trying to duplicate the pronunciation of the sound of the "u" immediately following the "ch" sound. I understand that the "u" is part of the same syllable, but couldn't think of any other word to use to describe the sound I use. For the sake o phonetic clarity.......do you think the "ch" changes how the "u" is sounded?

                                              1. re: Midlife

                                                Probably in some way that's almost indiscernible to us ordinary folks and relevant only for phonetic transcription, not for chowhounds. Did you call the poppy seed filling "mun?"

                                                1. re: Judith

                                                  mohn is yiddish for poppy seed. For the chinese new year, the Chinese bakeries sell "moon cakes" - round pastries filled with ground and sweetened lotus seeds!!! Could be the influence of the the Kaifeng Jews....

                                                2. re: Midlife

                                                  The C can be silent in all these cases unless you're someone who gets a thrill out of rolling your R's when you say "burrito" or something....and I say that as someone with a CH in my name. In the case of Hamantaschens the name comes from Haman, not Chaman. Again, they're both acceptable.

                                                  1. re: sugartoof

                                                    You're right about Haman, but when you're talking about chummus (which is where this got started) there is no "C" to be silent. We use "Ch" and "H" in English to transliterate the seventh letter of the Hebrew alphabet, which is a guttural.

                                                  2. re: Midlife

                                                    Are you saying it sounds like the "oo" in "book?" Sometimes I use that to describe the short "u" sound, as in "Baruch."

                                                    1. re: cheeseguysgirl

                                                      Yes, sometimes they said it that way, and some times like "Tom".

                                                      But not like ham!

                                                      1. re: cheeseguysgirl

                                                        Exactly! "hoom(as in book)-en-tosh-en" is how it was pronounced in my family.

                                                        Thanks for the help.

                                                3. imho the best store-bought hamantaschen are at Chewy's Rugulach, a bakery in San Diego. they are available by mail order on their web site, and in some gourmet frozen food sections.

                                                  But they''re not as good as mine. I've been baking them since long before I was a grandma. an orange sugar cooky dough that gets rolled out pretty thin. Personally I prefer the poppy seed filling, but I often make a chopped chocolate and nut filling that is pretty popular, and blueberry is good, too..... (and still stays true to the "black" color -- they are supposed to mimic Haman's tricorn hat!

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: ChefJune

                                                    Do you soak your own poppies and everything? I'm told the paste works, but am skeptical of that. The dough should be sticky, right? Can you actually taste the squeezed orange in the dough? Sorry for all the questions...I haven't made them since I was in 1st grade, and I rarely ever bake, but I've been tempted to take this on as a project.

                                                    1. re: ChefJune

                                                      Now, that I didn't know! (About the black color, I mean). Which would explain the popularity of prune filling along with poppy. I dislike prune flavor but do love poppy. I hadn't realized the symbolism of the dark color filling.