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Purim is coming: Send Food!

6 Recipes
Hamantaschen with Nutella filling
(Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)

6 recipes for hamantaschen and other Purim goodies

One of the most important customs of Purim, the Jewish holiday that begins at sundown Thursday and lasts through sundown Friday, is the giving of food. The practice, called mishloach manot in Hebrew, entails sending at least two ready-to-eat foods to the elderly and the poor, friends and family. Whatever else is in the package, hamantaschen, the Eastern European symbolic, triangle-shaped, filled Purim pastries are a must.

Traditionally, hamantaschen are filled with poppy seeds or preserves made from dried fruits such as prunes or apricots. The pastry can be a short dough or a yeasted one. The prepared dough is rolled and cut into circles and the edges are folded up to form a triangular “crust,” which holds the filling. In Middle Eastern countries, a cookie called ma’amoul, filled with cinnamon-flavored ground walnuts, is favored. Nowadays, we see inventive, even savory hamantaschen fillings such as dates, cheese with red peppers and spinach, cranberries and sage, chocolate and even Nutella.

While hamantaschen are essential, variations are popular. Layered poppy seed pastries stack layers of a poppy seed filling and a cinnamon-walnut filling between sheets of pastry. The result is traditional Purim flavors with a lot less work than shaping individual pastries. Nut and seed treats are another less labor-intensive option; they omit the pastry step altogether. Easiest of all, no-bake nut balls have the flavor of Purim and you can make them while the hamantaschen are baking.

In this pandemic year, there won’t be customary gatherings to read the Purim story from its source, the Book of Esther. However, hamantaschen have always been delivered “from a distance” and will be a welcome taste of tradition in this non-traditional year.

Hamantaschen

Developed by Eastern European Jews centuries ago, hamantaschen are made from either cookie dough or yeast dough and usually are stuffed with poppy seed or fruit fillings.
Time 1 hour
Yields Makes 24 cookies

My mother's hamantaschen, but filled with Nutella

Hamantaschen, the quintessential Purim cookie representing Haman's pocket, hat or ear (depending on whom you ask), is traditionally stuffed with poppy seed or dried fruit fillings.
Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Yields Makes about 3 dozen cookies

Hamantaschen with poppyseed filling

The quintessential Purim treat is hamantaschen. Many bakeries now offer hamantaschen with a variety of fillings, such as chocolate, halvah and even dulce de leche.
Time 6 hours 30 minutes
Yields Makes about 3 dozen hamantaschen

Nut and seed treats

Packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber, these are among the most healthful mishloach manot you can make.
Time 40 minutes
Yields Makes 12 pieces

Shira Levy's no-bake nut balls

Shira Levy of Florida makes these nut balls for mishloach manot every Purim and often throughout the year.
Time 25 minutes
Yields Makes 30 pieces

Layered poppy seed pastries

These perfect-for-Purim treats feature both a poppy seed and a walnut filling layered between sheets of pastry.
Time 2 hours
Yields Makes 24 pastries