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March 14, 2003     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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March 14, 2003
 

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PAGE 32 HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MARCH 14 m rises up By Linda Morel NEW YORK (JTA)--Because my mother hated baking, she cluttered our kitchen cabinets with store-bought cook- ies. We never had fewer than two dozen boxes of them on hand: chocolate chips, gingersnaps and Oreos. Although mallomars were my favorite, they were a sorry substitute for hamantashen when Purim came around. When I grew up during the 1950s and 1960s, hamantashen were consumed only at Purina, and we waited all year for them. Back then, you had to make them yourself, which my mother was not about to do, or buy them at bakeries in Jewish neighborhoods. Because the suburb where we lived was not very Jewish, I'd get a taste of hamantashen only if my father carried them home from his office in Manhattan, or if friends arrived with square boxes of them tied tightly with string. Inside I'd find triangular confections filled with poppy seeds or prunes. Maybe I was unsophisticated, but I loved their inky black fillings, as mysterious as the spiral turrets of~Eastern Europe from where this pastry came. It was this void from Purims past, a feeling that the cardboard cookies my mother palmed off on us had left me incomplete, that spurred me in the 1980s to suggest to my daughter that we bake hamantashen. At 14, Allissa was game, but suggested we bypass the fillings of my youth in favor of trendier alternatives: marmalade, blueberry and red raspberry preserves. By then hamantashen centers, like Xerox copies, came in a spectrum of colors. Within minutes, fine flour fogged our kitchen, and we were elbow deep in a mixture of wet and dry ingredients. When I went to roll the dough, it didn't cooperate. It was sticky and clung in clumps to the counter and roiling pin. My fantasy of overcoming the disappointing Purims of my childhood by baking with my daughter had failed. "Let's just dump this mess in the trash," I said, shoving the rolling pin toward the mixing bowl. "Can I try?" Ailissa asked, picking up the rolling pin. "Good luck," I said, washing gooey white paste off my hands. Because Ailissa was adept at taming clay for sculpting and ceramics, she also had a knack with dough. Moving the rolling pin back and forth, she coaxed it into a thin circle. "Why don't I roll the hamantashen and you fill them," she suggested with a patch of flour on her cheek. I was thrilled since I didn't want to waste the four jars of preserves I'd opened for this bake off. We worked this way for half an hour until we became proficient enough to change roles. I took the rolling pin - and after Allissa coached me, I learned how to finagle dough and cut perfect circles. She spooned jam on top and pinched circles into triangles. We spent several peaceful hours and made eight dozen hamantashen that afternoon, which we gave to friends. The incident remains a lovely memory, but sadly we've never had the opportunity to bake hamantashen together again. Since the jelly-filled days of the 1980s, hamantashen have continued evolving, and a new generation of teenagers is on the scene. Raised on chocolate centers, they came of age since hamantashen-went mainstream. They are unfazed by pre-packaged triangular cookies sold year round on super- market shelves next to the Snackwells and the Chips Ahoy. To kids living in cyberspace and carrying cell phones, poppy seeds and prunes are as relevant as the last millennium. While I am not opposed to cross-cultural influences (without them we wouldn't have salmon gefilte fish or sweet potato latkes), I also think it's a shame to forget the heritage of hamantashen in pursuit of cutting edge innova- tions. The word hamantashen derives from the German and Yiddish "mohn," meaning poppy seeds and "taschen," pock- ets. It's been speculated that the pastry's first five letters ~Haman," represent the wicked vizier who planned to annihilate the Jews of Persia. The Purim story is set in ancient Persia in the court of King Ahasuerus, who held Haman in high esteem. Getting wind of the vizier's plot against his people, Mordechai, a respected member of the Jewish community, heard that the king was holding a contest to select a wife. Mordechai convinced his niece Esther to enter, and unwit- tingly Ahasuerus snapped up the exotic Jewish beauty. Mar- tying the king, Esther not only became Queen but waited for the right moment to reveal her religion and expose Haman's murderous plans against her people. The king turned against his vizier. Ironically Ahasuerus arranged for Haman to be hung on the pole he had erected to