tasted on March 19, 2005 — Yet another Jewish holiday is
coming up - Purim. The old joke sketches the outline for the
backstory of just about every Jewish holiday: "they tried to kill
us, we survived, let's eat". This is another one of those combined
with sanctioned dressing up and silliness. As for the food,
triangular fruit-filled pastries made to resemble the bad guy's ear
are one of the staples.
Historical perspective from my father the historian:
"Hamantaschen" were originally "montaschen"
(German-yiddish for poppy seed pockets). But Jews couldn't
resist the pun and began calling them "homantaschen". The
tri-cornered bit was simply the way a circular bit of dough
folded over came out. Note that in Hebrew, they are called "Haman's
ears" and not "Haman's hats". The tri-cornered hat idea is a
later innovation linked, presumably to the 18th century hat
style. I would love to imagine that this had something to do
with the hats of the Napoleonic French armies that liberated
Jews from ghettos in the early 18th century. There are tales of
the Jews eagerly swapping hats with the French soldiers, but
this is usually linked to wanting to sport the tri-color (red
white and blue little bits of cloth that were stuck into the
Frenchmen's hats as flag-like symbols of France and liberty)
rather than the hats themselves which, presumably, were just
like the hats the Jews already wore.
Often at bakeries you'll find them (hamantaschen,
not hats) filled
with poppy seeds or prunes. My mom knows better than that. She has
hers smaller, lighter, and stuffed with apples - sort of like a
On Saturday, Sivan (my three-and-a-half year old
son) and I decided to take out his grandmother's recipe and make
hamentaschen. They turned out just like she makes them - well just about
like hers. There's no real substitute for her making them herself.
Maybe we'll videotape her next time she does it. My mom says she
adapted the following from a recipe by Lillian Kaplun, For the Love
of Baking, page 47, published in Toronto 1960. Makes about
fifty hamentaschen. Believe it or not, mine were even better the
second day after they'd completely cooled.
- 4 cups all purpose flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/3 teaspoon salt
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- juice of 1 regular orange
- 3 granny smith apples peeled and diced
- enough cinnamon and sugar to lightly coat (don't overdo the
- juice of 1 lemon
- Mix flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Beat eggs until light and lemon colored.
- Add sugar gradually and beat mixture until thick.
- Add oil mixing well.
- Add dry ingredients alternately with orange juice.
- Dough will be somewhat sticky. Add flour in small amounts
just until it's workable.
- Roll out dough thinly. Cut into 2 inch rounds.
- Put 1 teaspoon of filling on each piece, fold into a
triangle pinching edges together.
- Brush with beaten egg white mixed with a little water.
- Place on greased cookie sheet.
- Bake at 350F for 12-15 minutes or until just starting to
turn golden brown. Don't overbake. It's ok if they look a little
- Let them cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet and then
remove to a plate for more cooling.
You don't have to celebrate Purim to enjoy these
little apple-turnover like pastries any time of year.