Food as identity: Purim & Hamantaschen

We all come from somewhere. Well, yeah, duh, Al. But, I think about this, like, a lot, when I'm in the kitchen...and much more as of late. I owe my existence to my family members who immigrated from Italy, Ireland, Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic. I'm sure there are more places, instances of happenstance and migration that I do not yet know. My brothers and I are a mix of all of these cultures and predominately two religions, Catholicism and Judaism. Among other things, this smorgasbord of ethnicities and traditions have always influenced and informed our family's approach to food and our cooking philosophy. And, on Purim, we make hamantaschen, a tasty, pocket-filled cookie or pastry recognized for its triangular shape.

I wasn't raised Jewish, but I do know that today is Purim. Purim is a holiday of both celebration and commemoration, as it recognizes "the salvation of the Jewish people in ancient Persia from Haman's plot 'to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day,'" according to Survival is something that should and needs to be celebrated! And, for me, food is how I show my appreciation.

I'd like to think that I’m making my paternal ancestors - who fled Austria during WWII - proud by baking these delicious gems. I’m keenly aware that without their courage, I wouldn’t be here. So, baking hamataschen is my small gesture and ode to embracing their culture, faith, and their struggle to survive.  With each corner fold of the pastry, dollop of jam, and zest of lemon, I'm reminded to always cook with intention and gratitude. L’chaim! (translation: to life!) 

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  Lemon-Raspberry Hamantaschen  | 3.11.2017

Lemon-Raspberry Hamantaschen | 3.11.2017

Recipe: Lemon-Raspberry Hamantaschen

I wish I could say that this recipe was passed down from generation to generation, but, alas, it wasn't. I need to give credit where credit is due - I owe inspiration and thanks to the real masters like Tori Avey, Molly Yeh of My Name is YehLiz Rueven's Kosher Like Me, and Whitney Fisch of Jew Hungry. I encourage you to follow these women and read their work! 

Here's my approach and how I got the end result:

  • Dough: The recipe I used is from Liz's Kosher Like MeThe Perfect Hamantaschen Dough.  This one uses coconut oil and gives the dough an amazing texture.

My adaptations to this recipe:  Instead of wheat flour, I used Pamela's All Purpose Flour blend. (Not sponsored, I swear.) I do not advocate for substituting with random non-gluten flours (almond, buckwheat, coconut, etc.), especially if this is your first attempt. Baking is chemistry, after all. But, you should be fine if you use or have a preferred 1:1 flour blend that you use.

 A teaspoon of filling is all that you need. Once filled, fold dough into a triangle.

A teaspoon of filling is all that you need. Once filled, fold dough into a triangle.

  • Filling: organic, low sugar raspberry jam. Do a quick search for fillings, or search on one of the above sites that inspired me for more ideas (chocolate hazelnut, poppyseed, halva, apricot, date and honey, etc.). 
  • Shaping & forming: I followed the rolling and folding tips from Tori Avey. Click here for her instructions. The basics: You want to pinch or fold the dough to make a pocket or triangle.

My cooking cutter pro-tip: Most recipes suggest making circular rounds with a 3" cooking cutter. Skip that - use a wide-mouth mason jar lid and a small paring knife. For real. So simple!

 SWYF Pro-Tip: wide-mouth mason jar lid makes the perfect cookie cutter!

SWYF Pro-Tip: wide-mouth mason jar lid makes the perfect cookie cutter!