My Citizens – as those of you who are regulars here at TFD Nation know, I have been grappling with an unprecedented episode of major clinical depression over the last two weeks. The struggle is real, but I am hopeful of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel soon (and hoping it’s daylight, NOT an incoming train!) – thankfully, an event is coming up shortly that is tailor-made for dispelling the gloom of a darkened soul. I speak of nothing less than the Jewish celebratory holiday of Purim!
At Purim, Jews are – quite literally – commanded to get VERY intoxicated/drunk, to make merry and dress in costume! More on this soon – but before that, know there is a unique dessert forever enshrined as part of this holiday, and that is a fruit-filled cookie called hamantaschen (Haman’s pockets, properly pronounced hahm-un-tahsh-n). I shall share my truly original and unique recipe for them – what makes them special, you might ask? I am fortunate to live in California, where recreational marijuana is legal and as such I have created a weed-infused cookie guaranteed to get your party BAKED (and I am not talking about the oven here)!
Now – before I share the history of the holiday and the cookie, PLEASE heed these warnings and disclaimers!
DO NOT MAKE THIS if you live in a state or country where marijuana is illegal! DO NOT DRIVE after eating one of these – call a cab, an Uber, or have a sober friend drive you home (I recognize in COVID times, you shouldn’t be out at all – but this recipe outlives the plague!). Make sure you tell your guests there is weed in these cookies – keep them away from children, pets and anyone in recovery! It can take up to an hour to feel the effects!
Now – as to Purim, a full description of the holiday, its traditions and more may be found on the Chabad.org website here, but this is a good summary:
Purim (פּוּרִים “lots”, from the word פור pur, translated as ‘lot’, perhaps related to Akkadian pūru ‘stone, urn’; also called the Festival of Lots) is a Jewish holiday which commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, an Achaemenid Persian Empire official who was planning to kill all the Jews, as recounted in the Book of Esther (מגילת אסתר Megillat Ester in Hebrew; usually dated to the 5th century BC).
Haman was the royal vizier to King Ahasuerus (Xerxes I or Artaxerxes I of Persia, “Khshayarsha” and “Artakhsher” in Old Persian, respectively), and he planned to kill all the Jews in the empire. His plans were foiled by Mordecai and Esther, his adopted daughter who had become Queen of Persia. The day of deliverance became a day of feasting and rejoicing.
According to the Scroll of Esther, “they should make them days of feasting and gladness, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.” Purim is celebrated among Jews by:
- Exchanging gifts of food and drink known as mishloach manot
- Donating charity to the poor known as mattanot la-evyonim
- Eating a celebratory meal known as a se’udat Purim
- Public recitation (“reading of the megillah”) of the Scroll of Esther, known as kriat ha-megillah, usually in synagogue
- Reciting additions to the daily prayers and the grace after meals, known as Al HaNissim
- Other customs include wearing masks and costumes, public celebrations and parades (Adloyada), and eating hamantaschen (“Haman’s pocket”); men are encouraged to drink wine or any other alcoholic beverage.
According to the Hebrew calendar, Purim is celebrated annually on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar (and it is celebrated on Adar II in Hebrew leap years which occur every two to three years), the day following the victory of the Jews over their enemies.
Now – as to hamantaschen and the recipe-at-hand:
A hamantash (pl. hamantashen; Yiddish: המן־טאַש homentash, pl. המן־טאַשן homentashn, ‘Haman pockets’) is an Ashkenazi Jewish triangular filled-pocket cookie, usually associated with the Jewish holiday of Purim. The name refers to Haman, the villain in the Purim story. In Hebrew, hamantashen are known as אוזני המן, oznei Haman, ‘Haman’s ears’.
The shape is achieved by folding in the sides of a circular piece of dough similar to a shortbread, with a filling placed in the center. Hamantashen are made with many different fillings, which are traditionally sweet (although savory varieties have become popular as well), including mohn (poppy seed, the oldest and most traditional variety), lekvar (prune jam), nut, date, apricot, raspberry, raisins, apple, vanilla pastry cream with chocolate chips, cherry, fig, chocolate, dulce de leche, halva, caramel, or cheese. Their formation varies from hard similar to a shortbread to soft doughy casings – TFD GREATLY prefers the soft version.
In Yiddish, the word hamantasch is singular, while hamantaschen is the plural form. However, hamantaschen is the more common word form among English speakers, even when referring to a single pastry (for example, “I ate a poppy seed hamantaschen”). The name hamantash is commonly viewed as a reference to Haman, the villain of Purim, as described in the Book of Esther. The pastries are supposed to symbolize the defeated enemy of the Jewish people. The word tash means “pouch” or “pocket” in Yiddish, and thus may refer to Haman’s pockets, symbolizing the money that Haman offered to Ahasuerus in exchange for permission to destroy the Jews.
In Hebrew, tash means “weaken”, and the hamantash may celebrate the weakening of Haman and the hope that God will weaken all of the enemies of the Jews. Another possible source of the name is a folk etymology: the Yiddish word מאָן־טאַשן (montashn) for a traditional delicacy, literally meaning “poppyseed pouch”, was transformed to hamantaschen, likely by association with Haman or inclusion of the Hebrew article ha- (ה). In Israel, hamantaschen are called oznei Haman (Hebrew: אוזני המן), Hebrew for “Haman’s ears” in reference to their defeated enemy’s ears.
