Friday, March 7, 2014
Purim this year begins the evening of March 15 and ends the evening of March 16. This celebration commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people in ancient Persia from the evil plot of destruction from Haman. He was not successful. Each year, we mark this holiday by recanting the story (the megillah). During the storytelling whenever the name of Haman is said out loud, the audience use noise makers to erase the sound of his name while stomping their feet.
Purim was always one of my very favourite holidays; essentially the only time as children we were encouraged to make lots of noise. The custom is to make hamentashen, a triangular shaped cookie filled with one or many different fillings. The triangle shape is meant to be symbolic of Haman's ears. We also take time during this holiday to make up small food gifts to share with family and friends, usually some cookies and also to perform acts of kindness for those in need. That's not to say we don't display acts of kindness regularly but during this holiday it's somehow more purposeful.
The most fun of Purim as children was to dress up (kind of like Halloween costuming) in the images of the time. You see alot of queen, bad guy, and hero type costumes.
I've always made hamentashen and this year is no different. The recipe I used for years seemed just a little too cake like so I surfed to find a new one to try. I think I hit pay dirt when I checked out The Shiksa. I was so happy to find two different dough recipes, one with butter and a second without. She also has a wonderful tutorial on her blog and I actually used her method this year and it worked beautifully. Once you get a rythym going with the assembly it's a breeze.
A good tip is to make your filling first. The dough, if left too long can go dry. I made a batch of prune filling (very typical filling for these cookies)
1 lb (2 cups) soft dried prunes
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
zest of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Put ingredients into a food processor and pulse until smooth.
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1. Whisk eggs, sugar, canola oil, orange zest and vanilla together. I did everything by hand - you don't need a mixer.
2. In a second bowl sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
3. Slowly add the flour mixing in a circular motion with a wooden spoon until flour is incorporated. Hand knead until you get to a smooth and slightly tacky consistency.
4. Lightly flour your work surface and your rolling pin and roll out to approximately 1/4". The thinner the dough, the crispier the cookie. Using a 3" cutter or glass, cut rounds and put a tsp of filling in the center of each cookie. Fold over left side towards the center, then the right side to join to the top third of the cookie. Bring up the bottom part of the dough to pinch the ends.
5. Bake at 350 F for about 20 minutes (my oven was 18 minutes)
** Make sure you visit The Shiksa's blog for an amazing tutorial on how to assemble the hamentashen. Her method is great and no lost filling. Yield is about 3 dozen so tomorrow I'm making a double batch with apricot filling and poppy seed filling.