Shortbread Triangles

IMG_2192Shhhh,  here is what I baked and sent in lieu of Hamantaschen this year, and here is what I received in return.  Chag Purim Sameach.

Shortbread Triangles (a Martha Stewart Recipe)

1 stick unsalted butter room temperature

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy.  Add flour and mix just enough to combine. (You can chill dough for 10 minutes if it is too soft) Pat dough into a greased 8-inch round cake pan.  Using a small knife and a small ruler, score cookies so that you end up with 8 triangles. Crimp edges with a fork. Bake about 30 to 35 minutes or till just lightly golden. Cool completely, and then turn out of pan on to hard surface and immediately slice cookies along scored edges with a serrated  knife.  Set on parchment paper and dip one edge of each cookie into chocolate.

Chocolate glaze

3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate

1 tsp canola oil

Coarsely chop chocolate and melt in a double boiler, stirring with a wooden spoon.  Add safflower oil and stir.  Remove from heat, and let cool for just a few minutes.  Dip one edge of each cookie into chocolate glaze, and transfer to rack to cool.  Refrigerate for about 15 minutes. Cookies can the be stored, or shipped!

Friday, February 22, 2013

By Rav David

Our Temple Sholom Purim festivities kick off tomorrow night with our hamentaschen bake off and pizza party, followed by the Megillah reading. However, the beginning of Purim festivities technically begins two weeks in advance of the holiday, when the Hebrew month of Adar begins. For me, the spirit of Purim begins when I receive an email from my mother asking about particulars for this year’sMishloach Manot, special Purim care packages full of hamantaschen and other delicious (and not necessarily nutritious) foodstuffs.

This year’s email was particularly entertaining. I quote, in full: “Sinful goodies will soon be on their way but IF anybody doesn’t want a basket because of lifestyle “issues” then please tell me now, not after, and I can redistribute all the goodies. Love, me.” In my family, “lifestyle ‘issues’” are things like a carbohydrate- or sugar-free diet, a bout of veganism, or the like. We all write back saying that of course we’ll love whatever our beloved mother sends-which is true-and with the anticipation of homemadeMishloach Manot the spirit of Purim is upon me.

But Purim is about more than hamantaschen, carnivals, and costumes. It’s about defeating Haman through spreading joy and practicing compassion: “The Kobriner Rabbi (late 19th century) was accustomed to command his followers to give Purim gifts to each other, and to pay for the messengers by a special donation to the poor of the Land of Israel. ‘This is the best way to strike at Haman,’ said the Rabbi.” Indeed! Mordecai himself instituted the ritual of spreading the joy and compassion on Purim, in Esther 9:22: “[The] days on which the Jews enjoyed relief from their foes…had been transformed for them from one of grief and mourning to one of festive joy. They were to observe them as days of feasting and merrymaking, and as an occasion for sending gifts to one another and presents to the poor.” In the Jewish tradition, there is no more powerful way to strike at Haman, to defeat enemies, than to celebrate life, to feast, to spread joy and compassion in the world.

Leo Tolstoy said of Jews: “The Jew – is the symbol of eternity. … He is the one who for so long had guarded the prophetic message and transmitted it to all mankind. A people such as this can never disappear. The Jew is eternal. He is the embodiment of eternity.” The Jew is not eternal because Haman and his predecessors and followers all failed to destroy the Jewish people. The Jew is eternal because with the failure of each and every anti-Jewish ruler, the Jews gather together, celebrate, and defeat hatred with love. We are a people that have suffered, yes; but we have nevertheless, paradoxically, affirmed a basic optimistic outlook and joyful approach to life. Purim is the holiday that best captures that joy, and the special foods, theMishloach Manot, are an embodiment of the indefatigable Jewish spirit.

Every holiday that celebrates triumph over enemies–Purim, Chanukah, Passover, etc–gives us two options. We can either complain about the evil that caused so much suffering for our people, or we can increase the joy, increase the compassion, and increase the justice in the world. Purim is the opportunity to increase that joy.

One of my favorite teachings on this topic comes from Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the Chief Rabbi of British Mandatory Palestine. A European Jew born in the mid-19th century, Rav Kook lived in Europe during World War I, and saw any number of latter day “Hamans”. Nevertheless, he challenges us to increase the good in the world rather than complaining about the evil: “…the pure righteous do not complain of the dark, but increase the light; they do not complain of evil, but increase justice; they do not complain of heresy, but increase faith; they do not complain of ignorance, but increase wisdom.”

Chag Purim Sameach – Happy Purim!

Lil’s Hamantaschen

One of my favorite memories of growing up in The Bronx is of the leisurely strolls down the Grand Concourse which often included a stop at Krum’s, a large soda parlor at 187th Street.  At the front of the store there was a counter behind which were bins filled with assorted, and what I thought were exotic, nuts.  Among others, there were Brazil nuts, Cashews (my personal favorite), white Pistachios, and red Pistachios which were what we always bought.  The red dye would rub off on your fingers and that was part of the fun, plus we were innocent of the danger of red dye.  In the center of the store there was a large display table that changed every season.  Cellophane gift baskets that contained combinations of dried fruits, nuts and crackers towered over the smaller items.  I always liked the Spring display the best, when chocolate Easter Bunnies dominated the table and all the confections were some shade of pastel and filled with marshmallows or soft creams.  At the back of the shop was the Soda Fountain where you could have any kind of drink, ice cream or Sundae, to which my father would treat me on occasion, always on a Sunday.

Purim is just around the corner and though this holiday doesn’t resonate with me I can’t break with certain traditions.  I try to hear the Megillah reading in the morning, at work, recited with decorum and not much fanfare.  What else?  I send my children gift baskets, Mishloach Manot.  In spite of the fact that they are not all fans of Hamantashen, I always include them along with whatever other treats I either bake or buy.  Hopefully these ” baskets” (that arrive in FedEx boxes instead of cellophane and ribbons) will create happy memories for them, like the ones that I carry,  and who knows, some day they may even develop a taste for Hamantaschen.  Chag Purim Sameach.

Here is one more tradition that I can’t change, it is my mother-in-law’s recipe for Hamantaschen and I use it every year.  Some people find the dough too soft to work with, but I think it’s perfect just the way it is.

Lil’s Hamantaschen
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 Tsp. baking powder
2 3/4 cups flour
1/4 cup orange juice

Mix dry ingredients in bowl.  Combine eggs and oil and mix well.  Slowly add orange juice to eggs and then mix liquid into dry ingredients.  Mix together till dough is soft and pliable.  If dough is too soft, refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Filling
6 oz. dried apricots
6 oz. dried pitted prunes
1 1/2 cups raisins
3-4 Tb sugar
1/2 Tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup water or orange juice

In a small heavy bottomed pot combine all ingredients over low heat and cook until fruit is soft, about 20 minutes.  Add water if needed.  Process mixture in a food processor for about one minute until it looks like jam.

Roll dough out on floured board till about 1/4 inch thick.  Cut out small circles and place a teaspoon of filling in the center.  Pinch sides together to form a triangle.  Brush with beaten egg and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden.

Enjoy,
Irene