Sunday, March 12, 2006

Hamen's Pockets

One of my favorite holidays approaches. It is a joyous one that celebrates freedom from oppression. It is also the only holy day I know of where G-d commands us to drink. "To drink wine until we can no longer distinguish between our best friend and our worst enemy," as a Rabbi explained it to me in Tokyo. As a young sailor I delighted in the drinking and rejoiced in my fine memory. Now that I am no longer young and my memory is less dependable I understand the point to be less about the drinking than about the letting go of bad experiences so that life may grow good again. Surely that is a worthy reason to lift a glass.

The holiday is Purim which celebrates the events related in the biblical book of Esther. For more detail visit Judaism 101: Purim. Purim begins this year at sundown of March the thirteenth and continues until sundown or the fourteenth.

Another treat associated with Purim is Hamentaschen, or Hamen's pockets. In the story Hamen is the baddy. He likes to squeeze money and taxes out of everybody. He's the guy whose name we're supposed to blot out by swinging noisemakers -- rattles -- called gragors. Hamentaschen are rounds of pastry folded around a filling to make a shape like a three cornered hat, with pastry for the brim and the filling for the crown. One traditonal filling is plum jam. Another is Poppy seeds with lemon peel in honey. Both are good, but any fruit type filling works.

For the pastry I make my variant of the Rich Tart Pastry found in the Horizon Cook Book. Sift 2 cups of flour with salt, a quarter cup of sugar, and a cup of finely ground almonds or other nuts. Cut in three quarters cup of butter. Add 2 eggs, grated peel of a lemon, one or two tablespoons of rum or brandy and mix until dough makes a ball. Wrap in wax or parchment paper and refrigerate for an hour.

For the filling use a good preserve, or chop a cup of dried apricots and half a cup of nuts finely. Soak in a good dark rum. Break two tablespoons of poppy seeds in a mortar with a pestle. Add all to a half cup of honey in a saucepan and heat until thick. Orange peel might be a tasty addition to any of the above.

To assemble: Roll the pastry into three inch rounds about one eight inch thick. Place a tablespoon of filling in the center. Fold the edges together around the filling and pinch the ends together to make the hat shaped triangles. Place one and a half inches apart on a buttered, or parchment papered, sheet. Bake about twenty minutes in a 350of oven.

-- ml

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