Holiday partying is fit for a queen Purim: Jews make merry in delicious ways to honor Esther's royal victory over biblical foe.

February 28, 1996|By Connie P. Dufner | Connie P. Dufner,Universal Press Syndicate

In all the languages Jews speak, Purim is party time.

For here is the one holiday on which Jews are commanded to give gifts of food, be merry, engage in raucous theatrics, make as much noise as possible in synagogue, and then have a feast.

This happy holiday, which begins at sundown March 4, has a serious side, too. Jews are commanded to hear the Megillah, or scroll of Esther. She is the ancient Persian queen who saved her people from Haman, the wicked anti-Semite who plotted to kill the Jews.

Purim's signature food, the hamantashen, is a triangle-shaped filled pastry resembling, as tradition goes, Haman's three-cornered hat.

The hamantashen can be made with either a yeast or cookie dough.

Cooking teacher Kyra Effren, who developed the following recipes, says that cookie dough hamantashen are most common in the United States. The yeast dough version is Eastern European in origin.

Traditional fillings are prune, poppy seed and apricot, although everything has been tried from cherry pie filling to peanut butter and chocolate chips for the kids.

Merriment is an integral part of Purim. After hearing the story of Esther, many Jews follow the custom of having a festive meal.

According to the "The Jewish Holiday Cookbook" by Gloria Kaufer Greene (Times Books, 1985), some foods that may be served are kreplah and triangular dumplings that again reflect the theme of Haman's hat.

Giving food gifts -- called "shalach manot" -- is one traditional practice that enriches the Purim celebration. "Shalach manot," often delivered in baskets, can include almost anything, such as nuts, candy and crackers. Many people like to use baked goods, especially hamantashen.

Cookie-dough hmantashen

Makes 60

4 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

1 cup cold butter

1 egg plus 1 yolk

2 tablespoons grated orange rind

1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

2 tablespoons orange juice

choice of fillings (suggestions follow)

1 egg mixed with 1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and confectioners' sugar in a large bowl or food processor bowl. Cut in the butter until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Add egg, rinds and orange juice and knead to form a dough. Refrigerate for an hour or more. (Dough may be made ahead and frozen.)

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Roll dough out thin (about 1/16 inch) and cut into 4-inch rounds. Drop teaspoonfuls of filling of choice in center of each circle. Brush edges of rounds with egg glaze. Lift edges of dough and pinch to form a 3-cornered pastry, leaving the center slightly open to prevent leaking. Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned and crisp.

Per serving -- calories: 89; fat: 3 g; cholesterol: 19 mg; sodium: 70 mg; percent calories from fat: 33 percent.

Hamantashen from yeast dough

Makes 20

1 tablespoon yeast

1/4 cup warm water

1/2 cup warm milk

1/4 cup soft butter

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

2 tablespoons sour cream

about 2 to 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour

choice of fillings (suggestions follow)

1 egg mixed with 1/4 teaspoon salt

sugar topping (recipe follows)

Combine yeast with warm water and allow to sit until foamy. Add the milk, butter, sugar, salt, eggs and sour cream and mix well. Gradually add the flour, kneading well. Add just enough flour to make a workable, pliable but soft dough. Set in a greased bowl, cover with greased plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Working with half the dough at a time, roll out thin and cut into 4-inch rounds. Place 1 teaspoon filling in center; brush edges with egg glaze.

Draw up edges of pastry and pinch together to make a 3-cornered cookie, leaving the center open to show the filling. Set hamantashen on a greased cookie sheet, cover with a damp warm cloth and allow to rise for about 1 hour or until the pastries are puffy.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Brush pastries with egg glaze. Sprinkle with sugar topping and bake for about 15 minutes, or until puffed and light brown.

Sugar topping: Cut 1 tablespoon butter into 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon flour until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Per serving -- calories: 123; fat: 4 g; cholesterol: 40 mg; sodium: 118 mg; percent calories from fat: 30 percent.

Fillings

A number of canned fillings can be used in hamantashen. Flavors include the traditional poppy seed, almond, prune, strawberry and raspberry. They can be used as is, or you can personalize the fillings by adding lemon juice, citrus rinds or extra jam.

Here are 2 more options:

Cream cheese filling: Combine 8 ounces softened cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 3 tablespoons sour cream. Stir until smooth. May be made ahead and refrigerated until ready to use.

Apricot filling: Place 2 cups chopped dried apricots in a small saucepan and just cover with water. Cook over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes or until the apricots are soft. Remove from heat and drain the water. Add 2/3 cup sugar and the juice of 1 lemon. Return to the heat and cook gently for another 10 minutes uncovered.

Remove from heat; cool, then process in food processor or work through a coarse sieve. Refrigerate until ready to use.

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