I’ve been waiting for ages to use that song title in my blog! The title itself has nothing to do with my blog, but the song is about a circus, and Purim is like a circus of sorts. Purim begins this coming Saturday night at sundown. For those who are not fellow Red Sea Pedestrians, Purim celebrates a time when the Jewish in ancient Persia were about to be killed by an evil advisor to the King of Persia. The king’s newest wife, Esther (who happens to be a Jew) finds out and uses cunning wit and charm to help make sure that the Jews win the day. That is of course a VERY simplified version of the story of Esther which of course is found in the Biblical Book of Esther. I am not going to write the whole story of Purim. In this case the Wikipedia article is very good.
One of the traditions for Purim is the eating of Hamentaschen. A few years back I posted my recipe for Hamentaschen and I will do so again this year here. The word Hamentaschen is made up of two words, Hamen and taschen. Hamen of course refers to the character in the Book of Esther. Taschen means pocket in Yiddish but also can mean cookie in German. Most likely the term was originally mahn-taschen or poppy-pouches. One traditional filling is a poppy seed filling. In Hebrew the pastry is called אזני המן or Hamen’s ears, probably because children were told that they were Hamen’s ears. The pastry is traditionally shaped with three corners as tradition tells us that Hamen wore a three cornered hat.
On Purim children dress up in costume, similar to Halloween. Traditional costumes would be the characters from the Book of Esther, but today you’ll see all kinds. Avi is going as Darth Vador this year, Noam as Harry Potter and Shayna as Belle from Beauty and the Beast. On Sunday I will post photos of the kids in costume. Also traditional for Purim is the giving of gifts to friends. We are supposed to give food baskets with at least two different foods to at least two different people. This year our list is has about 25 people on it and we are putting in my Hamentaschen of course and these wonderful Oatmeal peanut butter squares. Hamentaschen recipe is below and later today I will try to add the oatmeal peanut butter squares.
A quick not about fillings, and then to the recipe. You can fill the Hamentaschen with almost anything, but be prepared for different results. My favorite filling is Solo brand pie filling. I don’t know why, but this brand seems to work better than any other out there, and better (in my opinion) than any preserves. They make the standard flavors of prune, poppy and apricot, but they also have strawberry, blueberry and raspberry and many others. You can also use any preserves (do NOT use jelly or jam as they will turn to liquid and run right out of the cookie). For chocolate I suggest using Nutella (which is a chocolate hazelnut mixture) or you can try the Israeli chocolate spread.
½ C Margarine or Vegetable Shortening
1 C sugar
1 ½ t baking powder
1 t pure vanilla extract
2 C flour
1. Cream the sugar and the shortening in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy.
2. Add the egg, baking powder and vanilla one at a time and incorporate into the batter.
3. Add 1 cup of the flour and mix at a slow to medium speed until all of the flour has been incorporated. At this point you need to check the dough. Depending upon the humidity and type of shortening that you are using, you may not need much more flour. The dough should be light and a little big sticky. If you feel it is too wet, add more flour, ¼ cup at a time. I find that 1 ½ cups is usually fine.
4. Cover the bowl and let sit in the refrigerator for 30 to 60 minutes. This will allow the four to fully incorporate.
5. Separate some of the dough and roll out onto a floured board. Try to work with as little flour here as possible as you will scrape up scraps and put them back into the dough which will add more flour. Roll out to about 1/8″ to 1/4 ” thickness.
6. Use a glass or some other cutter that is about 3″ to 4″ in diameter. You can use bigger if you like, but I find this is just the best size. Cut out as many rounds as you can get from the rolled dough.
7. Pick up the scraps and add a bit more of the dough. Repeat this process of rolling out and cutting and adding more dough until you do not have enough to cut out anymore, or when the dough is too dry.
8. Put about ½ t of filling in the center of a round and pull up the edges to make a triangle shape. Pinch the corners together and place on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.
9. Bake in a 350° oven for about 10 – 15 minutes. Keep watch after 10 minutes. You want to take it out of the oven just as the cookie starts to turn brown. I prefer my hamentaschen to be very lightly browned. If you like it darker, keep it in a bit longer. Remove Hamentaschen to a rack to cool.