kill the Jews. Grateful to be saved from disaster, Mordechai and Esther organized a celebration that evolved into modern-day Purim. Although hamantashen took their shape from the three- sided hats Haman purportedly wore, there is no proof that his hats were triangular. Centuries after his demise, Jews on another continent, also inspired by a German confec- tion, began baking miniature three-cornered cakes filled with poppy seeds. Hamantashen spread like wild fire throughout Central and Eastern Europe, the hub of the Ashkenazi world. Originally made with yeast, the dough, similar to mod- ern-day Danish, was as soft as a cushion. In the Old Coun- try, women not only filled hamantashen with poppy seeds but also iekvar, a lusciously thick spread made of fruit, usually prunes or apricots, simmered in sugar. In 20th- century America though, cookie-style dough beat out yeast hamantashen, which are more complex and time consum- ing to prepare. Continually evolving, hamantashen have changed inside and out, and in theirlatest incarnation are deep chocolate dough wrapped around rich almond paste. Like bagels, hamantashen have infiltrated the American culinary scene and are available year round in bakeries, delis and super- markets. In many cases, their ubiquitous presence has resulted in a downturn in quality. Although it's gratifying that this little cookie has spread like a mighty empire, mass production has robbed its Purim identity. Some people are unaware that the triangular treats they consume with gusto are more Jewish than Levy's rye bread. They are satisfied with crust chunkier than Play-Doh. Worse yet, there are fewer and fewer people who remem- ber when hamantashen, like strudel, were as fine as Viennese pastry and spun like magic from Hungarian bakers' hands. BASIC HAMANTASHEN DOUGH 1 egg 1/2 cup margarine 1 Tbsp. orange juice 1 tsp. vanilla 2 tsp. lemon juice 1i/2 cups flour 1/2 cup sugar 11/4 tsp. baking powder 1/8 tsp. cinnamon 1. Install metal blade in a food processor. Into its bowl, place wet ingredients and process until well blended. Mixture resembles orange cottage cheese. 2. Sift dry ingredients and add to wet ones. Blend well until mixture clumps and forms a ball. Wrap dough in foil and refrigerate for 2-12 hours. (Recipes for fillings and directions for assembling hamantashen are below.) Yield: 4 dozen. To make enough hamantashen to sample all four fillings, double the recipe. LEKVAR 12-ounce pkg. pitted prunes or apricots 1/2 cup sugar 1 cup water I/4 tsp. cinnamon 1. Place ingredients in a 6- to 8-cup pot and cover. On high flame, bring to a boil and let it bubble for 10 minutes, until fruit swells and liquid turns syrupy. Stir almost continuously to avoid burning. Cool to room temperature. 2. Place in a food processor and blend with metal blade for 1-2 minutes, or until mixture becomes like paste. Fill hamatashen immediately or cover and refrigerate lekvar. Return to room temperature before using. POPPY SEED 2/3 cup (two 21~2-ounce jars) 1/3 cup water 3 Tbsp. honey 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped very fine zest 2 Tbsp. sugar Place 2 Tbsp. honey and the remaining ingredients small saucepan. Mix with a spoon. On medium simmer until mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. remaining honey. Cool to room temperature. DEEP CHOCOLATE I cup cocoa 1 cup sugar 1 cup coffee or cream 1-3 Tbsp. amaretto Mix cocoa, sugar and coffee in a medium sized bowl m well blended. If mixture" is dry, add amaretto one spoon at a time, until it becomes looser than fudge thicker than frosting. NO-FUSS FILLING Fill hamantashen with seedless preserves in a variel colors and flavors. Avoid using jelly, which turns watei DIRECTIONS FOR ASSEMBLING AND FILLE HAMANTASHEN 1. Place racks in center of oven. Preheat to 350. cookie sheets with no-stick spray. Dust counter and rolli pin with flour. 2. With a serrated knife, cut dough ball into Wrap three of them in foil and return to refrigerator. 3. With your hands, form first dough quarter into a t and flatten with palms. Using rolling pin, roll dough inches in diameter and about 1/8 inch thick. An shaped circle will form. 4. Using a 2 1/2 inch cookie cutter, cut several move to the side. Pick up remaining dough, form ball, and roll into a smaller circle. Repeat one times, until only scraps remain. 5. Place 1/2 tsp. of filling inside each circle. With fin tips pick up rim of dough and pinch in three places a triangular cookie with a filled center. 6. Place on cookie sheets and bake for 5 minutes. oven and move upper tray to lower rack and 5 more minutes or until edges are golden brown. from oven and cool for 2 minutes. With metal s cookies to platters to cool completely. 