Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Thursday, March 13, 2014

I'm Ready for Purim: How about You?

Mardi Gras pin in place: check
Hamantashen dough all made: check
Green face paint: check
Purim shpiel written, cast, rehearsed: check

There’s a special kind of preparation that goes into Purim. It’s physical, it’s creative, and it’s emotional. Unlike preparing for Pesach, the food prep is pretty manageable. If you’re baking hamantashen and assembling mishloach manot, gifts of food for friends, at least you’re not feeding a six-course meal to the entire mishpocheh (family). Plus you can probably count on getting some sweets in return.

And if you’re in the mood to try something a little different in the hamantashen department, check out these 21st century options.

If you’d like my own not-so-secret hamantashen recipe, it’s available below.

Unlike preparing for Sukkot, there’s no need for home construction. The physical work, aside from baking, entails putting together a costume. Whether you go to the costume store or the party store or just find something outrageous in the closet. A mask, or even a funny pair of sunglasses can change your appearance.

Unlike preparing for the High Holy Days, you don’t need to examine all your deeds and work on personal transformation. The main emotional work is to sustain joy as much as possible. Laugh often. Tell jokes, Put on a mask. Get silly.

If you need inspiration, check out the “Backward”—the Jewish Daily Forward’s Purim section (Breaking news: Rabbi Rules Water is Non-Kosher).

Need more inspiration? Join us for the reading of the Megillacuddy, our Purim-Patricka celebration on Saturday night, March 15 at 6:30 (don’t be late or you’ll miss St. Patrick’s havdalah appearance!). Come in costume. Bring a plate of hamanatashen to share. Drop some tsedaka in the box for Yad Chessed (there has to be one serious aspect of this holiday!) I hope to see you on Purim. The question is, will you recognize ME?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Hamantashen recipe that works--for Aviva

This dough comes out browner than most, due to the whole wheat flour and honey. But it's worked for me for over two decades.  Here are the first two batches from this year:

from The Jewish Holiday Cookbook, by Gloria Kaufer Greene, 1985
I think I found this cookbook in a used bookstore in Bisbee, Arizona

(I make this recipe 4x the amounts below and yield 8+ dozen)
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened (I prefer butter)
1/4 cup packed dark or light brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose white flour; may use half whole wheat flour)

Use an electric mixer at medium speed to cream the butter with the brown sugar and honey in a medium-sized bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Then mix in the baking powder, soda, and flour until very well combined. Use enough flour so that the dough isn't sticky. you can always add more when you roll it out.

Form the dough into a thick circle or ball, wrap it in plastic wrap or wax paper, and refrigerate for several hours until quite firm. (It can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. This is a very important step.)

I do not make my own filling. I buy it fresh at the kosher Butcherie, or canned poppy or apricot filling. Those are our favorites.

Roll out the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface until it is about 1/8 inch thick. (For easier handling, take out a ball of dough at a time and leave the rest in the refrigerator so it doesn't get too soft.)

Take an empty, clean tuna can with both ends removed (or a glass) to make circles of about 3 inches in diameter in the dough. Put a generous (measured) teaspoon of filling in the center of each circle.

Fold up the edges of each circle in thirds to form a triangular base and pinch edges together very tightly (if the dough has too much flour, wet the dough to make it stay closed.) Leave a small opening in the center of the cookie so you can see the filling.

Put hamantashen about 1 inch apart on a greased cookie sheet and bake about 13 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack. Store in air-tight containers. Keeps for several days. But they rarely last that long!