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Monday
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21

2005
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Hamentaschen, 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 or hat 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 always made hers smaller, lighter, and stuffed with apples - sort of like a mini-apple pie.

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.

 

Dough

  • 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

Filling

  • 3 granny smith apples peeled and diced
  • enough cinnamon and sugar to lightly coat (don't overdo the cinnamon)
  • juice of 1 lemon

Instructions

  • 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 light.
  • 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.

     
     
     
     
     

 

 

 

 

 

   

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  Garlic has long been credited with providing and prolonging physical strength and was fed to Egyptian slaves building the giant pyramids. Throughout the centuries, its medicinal claims have included cures for toothaches, consumption, open wounds and evil demons. A member of the lily family, garlic is a cousin to leeks, chives, onions and shallots. The edible bulb or "head" grows beneath the ground. This bulb is made up of sections called cloves, each encased in its own parchmentlike membrane. Today's major garlic suppliers include the United States (mainly California, Texas and Louisiana), France, Spain, Italy and Mexico. There are three major types of garlic available in the United States: the white-skinned, strongly flavored American garlic; the Mexican and Italian garlic, both of which have mauve-colored skins and a somewhat milder flavor; and the Paul Bunyanesque, white-skinned elephant garlic (which is not a true garlic, but a relative of the leek), the most mildly flavored of the three. Depending on the variety, cloves of American, Mexican and Italian garlic can range from 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches in length. Elephant garlic (grown mainly in California) has bulbs the size of a small grapefruit, with huge cloves averaging 1 ounce each. It can be purchased through mail order and in some gourmet markets. Green garlic, available occasionally in specialty produce markets, is young garlic before it begins to form cloves. It resembles a baby leek, with a long green top and white bulb, sometimes tinged with pink. The flavor of a baby plant is much softer than that of mature garlic. Fresh garlic is available year-round. Purchase firm, plump bulbs with dry skins. Avoid heads with soft or shriveled cloves, and those stored in the refrigerated section of the produce department. Store fresh garlic in an open container (away from other foods) in a cool, dark place. Properly stored, unbroken bulbs can be kept up to 8 weeks, though they will begin to dry out toward the end of that time. Once broken from the bulb, individual cloves will keep from 3 to 10 days. Garlic is usually peeled before use in recipes. Among the exceptions are roasted garlic bulbs and the famous dish, "chicken with 40 cloves of garlic," in which unpeeled garlic cloves are baked with chicken in a broth until they become sweet and butter-soft. Crushing, chopping, pressing or pureeing garlic releases more of its essential oils and provides a sharper, more assertive flavor than slicing or leaving it whole. Garlic is readily available in forms other than fresh. Dehydrated garlic flakes (sometimes referred to as instant garlic) are slices or bits of garlic that must be reconstituted before using (unless added to a liquid-based dish, such as soup or stew). When dehydrated garlic flakes are ground, the result is garlic powder. Garlic salt is garlic powder blended with salt and a moisture-absorbing agent. Garlic extract and garlic juice are derived from pressed garlic cloves. Though all of these products are convenient, they're a poor flavor substitute for the less expensive, readily available and easy-to-store fresh garlic. One unfortunate side effect of garlic is that, because its essential oils permeate the lung tissue, it remains with the body long after it's been consumed, affecting breath and even skin odor. Chewing chlorophyll tablets or fresh parsley is helpful but, unfortunately, modern-day science has yet to find the perfect antidote for residual garlic odor.  

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