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Published Thursday, February 26, 2015

Eating Your Hat, A Purim Tradition

By Deahn Berrini Leblang

Stories about the meaning behind the popular holiday cookie circle around like goldfish at a Purim Carnival. In German, Hamentashen are Haman’s pockets, as “tashen” means pockets. In Hebrew, the cookies are called Oznay Haman, “clipped ears,” named for Haman’s ears, supposedly clipped as a sign of his humiliation. Throw into the mix the legend that the treats are shaped like Haman’s three-cornered hat, and it becomes anyone’s guess what the true story is.

At the end of the day, though, the cookies have endured because they’re delicious. Put a variety of fillings onto a sweetened dough, and you get a recipe that’s pleased many a palate through the ages.

Hamentashen

For the dough:

4 cups flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. kosher salt

zest of one lemon

4 large eggs

1 cup sugar

1 cup canola or vegetable oil or margarine

¼ cup lukewarm water

Combine flour, baking soda, salt and lemon zest. In a separate bowl or in a food processor, beat eggs, sugar and oil until light and fluffy.

Add water, and then the dry ingredients to the wet while beating with a mixer at low speed, or pulse in a food processor. This step can also be done with your hands. When the dough comes together, roll onto a floured surface. Wrap the dough in tin foil or seal it in a container and refrigerate at least an hour, and up to three. To shape the cookies, you have two choices. (Make sure to refrigerate the dough you are not using.)

Choice one is to roll out a section of dough onto a floured surface to a width of 1/8 inch. Then, taking a cookie cutter or the rim of a glass, make circles 3 inches in diameter.

For choice two, tear off a section of dough the size of a Ping-Pong ball and flatten it with your hands into a thin disc.

Fill the center of each cookie with a generous tablespoon of filling. Take care not to overfill.

Fold over the top one-third of the cookie toward the center, leaving a section of the filling exposed. Then, take a third from the side and fold it in. You will overlap the end of the top third. Fold over the remaining third in a similar way — overlapping the dough on one side, but tuck the other side underneath, so that each third has an end that is both on top and underneath. The result is a triangle. If you take care to pinch the corners tight, there will be less chance the filling will run while baking.

Bake at 350° for 12-15 minutes or until a pale golden color.

Filling

The filling can be anything. In a pinch you, can use jam or marmalade, but here are two traditional recipes taken from “The Mile End Cookbook” by Noah and Rae Bernamoff.

Poppy Seed

1 cup poppy seeds

1½ cup dark raisins

1½ cup golden raisins

½ tsp. ground cloves

½ tsp. kosher salt

1 cup sugar

2 cups water

Combine the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until mixture is reduced somewhat. When the mixture is cool enough to handle, transfer to a food processor and process until the seeds are broken down. Cool completely before using.

Apricot or Prune

2 cups dried apricots or prunes

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

Combine the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. When the mixture is cool enough to handle, put it in a food processor and process until smooth. Cool completely before using.

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