7. Follow the same procedure for remaining dough refrigerator. Store baked Hamantashen in airtight ers or freeze and defrost. CHOCOLATE HAMANTASHEN WITH ALMONDS I stick margarine, plus I tsp. 3/4 cup sugar 11/4 cups flour, plus extra for dusting l jumbo egg 1/2 cup cocoa 1/2 tsp. baking powder 1/2 tsp. vanilla 1. Cream margarine and sugar for 1-2 minutes, fluffy and light. 2. Slowly add flour, incorporating well. Add e 3. Add cocoa, baking powder, and vanilla. Beat Dough will be thick. With a spatula, roll dough into and wrap in aluminum foil. Refrigerate for 2-12 hours. 4. See directions for filling and assembling above. with almond paste (see recipe below). Yield: 40-48 cookies ALMOND PASTE 8-ounce pkg. blanched almonds 1/3 cup sugar I egg, beaten 1/8 tsp. almond extract 1. Place almonds in food processor. With metal beat for 4-6 niinutes, scraping bowl several times almonds look and feel like wet sand. 2. Add sugar and beat about one minute, until incorporated. 3. Add egg and beat again. Mixture will ball up, pasty and appear buttery. Cover almond paste with wrap so it doesn't dry out. Fill hamantashen immediately refrigerate and return to room temperature before Purim Continued from page 17 for and against its canoniza- ButthisyearPurimismore brance, preceding Purim, we Muslimswhowouldliketoseemother and aunt, as tion. than a melodramatic tale of readaboutAmalek, thequint- Jews, women and childrengirls, to Purim carnivals. While his sermon on "The So I'm pleased that Jeremy premarital sex and intermar- essential enemy of the Jews. obliterated from the earth, even donned fano Right to Abolish Purim" is, and Danny, 11, are working riage, misogyny, murder, in- Deuteronomy25:17-18states: Purim, despite its silliness one year dressing unfortunately, lost, the to improve the world. They temperance and vindictive- "Remember what Amalek did and political incorrectness, And Temple Israel in temple's historian, Joseph and their schoolmates are ness. toyou on your journey, after gives us a welcome respite Louiseventuallyreinstated Losos, recalls that Rabbi even carrying out one of the It is more than an opportu- you left Egypt - how, unde- from this nightmare. And, by celebration of Purim Isserman disapproved of holiday's mitzvot -- the di- nity for committees to fill the terred by fear of God, he sur- celebrating as a community, the carnival, ironically, in Purim "because he felt it was rective(Megillah9:22)tosend coffers of synagogues, day prised you on the march, it also gives us strength and IssermanAuditorium. a nationalistic, chauvinistic giftstothepoor. Usuailythese schools and other Jewish or- when you were famished and solidarity. Together we hear It is important, and xenophobic holiday and consist of money or food, but ganizations by hosting lavish wary, and cut down all the the Megillah read, trying, andtheirschoolmatesare' because God's name is never thestudentsarecontributing carnivals and masqueradestragglers in your rear." paradoxicaily and impossibly, ing, to make mentioned in the Megillah." something equally valuable, balls. And it is more than an Amalek, the embodiment of as the Torah (Deuteronomy ter place. It is equally Yes, Purim is problematic, their time and enthusiasm, excuse, as the Code of Jewish evil and inhumanity and the 25:19) commands us, to re- rant to builda strong, Not only is God's name ab- As the Megillah (9:1) says, Law tells us, for men and supposed ancestor of Haman, member Amalek and blot out and sent, butalsotheholidaylacks "V'nahapochnu.""Theworidwomen to wear each other's gratuitously and brutally at- hismemory.Togetherweob- Because this Purina sacred rituals as well as an has turned topsy-turvy." We clothes, tacked the Israelites from the serve, as the Megillah (9:22) know that it's going to authenticated historical ba- have teen-agers never mind This year, in this topsy- rear, where the women, chil- commands us, a day"of feast- some difficull sis. that their normal street ap- turvy world, Purim is a seri- dren and infirm walked,ing and gladness" and send work to triumph over our t Perhaps that's why the parel renders them indistin- ous holiday. For just asBut this year, we don't have baskets of food (mishloach Book of Esther barely made it guishable from court jesters, Esther, Mordechai and the to remember Amalek; we are manot) to one another, turvy world, we have into the Bible, the last book palace guards and even royal restoftheJewsofPersialived living in constant fear of him. Perhaps we always neededs to be accepted. An entire concubines -- foregoing a in imminent danger, so do Or them. We have Osama bin this one-day reprieve. Jane Ulman is a tractate ofthe Talmud, infact, morning of frivolity for com- we. Laden, Saddam Hussein and My grandfather, despitehis writerinEncin 'Calif" devotes itself to arguments munity service. On theShabbatofRemem- millions of fundamentalist protestations, the