At sunset on Saturday, the Jewish holiday of Purim will begin. The two-day festivities commemorate the deliverance of the Jewish people from a plot to annihilate them by order of Haman, the royal vizier, during the rule of King Ahasuerus in ancient Persia.
The happenings of the failed plot are read twice — once on the eve of Purim and then on the day of Purim — from the Megillah scroll, which contains the Book of Esther. Esther was the courageous young Jewish woman who became queen under false identity and saved her people from extermination, and the holiday is, quite naturally, one rich in celebration and joy.
Like many other Jewish bakers around the world, part-time Naples resident Arlene Levin is getting ready for the Purim festivities by preparing several batches of the holiday’s traditional cookie: the hamantaschen. The name of the cookie comes from Haman, the villain whose plot to kill the Jews failed, and the word taschen, which means pockets.
“Their triangular shape,” she explains, “represents Haman’s
Although, traditionally, poppy seed filling is the most popular for this sweet treat, Levin prefers fruit fillings, and shares seven different ones, including one made with cocoa powder.
HAMANTASCH DOUGH RECIPE
Makes about 3 dozen cookies.
1 stick margarine (Smart Balance can also be used)
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 cups flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
A pinch of salt
* Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
* Mix together margarine, egg, sugar and orange juice, then add flour, baking powder and salt and work until you have a ball of dough.
* On a floured board or baking mat, roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness and cut into circles.
* Fill each circle with about ¾ teaspoon of your favorite filling and pinch dough into a triangle around it.
* For a quick, easy way to fill the cookies use your favorite flavor of Solo brand fruit filling. If you feel more ambitious than that, the following fillings are made from scratch and they aren’t difficult to put together.
Mixed fruit filling
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup pitted prunes
1/2 cup dried apricots
1 8-ounce jar strawberry preserve
* In a food processor, grind fruit and add the strawberry preserves. Mix well.
1 pound pitted prunes
1/2 pound raisins
1 10-ounce jar Smucker’s simply fruit black cherry spreadable fruit
* Put prunes and raisins in a food processor or blender. Pulse to chop.
* Place mixture in a large bowl and add the cherry preserves. Mix well.
Prune filling No. 2
1 pound pitted prunes
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
* Place prunes in a medium sized saucepan and cover with water. Cook on medium heat until soft and most of the water is absorbed, approximately 10 to 12 minutes.
* Let cool. Grind prunes in a food processor or blender.
* Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Makes enough filling for about 4 dozen cookies.
1 can Solo apricot filling
1 6-ounce package dried apricots
1/2 cup water
Lemon juice and sugar
* Steam the dried apricots in a covered pot of water to soften.
* Remove from water and chop.
* In a bowl mix the chopped apricots and the apricot filling.
* Taste and adjust sweetness by adding sugar (to enhance it) or lemon juice (to dull it).
Quick poppy seed filling
1 can of Solo poppy seed filling
1⁄8 to 1/4 cup of honey, to taste
* Mix filling and honey until well blended
Poppy seed filling
1 cup poppy seeds
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
1/4 cup honey
1⁄3 cup chopped pitted dates
1⁄3 cup raisins
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
* Place all the ingredients in a saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until almost all liquid has evaporated. Makes 2½ cups.
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1⁄3 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk
11/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped nuts.
* Mix all ingredients together until you have a rich paste.