Hamantaschen cookies a sweet sign of Purim
Hamantaschen are triangle-shaped cookies typically stuffed with poppy seeds, fruit jams or chocolate, that are eaten on the Jewish holiday of Purim. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
1 cup sugar
¾ cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
4¼ cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 heaping teaspoons baking powder
Solo pie and pastry filling
Beat eggs; add sugar and vanilla. Add oil and mix well. Sift together flour, salt and baking powder. Add to mixture and blend well. Roll out into 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into 3-inch circles. Place 1 teaspoon of filling in center of each circle. Pinch sides together, forming a closed triangle over the filling. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes on a greased cookie sheet. Yield: Approximately 60 hamantaschen.
— From the Beth Hillel
Congregation Bnai Emunah
Updated: February 26, 2013 9:44AM
It wouldn’t be Purim without hamantaschen, the triangle-shaped pocket cookies traditionally exchanged on the Jewish holiday.
“They’re such an exclusive cookie; you only get them once a year,” said Skokie resident Beth Chiet.
Chiet and her daughter Jenna, 10, were part of a group of volunteers who baked hamantaschen together in the kitchen at Beth Hillel Congregation Bnai Emunah in Wilmette in advance of Purim festivities.
On the evening of Feb. 23, which marks the beginning of the 24-hour-long holiday, the biblical story of Purim will be read aloud from the Book of Esther at the synagogue. The story tells how Haman bribed King Ahasuerus of Persia to allow him to kill the Jews. The translation of Hamantaschen is “Haman’s pockets,” which references the coins Haman stuffed in his pockets to bribe King Ahasuerus. Haman was hanged, however, and his plans failed, when Esther, a favored wife of the king, revealed her Jewish ancestry.
Esther’s disclosure sparked a celebratory day of feasting that is still observed annually — with plenty of hamantaschen cookies.
And making the cookies can be as much fun as eating them.
“I like folding them,” Jenna said.
But while the process of folding three edges toward the center of each cookie can be a fun step, it can also be a tricky part of the baking process.
“If you don’t press the dough firmly enough, the cookie ends up looking like a big blob,” Beth said.
The folds point to the center of each cookie, which is filled with apricot, raspberry and other fruit jams. Other popular fillings include chocolate and poppy seed.
Jenna’s favorite is chocolate and her friend Rebecca Aisenberg, 10, also of Skokie, agrees.
“Hamantaschen cookies come in a lot of different flavors, but I like chocolate the best,” Rebecca said.
With their moms, the girls and their friend Eli Spector made hamantaschen at the synagogue. Some may be served after the reading on Feb. 23; others could be included in “mishloach manot,” or gift baskets that will be delivered as part of an annual fundraiser. And others might be enjoyed at the synagogue’s carnival on Feb. 24.
“We just enjoy getting out with the kids and celebrating at the carnival,” said Rebecca’s mother, Nora Aisenberg.
Whatever the event, the Beth Hillel Sisterhood has used the same trusted recipe for hamantaschen for more than 30 years. The recipe is one of 750 favorites shared in a cookbook the group published 14 years ago, World of Our Flavors II.
“I have been baking hamantaschen for many years, since I was a youngster, and later with my own children,” said Wilmette resident Gail Schneiderman, who was involved in the cookbook production. “Now the next generation, our grandchildren, participate with great delight.”
For details about Purim festivities at Beth Hillel Congregation Bnai Emunah, see www.bhcbe.org.