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Not Just Hamantashen


It is often thought that the tradition of giving Shalach Manot baskets of sweets for Purim was the invention of clever housewives who wanted to clear their cupboards of flour in anticipation of Passover when many baking ingredients would be forbidden. Whatever the origins of the tradition, we all benefit from the treats that are shared!

Did you know that Mohntashen were popular in medieval Central Europe before they were adopted as a Purim treat by the local Jewish communities who called them by a similar sounding name Hamantashen? Prune filling became an Ashkenazi custom in 1731 when plum preserve merchant, David Brandeis was acquitted of poisoning a magistrate and let free just before Purim.  To celebrate his release the townspeople in Jungbunzlau (Bohemia) put his Povidl, or plum preserves, in the Hamantashen and called it Povidl Purim!

Other parts of the world created different treats to represent the story of Purim. The custom of cropping, or cutting off, a criminal’s ear might well have been the reason that the French Jews ate Palmiers to represent Haman's ears and Italian Jews would take thin strips of dough and pinch the ends together before frying so that the hot oil would render the strips fried into grotesque shapes, also reminiscent of Haman's ears.

Poppy seeds are often used in Purim confections. Aside from their widespread popularity in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, they are symbolic of the many lots cast by Haman and the promise God made to Abraham to spread his seed throughout the world; if you’ve ever dropped a spoonful of poppy seeds, then you know how quickly they disperse!  In Israel, many Purim foods are prepared with poppy seeds in keeping with this promise.

Mohnbrodt Cookies were often made in stick shapes for Purim to denote the finger of accusation Esther pointed at Haman. Children would often have the cookie represent a character in the Megillah and act out the story with their pastry. The addition of the poppy seeds or MOHN to this sweet is very common in Israel as are other dishes using this seed.

Palmiers are a light, crunchy pastry is often referred to as “Pig’s ears” in America. However the French Jews serve these “ears” at Purim attributing their shape to Haman’s misshapen appendage. Ears are often associated with the villain Haman because Medieval Europe had a ritual of cutting off a villain’s ear prior to execution.  This is a very easy recipe, especially because you don’t have to make the dough from scratch. I have given you detailed steps but it just takes a short time to prepare. Purchased puff pastry sheets are generally pareve so this can be served with tea after a meat meal.