This year the Jewish holiday, Purim, begins on Feb. 25 at sundown and ends Feb. 26. Purim commemorates how the Jewish people in the Persian empire were saved Hamantaschen, a Jewish cookie, is typically eaten during the holiday Purim. Purim is celebrated in Judaism by reading the Book of Esther, dressing up, giving gift baskets called mishloach manot, putting on plays, drinking and having carnivals. Purim is a very loud holiday!
The story of Purim begins in the city of Shushan, in the Persian Empire. King Ahasuerus, after banishing (or executing, depending on how kid-friendly the retelling is) his wife was looking for a new bride. After Esther, a Jewish girl, wins a beauty contest, Ahasuerus selects her as his queen. Esther keeps her religious identity hidden for some time: in much of Jewish history, being Jewish wasn’t necessarily something you advertised. Then, Haman, adviser to the king and the villain of our story, told the king to kill all Jews in the city. When Esther learned of the plot, she summoned the courage to reveal her religion and Haman’s wicked nature. Purim commemorates her bravery.
The cookies eaten during Purim are hamantaschen. These cookies are a shortbread cookie filled with a sweet filling. Hamentashen are always triangle shaped: they are less commonly referred to as “oznei haman,” meaning Haman’s ears, but there are other theories for the reasoning behind the shape. One suggests that the cookies represent Haman’s signature three-cornered hat. The more traditional fillings for hamantaschen are prunes, poppyseed and different fruit jellies. Modern interpretations of hamantaschen include different fillings like chocolate, peanut butter, cheese and tahini. Anything can be used for the filling of hamantaschen, it’s all up to individual preferences.
Quick Hamantaschen Recipe
Makes about 24 cookies
1/2 cup +3 tablespoons room temperature unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
~2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup of filling of your choice (jelly, nuts, chocolate, etc.)
1 teaspoon water
- Beat butter until smooth. Slowly add in sugar, and beat until light and fluffy- about three minutes. Beat in one egg. Add in juice, vanilla, and salt and combine. Slowly incorporate the flour until a soft dough is formed.
- Wrap dough in plastic wrap and let chill for one hour. The dough can sit in the refrigerator for days and last in the freezer for months. Take out the dough and let sit until room temperature until workable.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly floor workspace.
- Divide dough into 3 pieces. Roll dough out to 1/8 inch thick. Use a cup or cookie cutter around 3 inches wide to cut out circles. Re-roll scraps and repeat.
- Place 1 teaspoon of filling in each round. Lift the right and left sides of the circle and pinch together at the top. Take the right side and fold together with the bottom and pinch the side together. Repeat with the left side. Mix together one egg and water.
- Place cookies on a lined baking sheet, 6 inches away. Brush egg and water mixture onto shaped cookies. Bake for 12 minutes, flipping the baking sheet halfway.
The recipe is adapted from The World of Jewish Cooking by Gil Marks.