In 2022, March 17th commemorates two very distinct cultural celebrations: Purim and St. Patrick’s Day. You might wonder if there is any way to bridge those two celebrations and find some commonalities; I’m going to give it my best shot.
In both communities, some choose to dress festively for the holidays. Some join in parades or pageants. Certainly cultures of drinking, abundance, and revelry surround both holidays, albeit for different reasons. And, of course, feasting! Both holidays have well-defined foods that are integral to the celebrations. For the Irish that would be a cold mug of beer and a warm slice of soda bread and for the Jewish people a glass of wine (or scotch!) and hamantaschen rule the day.
The history of how and why we eat hamantaschen remains a mystery. Hamantaschen are said to be either villainous Haman’s tri-cornered hat or his ear, oddly enough. But nowhere in the Book of Esther is Haman described as wearing a hat, let alone a tri-corner chapeau. Some say it relates to a popular German pastry eaten in medieval times called mohntaschen, which means poppy seed pockets. In the late 1500s, the Spruce Eats reports that term morphed into hamantaschen or Haman’s pockets, related to the notion that Haman’s pockets were filled with bribe money. In any case, as far as Purim goes, I care less about the why and more about the how—so here’s the how:
St. Patrick’s Day Hamantaschen
The basis for this recipe is from my book Recipes Remembered, a Celebration of Survival written in association with and to benefit the Museum of Jewish Heritage. The recipe came from Holocaust survivor and extraordinary baker Millie Zuckerman z”l. Millie survived as a hidden child in her town of Humniska, where she and her family were protected by a woman who had been a patron of their local grocery store. She met and married her husband, Abe who also survived the Holocaust working in an enamelware factory for Oskar Schindler.
Millie’s famous sugar cookies are wonderful on their own, but they also make a terrific foundation for hamantaschen.
The key to successful hamantaschen is to not just pinch the dough when creating the triangle, but fold one corner over the next to truly seal them. Also, never over fill. You can always add a dollop of filling after they bake to top them off. The secret ingredient is the orange juice which gives the cookie a distinctive scent and flavor. To pair the two holidays, you can spike your preserves with Irish cream or color the dough with green food coloring, so if you have them for breakfast you can say Top o’ the Morning!
For the dough:
½ pound butter (or margarine), room temperature
2 egg yolks
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
Optional: green food coloring
Filling: Choose your favorite
Apricot, Raspberry preserves
Prune or apple butter
(No matter which filling you choose, try making a batch at home. I will say, it’s a lesson in patience and acceptance of the fact that some of your hamantaschen will inevitably unfold while baking, allowing the jam filled centers to ooze across your parchment paper. I feel that’s the true meaning of Purim.)
Step One: Beat the butter or margarine, egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl, on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Slowly pour in the orange juice and vanilla. The liquids will cause the mixture to separate, so continue beating and scraping down the sides until they are well incorporated.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. With the mixture on low speed, add the flour to the butter mixture and beat on medium speed, until all the ingredients are well combined. If you want to marry the two holidays of Purim and St. Patrick’s Day, now’s the time to add your green food coloring. Divide the dough in half, flatten each into a disc and wrap tightly in wax paper. Refrigerate 6 hours or overnight.
Step Two: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, lightly grease a large unrimmed baking sheet, and take one disc and your jams/preserves out of the fridge.
Let the dough sit for a couple of minutes to make rolling easier. Roll to ¼-inch thick on a floured surface. Using a 3” cookie cutter, cut the dough into rounds. Gather and re roll the scraps and cut again. After two times, refrigerate the dough before rolling and cutting again. Place a teaspoon of filling (or a few chocolate chips) in the center of the dough and pinch the sides. (If you need guidance for the technique, there are plenty of You Tube videos). I like to not only pinch, but then gently fold over the corner for an extra seal.
Place the tray in the fridge for a few minutes, this again helps them hold their shape when baking. Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes or until the cookies are a light golden color. Repeat with the remaining dough. Let the cookies cool on a wire rack if you have one handy and add a dollop of additional filling to top them off. Enjoy!
The cookies will hold for several days in a storage container, but they won’t last that long!
June Hersh is a cookbook author, food writer and Jewish food archivist. She is currently at work on a book for The History Press, a division of Arcadia Publishing with the working title New York’s Iconic Jewish Foods. Recipes Remembered can be purchased at the Museum of Jewish Heritage bookstore or visit her website junehersh.com Books can be personally inscribed by emailing her email@example.com.