Celebrating Purim With Traditional Hamantaschen

Purim is not a religious holiday; it honors Queen Esther, who saved her people from the cruel Haman, a bitter enemy of the Israelites. The story of Esther is read from the Megillah and noise makers, called grogers, are rattled whenever the name of Haman is mentioned.

Purim, which falls on Tuesday this year, is traditionally a day of feasting and happiness. Gifts are given to the poor, to family and to friends. The gifts include special sweets, including the holiday's famous filled three-cornered pastries, called Hamantaschen, which are made in either the shape of Haman's hat or his ears, depending on which story you believe.

Custom decrees that the main meal is always served at midday, so that Purim never becomes just another working day. My family, which now numbers 15 including children and grandchildren, will share a festive midday meal and gather in the kitchen to make our own do-it-yourself Hamantaschen for dessert.

This Purim, I am going all out with some new versions of the classic pastry. Since Hamantaschen can be made with a variety of sweet doughs, I am preparing four versions: orange-flavored, poppy seed, whole-wheat and chocolate. The doughs are prepared in advance, covered with plastic wrap and foil, then sealed in airtight bags and stored in the refrigerator. Bowls of different fillings will be waiting to be spooned on the rolled out pastry. I have extra rolling pins on hand for family members who want to roll their own.

To add to the festivities, I have experimented with some new fillings. The classic poppy seed mixture is always a favorite, and traditional prune fillings are a reminder of the plum merchant who was a hero in Jewish folklore. In addition to these two, I am adding a new raspberry mixture, a chocolate-flavored filling and an apricot filling. Chocolate is not as unusual as it may seem, since chocolate-flavored Hamantaschen have been baked in Israel for many years.

Buttered, foil-lined baking sheets will await the filled pastries, and my ovens will be preheated and ready for the holiday treats. It will be fun for young and old to mix and match the four fillings with the four different doughs.

In 10 minutes the Hamantaschen will be baked and ready to eat hot from the oven. We will return to the table for our dessert and a chance to compare flavors and share our favorite combinations. Of course, we always include a sweet wine with dessert. Tea and coffee will be served, and milk for the children since this is a dairy meal.

Besides the Hamantaschen recipes, I am including some new poppy seed treats which are perfect for Purim. And if you have young children in the family, be sure to invite them to help with dessert. WHOLE-WHEAT HAMANTASCHEN

1/2 cup butter or margarine

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup honey

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Filling of choice

Cream together butter, sugar, honey, vanilla, lemon juice and eggs. Sift together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add to butter mixture and blend well. Place on floured board and knead into smooth ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour.

Divide in 4 to 6 parts. Roll out each part on floured board 1/8 inch thick and cut into 2- or 3-inch rounds. Drop generous teaspoon of filling in center. Bring edges up to form triangle and pinch seams together to seal. Re-roll scraps and repeat with remaining dough and filling.

Line baking sheets with greased foil. Arrange Hamantaschen on pan and bake at 350 degrees 15 minutes or until edges and bottoms are brown. Cool on wire rack. May be frozen before baking. Store in airtight container after baking. Makes about 4 dozen. POPPY SEED HAMANTASCHEN

1 cup butter or margarine

2/3 cup sugar

2 hard-cooked egg yolks, mashed

1 egg yolk

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons poppy seeds

Filling of choice

Cream butter with sugar. Blend in cooked and uncooked yolks and vanilla. Add flour, salt and poppy seeds and blend until smooth. Knead into ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill 30 minutes for easier handling.

Divide into 2 parts. Roll out each part 1/8 inch thick. For easier handling, roll out on floured wax paper and remove each round with metal spatula. Cut into 2-inch rounds. Place teaspoon of filling on each round. Pinch edges together to form triangle. Re-roll scraps and repeat with remaining dough and filling.

Line baking sheets with greased foil. Arrange Hamantaschen on foil and bake at 350 degrees 10 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Makes about 3 dozen. ORANGE-FLAVORED HAMANTASCHEN

1 cup butter or margarine

Sugar

3 eggs

1/4 cup orange juice

Grated peel of 1 orange

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Filling of choice

Cream together butter and 1 cup sugar. Add eggs and blend until fluffy. Add orange juice, orange peel and vanilla and blend well. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture and beat until dough comes together. Place on floured board and knead into ball. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour.

Divide into 4 parts. Roll out each part 1/8 inch thick and cut into 2-inch rounds with cookie cutter. Place teaspoon of filling in center of each round. Pinch edges together to form triangle. Re-roll scraps and repeat with remaining dough and filling. Line baking sheets with greased foil. Sprinkle Hamantaschen with sugar and arrange on baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees 20 minutes or until brown on edges and bottom. Makes about 4 dozen. CHOCOLATE HAMANTASCHEN

1 1/2 cups flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup butter or margarine

1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon coffee or water

2 tablespoons melted semisweet chocolate

Filling of choice

Combine flour and sugar in large bowl. Cut in butter until crumbly. Combine egg yolk, coffee and melted chocolate. Add to flour mixture and blend until dough comes together. Place on floured board and knead to smooth ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour. Divide into 4 parts for easier handling and roll out 1/8 inch thick.

