Thursday, February 21, 2013


Purim starts tomorrow night.  As a kid, I always told my non-Jewish friends that Purim was our version of Halloween, but that's the fairly inaccurate cliff's notes version.  In reality, Purim is a celebration of the Jewish people's deliverance from Persia, specifically as it relates to a plot by the king's advisor, Haman, to destroy the Jewish people.  As to be expected from a Jewish holiday, Haman sought to kill all of the Jews in the Persian empire, but his plan was foiled by Mordechai and his adopted daughter, Queen Esther.  The day of deliverance became a holiday of feasting and celebration - Purim.

There are lots of ways we celebrate.  One, we go to Temple and hear the story - Megillas Esther - and everytime Haman's name is mentioned (54 of them, if you're wondering), we make a ton of noise to block out his name.  We also dress up in costumes (that's where the "Jewish Halloween" part comes in), which alludes to the fact that God's presence is always concealed/disguised behind natural events.  This also allows for anonymity during charity giving and receiving, as you don't know who's behind the costumes.  Jews are no strangers to celebrations, so there is also a lot of drinking involved... which means that when you're a kid, finding the right person in Temple who has enough of a buzz and asking him for some money means you will likely be rewarded. Cha-ching!

And what I have really been getting to this whole time...

All of our holidays have specific foods that are eaten, whether for cultural or religious aspects, or both.  For Purim, we eat hamentashen, which are triangle-shaped cookies traditionally filled with poppy seeds or fruit jam.  The triangle shape is a reminder of Haman's hat, and the fruit/nut fillings are reminiscent of what Esther ate while she was in the king's palace, as she could not obtain kosher food.

I made hamantaschen last weekend (poppy seed, chocolate, apricot and strawberry), and have spent the rest of the time since debating whether or not I wanted to share the recipe.  On one hand, I have a baking blog.  Where I share recipes.  On the other hand, even if it's a pipe dream, I want to open a bakery some day.  If I'm going to open a bakery, I can't go around sharing ALL of my recipes with people, because then they won't need me!  I need a couple of trump cards, and I believe this is going to be one of them.  However, I DO have some tips that will help you when you're making your own hamentashen!

  • When you cut out the dough circles (that you will eventually fold into triangles), make sure the dough is thick! When I made mine, the dough was about 1/4" thick.  Basically, when you pick up the circles, you want them to keep their shape.  If they get all stretched out when you pick them up, they're too thin.  This will give you more dough to work with when you turn them into triangles, increasing the chances that they'll STAY triangles when they're in the oven.

  • Fill the cookies with barely a teaspoon of filling, placed right in the middle.  If the cookies are too full, you won't be able to fold them right.  You can always add more filling once you fold them if they look like they need more.
  • Make sure you pinch all those seams closed! Pinching them good means they won't open up when they're baking.

  • Before you fold them into triangles, dip your finger in water and run it around the edge of the circle.  Dough sticks together better when it's wet.
  • Check on your hamentashen about halfway through the baking time.  They'll still be a little soft and moldable at this point, so you may be able to fix them a little if something's starting to look a little silly.   

Have you ever made made homemade hamentashen before?  What do you fill them with and how do they come out?

Chag Purim Sameach!

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