HAPPY PURIM

Today is Purim. Happy Purim! If you do not know what Purim is, it is a fun Jewish Holiday; a Jewish version of Halloween and Mardi-Gras combined. Actually, this is one of the rare Jewish Holidays that you are allowed to have fun.

In most Jewish Holidays you are either crying, asking for forgiveness, or remembering the horrors our ancestors went through (not that this one does not have a villain). In fact, the cookie’s name in Hebrew is the “Ears of Haman”, who was the son of Hammedatha; chief minister of King Ahasuerus (Esth.iii.1-2). On account of his attempt to exterminate the Jews in the kingdom of Ahasuerus, he is often called “the persecutor of the Jews” (Esth. iii. 10; viii. 1; ix. 10, 24). His machinations against the Jews and his downfall are remembered during the Feast of Purim. It is a very intriguing story, that could fit perfectly in modern literature as well, with its intrigues, deception, sex, betrayal and more. The blogs JewishVirtualLibrary.org and Myjewishlearning.com explain in great details the Holiday.

In Israel, it is a tradition to either send or hand deliver a gift basket with fruits, dried fruits, sweets and of course Hamantaschen, to family and friends. Hannah, the “boss” of Fleur-de-licious.wordpress.com wrote in her blog, that “There are as many Hamantashen recipes as there are Jewish Grandmothers;” I’d like to second it. I also would like to second Hannah’s other statement: I like the best the recipe of my mom, who unfortunately, no longer with us, but her recipe is here to stay.

She usually made two kinds of dough, one somewhat flaky cookie dough and the other a yeast dough. I made a note to myself, that someone in smitenkitchen.com’s comment was asking for a yeast dough recipe and I will try to get it for her. It will be handy for next year’s baking practices (although nobody prevents you from baking these delicious cookies beyond Purim).

In another blog, Jewliscious.com, the young Jewish kids like to surf the Internet the Wednesday before the holiday, because newspapers across America print recipes for Hamantaschen.

This year, I could not bake early; I got involved in too many activities. I had no choice but “rush it up”. Well, let me tell you, never bake anything on a rush-basis, and certainly not when you are tired or when coming back from viewing an opera that is highly emotional (Lucia di Lammermoore). But I am glad that I took the time; this was a true Oscar performance by the lead singers (Natalie Dessay and Joseph Calleja) in singing, as well as in acting. I saw this opera multiple times, but it is no comparison to any of the earlier productions. It drained me emotionally in a good way; I would recommend anyone to get a ticket for the encore performance in movie theaters across the country. It is an experience that one should not miss. But I will continue this story in another post.

Back to the Hamantashen recipe of my mother; the dough is fairly easy to work with, and it melts in your mouth, even a day after they were baked. So, as I said before, due to my hurried production, the appearance of the cookies could benefit from some improvement, but the “melting in the mouth” still worked.

Recipe of Hamantaschen

THE DOUGH:

8 ounces soft unsalted butter (2 sticks)
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
4 ounces of Baker’s sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
1 large egg and 1 yolk only
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoons of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Lemon zest from one lemon
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier (or other orange liquor

The FILLING
Could be many thing: jams, chocolate, nuts, poppy-seed,

Poppy Seed Filling
1 1/4 cup (250 g) cup ground poppy-seed
1/2 cup honey
2 hard-boiled egg (the yolks only)
1 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preparation

  1. Sift the flour, the baking powder, salt together into a bowl.
  2. In another bowl with an electric mixer beat the butter, cream cheese and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix it, then add the egg yolk and mix it again. Add the zest and the flour mixture, stirring, until a smooth dough is formed. Do not over mix the dough. Cover it with a plastic wrap and chill the dough, at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.
  3. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  4. Halve dough. On a lightly floured surface roll out half of dough (keeping other half wrapped and chilled) to 5mm thick. With a 3-inch cutter cut out as many rounds as possible.
  5. Transfer the rounds to a large baking sheet, arranging about 1/2 inch apart. Re-roll scraps and cut out more rounds. Brush the edge of the rounds with water, or egg wash, or heavy cream. Put 1 teaspoon filling in center of each round and fold up edges to form triangular cookies. Although, my mother could complete the triangular shape by folding and not pinching the edges. I felt more comfortable to pinching the corners together. Do not worry if the cookie appears to closed; it will open and expose the filling while baking.
  6. Bake the hamantaschen in the middle of the oven for 12-15 minutes, or until pale golden. If you used egg wash it will have a golden hue, which is fine too.Note: If you are using a convection oven, bake the cookies on 350 F and check after 10 minutes for readiness.
  7. Cool hamantaschen on baking sheet 5 minutes and transfer to racks to cool completely. Make more hamantaschen with remaining dough and filling in same way.
  8. Hamantaschen keep in an airtight container at room temperature 5 days.

Note: the different spelling of the cookie is not a spelling error. I found both spellings (Hamantaschen, Hamantashen) in prints, as well as in online publications.