Kitchen Shrink: Hamantaschen is a Purim (or anytime) favorite

By Catharine Kaufman

Most Jewish holidays are based on the tenet — the enemy tried to kill us, we survived, now, let’s eat! This is especially true of Purim, a joyous celebration of salvation, the Jewish version of Mardi Gras, complete with carnivals of masquerading, noisemaking, and a gustatory orgy, but without the retrospective dietary sacrifice.

If the original story of Purim were translated into a screenplay, it would be a Hollywood blockbuster. Set in the Persian Empire 2,500 years ago, the ancient plot is a mix of an X-rated soap opera, a murder conspiracy, and the reality show “Survivor.” The Purim festival honors triumph over evil Haman, the king’s prime minister, who plotted to slaughter the Persian Jews.

Queen Esther, an incognito Jew, used her wiles to convince her hubby King Ahasuerus to save her people.

See, a man listened to his wife, and the Jews of Persia were spared. Haman, on the other hand, got his just dues on a public scaffold.

Purim translates to “lots,” short for the lottery that Haman used to select the date of the Jewish massacre. He picked the 13th day of Adar (which usually falls in March). This year, Purim is right on target on sunset of March 7.

Kids love the customs and traditions of Purim like a noisy Halloween party, the only time ever in synagogue or temple when they are not only allowed, but encouraged, to create a heavy-metal-band-bust-your-eardrums-out racket – orally and with a hand-held “gregor” whenever Haman’s name is mentioned. This ruckus is accompanied by dressing up as ancient supermodel Queen Esther, Haman or the king.

Also, this is the rare occasion when the Bible commands the Jews to get drunk in celebration of their survival.

Traditional Purim fare includes braided egg bread or “challah,” symbolic of Haman’s noose rope; braided cookies for Queen Esther’s bracelets; and the popular Hamantaschen, a divine treat replicating Haman’s three-cornered hat.

These typically have yummy fillings in the center of either a poppy seed paste, an apricot or other dried fruit puree or the kids’ fave — chocolate.

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Hamantaschen with Apricot Filling

The spirit of Purim, in sharing these goodies with family and friends as a show of gratitude, is a long-time custom, so bake a bunch.

For the dough:

3 cups unbleached flour

1⁄2 cup almond or hazelnut meal

1⁄2 cup white cane sugar

1⁄4 teaspoon salt

1 and 1⁄2 teaspoons baking powder

Zest from 1⁄2 lemon

Zest from 1⁄2 orange

1⁄2 pound unsalted butter

1 egg

1 egg white beaten

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Method: Preheat oven to 350º degrees. In a food processor or bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flour, nut meal, baking powder, salt, sugar and zests. Blend in the butter until a crumbly mixture forms.

In a small bowl beat the egg, 1 tablespoon of water and lemon juice, blending well. Add to the flour mixture until a dough forms.

Place the dough onto a floured board and form into a ball. Divide in half. Roll out 1⁄4-inch thick. Make 3 1⁄2-inch rounds with a cookie cutter or top of a juice glass. Place a dollop of filling in the center of the round, and pinch the edges to the middle to form a triangle.

Place the hamantaschen on a lightly greased parchment-lined baking sheet, and brush with beaten egg white. Bake for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Apricot filling

2 cups apricot preserves

1⁄2 cup chopped, toasted nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds)

Zest from one lemon

Dash of ginger powder

In a medium mixing bowl, blend the ingredients well. Refrigerate until ready to fill your hamantaschen.

— Adapted from “The

Gourmet Jewish Cook.”