Our family celebrates all of the Jewish holidays together, but Purim seems to be everyone's favorite. How can you not love a holiday that tells you to dress up in costume, forget your troubles, enjoy delicious food and drink a lot of wine?
Several of our children spend days making Purim costumes for our grandkids. The girls want to be Queen Esther, and the boys identify with brave Mordecai or King Ahasuerus -- no one wants to be the evil Haman!
They arrive at our house for dinner dressed in their costumes, ready to act the parts of the characters in the Purim story. As we retell the story at the table, everyone selects a gragger (noisemaker) from our collection, to twirl each time Haman's name is mentioned.
By far, the best-known Purim dessert is hamantashen. It is said that the triangular shape of pastries represent Haman's hat, or his pockets. Whatever the origin, they are delicious. Every family has their favorite recipe, usually it is a sugar cookie or yeast dough, rolled out, and filled with a poppy seed or fruit filling.
Over the years I have developed some wonderful poppy seed desserts inspired by these traditional pastries. One of them is the recipe for Purim Seed Crisps. They are the thinnest, most crisp cookies and were adapted from a recipe given to me by my friend Bernie Bubman. He enjoys attending cooking classes in Europe, and he brought this recipe back from France. These cookies are a novel and a delicious Purim dessert.
If your kids love Fig Newtons, they'll love these poppy seed-filled pastries for Purim. It is a copy-cat version of the famous old-fashioned confection, only better. Roman, the chef at the Broadway Deli in Santa Monica, makes these poppy seed goodies daily, and was kind enough to share his recipe.
Make extra Poppy Seed Newtons or Purim Seed Crisps for the family to give away as gifts to those less fortunate. This is known as shalach manot and is the custom during the Purim holiday.
Purim Seed Crisps
These cookies spread out as they cook, so a small amount of dough goes further than you might think. Bake as many as you like, cover the remaining dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to one week.
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Karo syrup
2 tablespoons whole milk
1/2 cup sesame seeds
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
2 tablespoons millet seeds
(available in most supermarkets
and health food stores)
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
In a medium skillet, over medium heat, cook the butter, sugar, Karo syrup and milk, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the butter is melted and all the ingredients are combined thoroughly. Mix in the seeds. Transfer to a glass bowl. Refrigerate or freeze until firm, about five minutes.
Line a baking sheet with foil and shape the batter into 1-inch rounds the size of a nickel (the cookies spread a lot while cooking). Place the rounds 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, or until golden brown. (Watch closely, they brown quickly.) Let cool and then carefully peel off the foil.
Makes about five dozen cookies.
The batter can be refrigerated for up to three days and stored in the freezer for one month, so bake only as many as you like, and have them hot from the oven any time you like.
Purim Poppy Seed
3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1/2 cup unsalted butter or nondairy
margarine, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 (8-ounce) cans poppy seed filling
1 egg, lightly beaten
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and brush with butter.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Blend in the egg and vanilla. Add the flour and salt and blend until dough comes together. Transfer to a floured board and knead until smooth, adding additional flour if needed. Sprinkle a large sheet of wax paper with flour and roll out pieces of dough 4-inches wide, 12-inches long and about 1/4 inch thick.
Fit a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch tube and fill it with the poppy seed filling. Pipe the filling lengthwise down the middle of the dough, 1/2 inch from the ends. (If you prefer, spoon on the filling.) Gently lift up one side of the dough and pull it over the filling. Then lift the other side and lap over the first. Lightly press the ends to seal. Cut into 1 1/2-inch bars, place on prepared baking sheet, seam-side down, and brush with lightly beaten egg.
Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
Makes about five dozen.