Cut dough into 1 1/2- to 2-inch rounds. Drop teaspoon of filling onto center. Bring edges up to form triangle and pinch seams together to seal. Re-roll scraps and repeat with remaining dough and filling.

Line baking sheets with greased foil and arrange Hamantaschen on sheet. Bake at 375 degrees 5 to 10 minutes or until edges and bottoms are brown. Cool on rack. May be frozen before baking. Store in airtight container. Makes about 2 dozen. Raspberry Filling

2 cups raspberry preserves

2 cups golden raisins, plumped and drained

2 cups finely chopped walnuts or almonds

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine preserves, raisins, walnuts, sugar and cinnamon. Mix well. Makes about 6 cups. Chocolate Filling

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup coffee, milk or half and half

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Combine cocoa, sugar, coffee and walnuts and blend thoroughly. Makes 1 1/2 cups. Prune Filling

3 cups prune butter (lekvar)

1 cup raisins, plumped and drained

1 cup chopped walnuts

Grated peel of 1 orange

Combine prune butter, raisins, walnuts and orange peel. Mix well. Makes about 5 cups. Poppy Seed Filling

1 cup poppy seeds

1/2 Cup milk or water

1/4 cup honey

1/3 cup chopped dates

1/3 cup raisins

1/4 cup chopped walnuts or almonds

Ground cinnamon

Combine poppy seeds, milk, honey, dates, raisins, walnuts and cinnamon to taste in saucepan. Cook over low heat 5 to 10 minutes or until liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally. Cool. Makes about 2 1/2 cups. Apricot Filling

1/2 cup finely chopped dried apricots

1/2 cup chopped almonds

1/2 cup apricot preserves

2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine

Dash ground cinnamon

Combine dried apricots, almonds, preserves, butter and cinnamon in a bowl and mix well. Makes about 1 1/2 cups. PURIM STRUDEL

2 eggs

Oil

1 1/4 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Raspberry, Poppy Seed or canned filling

Powdered sugar

Beat eggs and 1/3 cup oil in large bowl. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Blend flour mixture into egg mixture until it comes together. Place on floured board and knead into soft ball. Refrigerate 30 minutes for easier handling. Divide dough in half. Roll out each half into thin rectangle.

Spread entire surface of dough with filling. Roll dough, starting at long side, jellyroll fashion. Place greased foil on baking sheet. Place strudel on foil, seam side down. Cut slits on top of strudel with sharp knife. Brush with oil. Bake at 350 degrees 30 to 40 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool and slice. Just before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar. Makes about 16 to 18 servings. PURIM POPPY SEED CHIFFON CAKE

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons poppy seeds

5 egg yolks

1/2 cup oil

3/4 cup orange juice

Grated peel of 1 orange

Grated peel of 1 lemon

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup egg whites (6 to 7)

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Powdered sugar

Combine sugar, flour, baking powder, salt and poppy seeds in large bowl of electric mixer. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine egg yolks, oil, orange juice, orange and lemon peels and vanilla. Add to sugar mixture and beat until smooth.

Beat egg whites with cream of tartar until stiff and glossy peaks form. Gently pour egg yolk mixture into egg whites, 1/3 at a time, until well blended.

Pour into ungreased 10-inch tube pan. Bake at 325 degrees 55 minutes, then bake at 350 degrees 10 to 15 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched. Invert pan on rack until cold. Loosen sides of cake from pan with sharp knife. Just before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar. Makes about 12 servings. POPPY SEED CHEESECAKE

Butter or margarine

1/4 cup ground macaroons

1 1/4 cups sugar

3 tablespoons flour

1 (2-ounce) package poppy seeds

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese

6 eggs, separated

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Grated peel of 1 orange

1 cup sour cream

Dash salt

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Powdered sugar

Butter 9-inch spring form pan and sprinkle with ground macaroons. Set aside.

Combine 3/4 cup sugar, flour and poppy seeds in large bowl of electric mixer. Add cream cheese and beat until smooth and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks, 1 at a time, blending well after each addition. Add vanilla, almond extract, orange peel and sour cream. Blend well.

Beat egg whites until foamy. Add salt and cream of tartar and beat until stiff peaks form. Gradually add remaining 1/2 cup sugar and beat until stiff. Fold into cream cheese mixture.

Pour into prepared springform pan. Place pan of water on lower rack of oven. Place cheesecake on center rack. Bake at 325 degrees 1 1/2 hours or until cake is firm in center. Turn off heat and let cool in oven 1 hour. Remove from oven. Loosen cake from sides of pan with spatula, but do not remove until ready to serve. Just before serving sprinkle with powdered sugar. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

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