Have you ever heard of the Jewish holiday called Purim? We celebrated Purim a few weeks ago and of course, I intended to get this recipe up on the blog in time for the holiday, but life got in the way.
Purim celebrates the deliverance of the Jews from their enemies in the biblical Book of Esther. Growing up, Purim seemed to be a ‘lighter’ holiday, ranking up there with Chanukah. But in reality, Purim is considered the second holiest day of the year for Jews (next to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement). Purim and Yom Kippur are exactly 6 months apart. On Yom Kippur Jews must fast from sundown to sundown for one full day, to atone for one’s sins over the past year, and also to atone for the sins of others. As you fast, you focus on others and why you make judgements about people. You become introspective and think about the reasons for your actions.
On Purim we are commanded to get drunk and party, which could be considered another way to think about other people and the reasons for your actions over the year. You are supposed to reach a point on Purim where you can’t tell good from evil, and so people you had previously judged may now be your best buddies.
There is of course an entertaining and suspenseful story that goes along with Purim, which I won’t go into too much detail about because it is quite long. But there was a villain of course, and his name was Haman. It is for him that Hamantaschen are named – they are delicious cookies shaped like Haman’s hat (a three point cookie).
Purim is so-called because the villain of the story, Haman, cast the "pur" (the lot) against the Jews yet failed to destroy them. To celebrate the fact that the Jews were once again not destroyed, we eat (as is customary for most Jewish holidays – someone tried to annihilate us, we resisted and survived, let’s eat!).
As I am sure you have noticed many of my blogs have started with memories of my childhood. Not this time. For some reason my mother never embraced Hamantaschen. We celebrated the holiday at Beth El Synagogue in St. John’s, shook our noisemakers in shul every time Haman’s name was read from the Torah, then ate with the congregation post-service. But when we got to eat the Hamantashen, they weren’t our mother’s Hamantaschen, but rather some other Jewish Mother’s (or Bubby’s) cookies.
I have a few brothers (from another mother). Essie, the other mother, is a great lady and a few Purims ago I happened to be lucky enough to be on the receiving end of a bag of her homemade Hamantaschen. Without a doubt, these are the best Hamantaschen I have ever tasted. She told me the secret – oranges. And here’s the weird part – not just the flesh of the orange but the peel as well! I know! Can you believe it?
The recipe comes from a book trusted by many Jewish women – The Pleasures of Your Food Processor, by Noreen Gilletz.I have not changed anything because the recipe is perfect.
Thanks Essie for telling me your secret!
1 medium seedless orange
¾ cup sugar
½ cup vegetable or grapeseed oil
2 tsp baking powder
2 ¾ cups flour
Quarter the orange with a knife (but do not peel it) and remove the stem on one end. Throw it into your food processor and using the steel blade process until fine (25 seconds). Add the eggs, sugar and oil and process for 10 seconds. Add baking powder and flour. Pulse (on/off) several times just until flour is incorporated. Do not overprocess. Dough will be sticky.
There are two main traditional fillings for Hamantaschen – prune and poppy. I prefer prune so that is the recipe I am including here in the blog. For my kids, instead of prune I use one Hershey’s kiss. You can also use any kind of jam instead of the prune, poppy or kisses. Important to remember is not to overfill the cookie – the filling will simply bubble and run out of the cookie making it messy.
1 medium seedless orange
12 oz package of pitted prunes (feel them before processing to ensure pits are indeed gone)
1 ½ cups raisins (note: I use purely prunes so I used 12 oz plus 1.5 cups prunes)
2 tbsp sugar
Quarter the orange with a knife (but do not peel it) and remove the stem on one end. Throw half of it into your food processor and using the steel blade process until fine (20 seconds). Add half the remaining ingredients and process until fine – 15 to 20 seconds. Remove from bowl and repeat with the rest of the ingredients. This will make about 2 ½ cups of filling. You can make it in advance and freeze or refrigerate it.
Constructing the Hamantaschen
So you want to quarter your dough. Take one quarter and roll it out using flour on the board and the rolling pin. Use a glass to cut circles of dough. You can make them as large or small as you like. Put the circles of dough onto a cookie sheet that either has parchment paper on it or a Silpat.
Put a small spoonful of filling in the centre of the circle.
Pinch two sides of the circle together.
Then pinch another pinch.
Then a final pinch.
You now have a 3 pointed Haman hat. Repeat with all your Hamantaschen.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes. Freezes really well, and they taste good frozen too! I forgot to take a photo of the baked Hamantaschen because we were too busy eating them!