Joyous Purim

(Photo by David Stuck)

There are so many things to love about Purim. It is the most festive — some would say even a bit “out there” — of all the Jewish holidays. In Israel, parades and crowds of revelers fill the streets. People who have been there say it is fantastic to experience. Celebrations here may be on a smaller scale, but still we get to wear costumes, make lots of noise, drink wine and stuff ourselves with hamantaschen!

Food is often created in triangle shapes. I make my family’s favorite kugels — potato or sweet noodle — then I cut the kugel into triangular shapes and serve with a fancy toothpick in each one. I even fashion chopped liver into a triangular shape. It is said that Queen Esther survived in the palace by eating nuts and seeds, so another way to pay tribute to her is to sprinkle breads and salads with assorted seeds such as pumpkin, poppy and sesame. Many Purim foods are stuffed with other things — to symbolize the theme of concealment and hiding — as Queen Esther had to do. This is why kreplach is another favorite. I use frozen Rosendorff’s challahs and make a special crumb topping before baking (see recipe). Wear a costume, get a noisemaker and party, party, party. If you can’t be in Israel on Purim, you can still make it an unforgettable experience.

Tips & Tricks
-Use a tortilla press to make dough as thin as possible for triangle shapes.
-Remember: Purim cupcakes are muffins that believed in miracles — just like Purim.
-The internet is a great source for recipes. But read the comments for some specific, unique improvements.
-Using your favorite hamantaschen recipe, fill with a pareve brownie mix before baking.

EASY PERFECT HAMANTASCHEN

(Dairy)

Ingredients:

3 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

½ cup sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ cup butter, room temperature

3 eggs

Your choice of filling (jam, jelly, preserves, chocolate chips, nuts, brownie dough)

> Directions: Sift together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Mix in butter and eggs. Roll out dough and form into filled hamantaschen triangles. Bake on a well-greased cookie sheet or I prefer parchment paper for 12 to15 minutes at 400 degrees. Makes many depending on sizes.

CRUMB TOPPING

FOR CHALLAHS

(Pareve)

Ingredients:

½ cup flour

½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

5 tablespoons oil

> Directions: Combine flour and sugar in a bowl. Slowly add vanilla and oil. Mix with a spoon or your fingers until a crumb consistency. Egg wash tops of risen challah(s). Coat with the crumbs. Bake until golden brown.

NO-KNEAD PUFFY PURIM ROLLS

(Pareve)

Start with 2 bowls:

No. 1: Mix the following and let “bubble” for 15 minutes.

1 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons yeast

3¼ cups warm water

No. 2: 7-2/3 cups whole wheat flour

½ cup oil

1 tablespoon sea salt

> Directions: Combine both bowls and stir together. Just stir, it should be like a sticky cake batter. Cover with a large piece of plastic wrap. Place in a warm spot and let rise for 90 minutes. Using a large metal spoon, scoop batter into small round bread tins or 8- to 9-inch cake tins, depending if you want rolls or one large loaf. Sprinkle with colorful seeds. Let rolls rise in a 175-degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove, turn up oven to 355 degrees and bake for 20 to 30 minutes.

PURIM PILLOWS

(Pareve)

Ingredients:

1 17-1/3 ounce package of puff pastry (2 sheets)

2 egg yolks

2 teaspoons water

¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips for chunks

2 cups frozen raspberries, defrosted part way

Directions: Thaw pastry sheets for 30 minutes at room temperature. On a lightly floured surface, unfold one sheet. Roll into approximately 16-inch squares. Mix egg yolks and water and brush pastry lightly. Cut pastry sheet into 16 4-by-4-inch squares. Place 1 teaspoon chocolate and 1 heaping tablespoon raspberries in center of each square. Fold over one corner diagonally to form a triangle and press firmly on edges to seal. Press down along sealed edges with tines of a fork and prick once in center. Repeat with remaining pastry. Brush all with the egg mixture. Using about three parchment-lined baking sheets, freeze until firm, about 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake about 15 minutes, until puffed and golden. Serve warm, sprinkled with sifted powdered sugar. Makes 32 pastries.

Ilene Spector is a local freelance writer.

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