Thursday, March 17, 2011

Haman's tasty ears

For nearly a whole week, all of the talk at the table has been centered around Purim.  "My friend is going to come to school on Friday as Spiderman."  "Ima, have you finished fixing my dress?"  "Let's make oznei Haman!"

Oznei Haman is Hebrew for "Haman's ears."  I'm not sure if we really know what his ears looked like, but the name probably came from poking fun at the official villain of this holiday: "Haman was so stupid, he got hung on his own gallows...and he was ugly too!"  The Yiddish term for the cookie is Hamantaschen, meaning "Haman's pockets" and is a reference from the third chapter of the book of Esther to all the money that must have been jingling around inside of them. 

The metamorphosis of a three-sided cookie
We made our triangular treats today.  I cracked the eggs, Puriel poured in the sugar and stirred.  Everything was going great...and then he added some discarded orange pulp to the bowl of batter.

"What did you do?!?" I cried out in surprise.  Next came a short lecture on following directions which produced an apology, which then made me give one of my own.  "I'm sorry for yelling, Purieli.  I'm trying to work on not yelling, because it really isn't nice, is it?"

"It's not," he agreed, "but I know that even if you yell sometimes, you still love me all the time."

We fished out the pulp and continued with our family recipe, passed down through four generations so far.  It goes like this:

2 eggs
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c. oil
1/2 orange, juice and rind
2 3/4 c. flour

Mix eggs and sugar. Add oil, vanilla and orange juice with rind. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together in a separate bowl, then add to wet ingredients.  Roll as thin as you can without it falling apart (easier if dough is chilled, even 20 min. in freezer if you're in a hurry).  These cookies will puff up a lot and force their fillings out if they are too thick. Cut into rounds with a glass dipped in flour (a great time to involve the kids again). Place spoonful of filling in center. Form a triangle by pinching together at top and sides.

Bake at 325 F/160 C.  For me they were done in about 10 minutes, but everyone's oven has a mind of its own.  Also, I doubled the recipe and used 4 c. whole wheat flour and 1 1/2 c. white with extra for dusting the counter.  I still have over 100 cookies left, after letting the kids sample them and share with their playmates.  I'll be making another batch tomorrow...

For the filling, grind 1 c. poppy seeds (apx. 100g) in your food processor until they look like ground pepper.  Dump into saucepan with 2 c. water and bring to a boil (it will look milky).  Add 1 c. golden raisins, coarsely chopped, and 2 T. candied etrog peel, finely minced.  If you can't get your hands on that, substitute 1 T. lemon rind plus 2 T. sugar.  Chop 1/2 c. blanched almonds (soak almonds overnight and the skins will slip right off) and add along with 2 T. canola oil.  Cook until thick, sweeten to taste, add 1 tsp. vanilla and let cool.
Cookie monster gets caught

This may seem a little labor intensive for just a filling, especially in our age of pre-packaged everything.  But trust me, there is nothing like poppy seed filling, a.k.a. "mohn" when it's homemade.  This is also a fabulous filling for a yeast cake or rugelach.  If I can't manage to make the filling though, I have been known to use: chopped dates (with or without walnuts), chocolate chips, or chopped fresh strawberries boiled in a bit of water and honey (instant homemade strawberry jam).  I don't like the store-bought jams because the sugar content is so high that not only is it unhealthy but burns more easily in the oven.  Either that or it's a really expensive jam without sugar that I can't bring myself to spoon into 250 cookies.

Although I enjoy creating and eating healthy food, I try not to be too radical about it.  You'll notice there are modest amounts of [gasp!] salt and sugar in my recipes.  These two ingredients are natural preservatives (less food wasted is good for the planet, right?) and in small amounts won't be any more damaging to your overall health and well-being than a sour mood will, IMO.  I use sea salt from the Dead Sea which contains many important minerals and light or dark brown sugar which is slightly less processed (plus it costs more, which helps motivate me to use less).  In most commercial baked goods the flour and sugar are used in equal amounts.  A few really awful products even have more sugar than flour.  If you are starting to eat better, make sure that the sugar content is not more than half of the flour and once your taste buds have adjusted you can reduce it even more.

Pre-Purim Carnival at Puriel's preschool / Photo credit: Sara Raschti
 
Wishing you a very happy, healthy and safe Purim!