Purim Hamantashen: Fantasies & Flavors
Purim's coming up so I gotta mention something very important. They fill your dreams but haunt your waistline. And what is it about them that necessitates mass production to skyrocket during the months of February and March? Sheer thrill electrifies the air at the mention of this delicious commodity. Wait a minute! Mass production, delicious, dreams, fat? What am I talking about? Sorry, I always get ahead of myself. I meant the famous fabulous Purim Hamantashen! Oh, right. Just you wait - this is gonna get good!
Let me give you a little background about Hamantashen so you may better understand me. The most popular explantion of why Jews eat this three cornered pastry on Purim is that Haman wore a three-cornered hat. Eating an image of Haman's hat is a way to symbolically destroy his memory.
In Yiddish, the word "hamantaschen" means "Haman's pockets." According to "The Jewish Book of Why," the name refers to Haman stuffing his pockets with bribe money. The cookies are folded to form a pocket that is filled with from a variety of jams, jellies and assorted flavors.
In Hebrew, the cookies are called "oznay Haman," or "Haman's ears."
Historically, hamantaschen have always been baked in the home. I still remember my mother recruiting all of us children to bake those delicious pastries. She would prepare the dough first while we at school as as soon as we came home, we eagerly scrubbed our hands clean and lined up at the table. We watched her roll out the sweet smelling dough with a pinwheel and as soon as it was flat enough we all got glass cups. We would sink the rim of the glass into the soft dough and create round, even circles. The excess was removed from the sides and was subsequently rolled out, flattened and made into circles again etc. Then we chose from an array of different jams and jellies and spooned a glob of jelly onto the middle of the cut circle of dough (though alot of it found it's way into our mouths!).
When that was done, we kids painstakingly pinched the edges of the circle into a triangle (which my mother would perfect when we weren't looking!) Placed on trays in rows, we would assist in sticking them into the oven and impatiently wait for the Hamantashen to bake and be ready to munch on. We went through this process a couple of times in the weeks before Purim, but it was such a fun experience we didn't mind. Even now, the heavenly smell itself wafts into my memory and permeats my very being. Oh, those days! Don't mind my nostalgic memories!
Nowadays, in modern times, the Hamantashen practice has spread to commercial bakeries. Although the pastries are usually filled with a prune filling or poppy seeds hamantaschen, some bakeries offer other flavors, including cherry hamantaschen, raspberry, apricot hamantaschen, pineapple, chocolate hamantaschen, mango and more! Whatever the ingredients, hamantaschen hold a special place among Jewish culinary delights.