Purim is this Friday, March 21st, less than one week away.
For those who aren’t familiar with Purim, it is a festival as opposed to a major holiday or “holy day.” Purim involves the story of the attempted destruction of the Jewish people, the subsequent escape to “freedom” and much feasting, a set of themes that run throughout many of our celebrations.
Purim is recorded in the Book of Ester and dates back to 600 BCE. At this time, Jewish exiles in Babylonia found themselves under Persian rule, with the spread of the Persian Empire. Haman, an adviser to the King of Persia, Achasverus, made plans to kill the Jews. Instead, Esther and her brother Mordechai thwarted these plans –with the help of divine intervention.
Rather than becoming the victims of evil decree, the Jews were allowed by the King to hang Haman; the day after his killing was designated as a day for feasting and rejoicing which we celebrate into the present. A bit macabre, though some Jewish holidays are.
This celebration now entails reading the Book of Ester and shaking groggers (noise makers) each time Haman’s name is mentioned. Further, children dress up in costumes (often as Haman, Mordechai or Esther, though anything goes these days), families exchange shaloch manos (English translation: “send gifts”) of food baskets and bake cookies called hamantaschen.
Hamantaschen, literally means Haman’s pocket in Yiddish. In Hebrew, these three cornered cookies, little triangles stuffed traditionally with poppy seeds or prune filling, are called Oznai Haman, or Haman’s ear. Alternatively, it is thought that Hamantaschen are a representation of the three cornered hat that Haman wore. Whatever these cookies represent, I love to make them every year in celebration of Purim!
- 1 cup currants
- 1 ½ cups water
- 2 apples, peeled, cored, chopped
- 1 whole vanilla bean
- 6 slivers lemon rind
- 1 cup dried apricots, chopped in quarters
- 3 cups blanched almond flour (not almond meal)
- ½ teaspoon celtic sea salt
- ½ cup grapeseed oil or palm shortening
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons or honey
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- In a vitamix, on high speed, puree currants in 1 ½ cups water until smooth
- In a medium saucepan, combine currant mixture, apples, vanilla bean, lemon rind and dried apricots
- Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until apples are soft, about 45 minutes
- In a large bowl, combine almond flour and salt
- In a smaller bowl, mix together oil, egg, agave, and vanilla
- Mix wet ingredients into dry
- Roll dough into 1 inch balls; place them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, then press flat into small circles
- Scoop one teaspoon of filling into each circle of dough
- Fold the dough in from three sides and pinch the corners to form a triangle shaped cookie
- Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes until dough is golden brown
As I mentioned, traditionally Hamantaschen are stuffed with prune paste or poppy seed paste. While I liked the tradition, these tastes were a little strange to me growing up. Now, these gluten-free Hamantashcen are filled with a more familiar, yet slightly exotic filling. I hope you like them as much as we do!