Monday, March 21, 2011

Hamentaschen for Purim

I have always been more traditional than religious. I was born Jewish and Judaism remains part of my identity, even more so now that I am living in a country that thinks being raised not celebrating Christmas is a form of child abuse. My first job in Dublin was at a local pub in Lucan Village. I was a lounge girl, which in 2003 if is your job past the age of 18, screamed FOREIGNER. Ah, Kennys of Lucan. The memories. I learned so much about Irish culture there, like discovering Red Lemonade, that Fuck is not nearly the worst swear word you could say, darts is a sport, the plural of Guinness is Guinness...and very few Irish people have ever met a Jewish person. If they ever have, they'll want to tell you about the one time they met a Jew. Or they may just say a single word. Shmuck! Shalom! It's friendly, really. They have an inspiring love of chatting. Nice customers used to ask if I planned to go home for Christmas, which would set in motion a script that would invariably include “I don't actually celebrate Christmas.” Shock. Horror. Curiosity. The generation of children in primary and secondary education now are the first in Ireland to have the opportunity to learn about religions outside of Christianity. It took some time to adjust to being in a country that not only didn't recognize the holidays I observed but didn't even know they existed. So it was up to me to keep my and my family's traditions alive.  In a way I had a clean palate to create the holidays the way I wanted. I may even have duped a past boyfriend into believing that it was traditional to bestow gifts of kitchenware to the lady of the house for Passover. You say sacrilegious, I say opportunistic. 

Purim is this week and I have decided to celebrate the Camerino way. I used to celebrate by eating my mother's hamentaschen. Prune filled were my favorite. I could go through dozens of these huge cookies, no problem. I have an incredible tolerance for prunes. This year I will carry on mommy's tradition and make hamentaschen myself. 

The story of Purim falls under the same umbrella as so many other Jewish holidays that I love: They tried to kill us. We survived. Let's eat! The long and short of it is that the Persian king Ahasuerus married Esther. She was Jewish but he didn't know it. Her uncle Mordecai kept her on the up and up about what was going on in the world outside the palace. The king had an advisor Haman, who plotted to exterminate all the Jewish people. Mordecai told Esther, Esther convinced the king to save the Jews. He did, and hung Haman instead. Celebrations usually involve plays, dressing up, booing Haman, drinking and my personal favorite, eating hamentaschen. They are triangular to symbolize Haman's hat. We then eat them to symbolize...? Eating his hat? Whatever. They're delicious. 

Before I follow with the recipe, I have a few exciting things to share. In my research this morning I discovered that not only is there Purim, but there are also hundreds of “Special Purims” Holidays that people claimed to celebrate amazing luck or a miracle. My favorite has to be The Purim of the Baker Woman in 1820, which celebrates how Chios in Greece was under attack but a Baker Woman accidentally shot off a cannon, warning Turkish forces and saving the city. How do you accidentally shoot off a cannon? I'm keeping my eyes and ears open for a miracle to claim my own Purim of Caryna's Cakes. It most definitely won't involve firearms.

The second exciting thing is a music video from a boy band called the Maccabeats, who are, according to their website, available to book for weddings and bar mitzvahs. I do love all kinds of cheese and boy bands are no exception. I'm partial to the guy in the sombrero myself. He aint no Joe McIntyre but he does rock those epaulets. Although his commitment to Judaism as demonstrated by his enrollment to Yeshiva University and membership to a band called the Maccabeats may be incompatible with the fact that I am huge fan of breakfast pork 

And now, the Camerino family hamentaschen recipe, as adapted from Noreen Gilletz's Food Processor Bible, preceded by a video illustration by Baker Helper/Mac User extraordinaire Lorcan O'Byrne, who I am proud to say is a member of the Caryna's Cakes team.

For the dough:

1 medium orange
2 eggs, plus one for egg wash
190g sugar
115g sunflower oil
2 tsp baking powder
540g flour, plus extra for dusting

For the filling:

1 orange
250g dried apricots
200g sultanas
30g sugar


Food processor
3 inch round cookie cutter or a glass will do fine

Preheat the oven to 180/350

  • Cut the orange into 4 and blitz in the food processor until fine.
  • Add 2 eggs, sugar and oil. Process for another 10 seconds.
  • Add the flour and baking powder and blitz with quick on and off pulses until combined.
  • Have plenty of flour on your counter top and empty out the dough
For the filling:

  • Put all the ingredients into the food processor and blitz for 30 seconds.

And now to make the cookies:

  • Start with ¼ of the dough and roll out on a well floured surface
  • Cut out circles and place a teaspoon on filling in the center. If you don't like apricots you can use chocolate chips instead.
  • Fold circle up into a triangle and place on a baking tray
  • Brush with some beaten egg
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes
  • Eat, share, smile

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