The reason for the three-sided shape is uncertain. There is an old legend that Haman wore a three-cornered hat. Alternatively, the Midrash says that when Haman recognized the merit of the Three Patriarchs, his strength immediately weakened. Noted Archaeologist Simcha Jacobovici has shown the resemblance of hamantaschen to dice from the ancient Babylonian Royal Game of Ur, thus suggesting that the pastries are meant to symbolize the pyramidal shape of the dice cast by Haman in determining the day of destruction for the Jews.
A simpler explanation is that the hamantaschen shape derives from traditional Jewish baking techniques in Central Europe for folding dough so as to form a pouch around a filling, also common for making dumplings. It has also been suggested that the shape is a representation of female reproductive organs, and that the poppy-seed filling is a fertility symbol.
Sweet hamantaschen fillings range from the traditional such as mohn/poppy seed, lekvar/prune, apricot jam, and also date which is especially popular in Israel. Prune hamantaschen was invented in 1731 by David Brandeis of Jung-Bunzlau, Bohemia. The daughter of a Christian bookbinder purchased from Brandeis povidl (plum jam) which she claimed had made her family ill; as her father coincidentally died a few days after eating it. The burgomaster of the city ordered the closure of Brandeis’ store and imprisoned him, his wife, and son for selling poisonous food to Christians.
Investigations by municipal authorities and the court of appeal in Prague revealed that the bookbinder had died of consumption and the charges were dismissed. Brandeis wrote a scroll which he called Shir HaMa’alot l’David (“A Song of Ascents to David”), to be read on 10 Adar, accompanied by a festive meal. He was freed from prison four days before Purim after the charges against him were proven to be false, and in celebration of his release, Jews from his city celebrated with povidl or plum hamantaschen.
The most popular hamantaschen filling today is probably poppyseed but apricot, prune, strawberry, raspberry, chocolate, peanut butter and jelly, and others are also common. The bottom and the top two corners of the dough are folded inward but do not fully enclose the filling, allowing it to remain visible. Sometimes hamantaschen may be frozen for a short period of time after shaping in order to prevent leakage of the filling. Then they are baked in an oven at medium heat for a short duration of time. Sometimes after baking hamantaschen may be dusted with confectioner’s sugar, dipped in melted chocolate, or topped with sprinkles.
Now – my hamantaschen use a classic soft dough for the cookie portion, but I have made one CRITICAL change – the use of cannabis butter to make the cookies themselves intoxicating! Now, before you accuse me of leaping from my ivory tower of historical scholarship in exchange for a quick buzz – you are actually mistaken! The ancient Hebrews used weed extensively in their rituals – archaeological evidence conforms this, as noted in this fascinating BBC article here. So, I am actually RETURNING the cookie to its proper high place in the Jewish tradition. (#Badpun).
If you are interested in more combinations of marijuana and foods, I recommend you check out my recipes for Algerian dawamesk, Indian thandai and Moroccan majoun that have been previously published – you can find links to them all here.
So – I am cribbing the directions to make cannabis-infused butter from an excellent article in Bon Appetit, and the instructions to make it are both simple and clear. Of course, the fillings are unique to TFD – I am not overly fond of poppy seeds or prunes, so my hamantaschen use spiced cherry and apricot fruit fillings of my own design. These – like the cookies themselves – are specifically designed to cater to a sophisticated adult palate. IMHO, these are actually symphonic in their harmonious, layered and complex flavors!
For both hamantaschen fillings, I have taken a few gustatory cues from the magnificent cuisine of Georgia – not the state, but the country! Fruits are beloved in Georgia, and are frequently combined with nuts and spices and I have done exactly that in my recipe – both cherries and apricots are beloved in Georgia. There is also a substantial Jewish population in the country, so I am once again standing on firm theological and geopolitical terra firma in my choices for this recipe.
My hamantaschen dough is pretty much the standard, though I have added both vanilla bean paste and almond extract to it for additional complexity of flavor and to properly balance my unique fillings as well!
For the cherry hamantaschen filling, I (of course) call for the finest cherries on Earth – the REAL maraschino cherries by Luxardo (not the hideous neon-red artificial horrors in the grocery store!) – you can buy them here. I also use raw acacia honey, which you can find here as well as an unusual spice called mahleb, which is itself the pit of a cherry and adds a hit of both cherry and almond flavor! You can buy top-quality mahleb here.
My last suggested (and extremely optional) ingredient is a small bit of Georgian tkemali sauce, which is made from sour plums (my nod back to the original prune filling) and many different herbs and spices. I like the complex flavor it adds when used in small amounts, but you can easily leave it out if you so prefer – I love the stuff and this brand is perfect for the recipe. Trust me, it’s great on everything from sandwiches to meats – it will become a great new ingredient for you in many different dishes where you want a sweet-sour-spicy flavor!
Now, for the apricot hamantaschen filling, I call for a mix of dried apricots (preferably Californian, as their color is superior to the Turkish variety) mixed with pineapple preserves, citrus zest and juice, rum and – wait for it – a tiny bit of Tabasco sauce for adding a little flavor complexity! Just a few drops is enough and it is an optional ingredient if you choose to not use it (though again, I love it in this recipe).
Citizens, this Purim is going to hold special meaning for me this year and I hope my hamantaschen grace your tables during the holiday! If you’re not Jewish, never fear – these can and should be enjoyed by all, as long as you indulge safely and responsibly!
Battle on – the GeneralissimoPrint
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