Last night I made my first batch of hamentashen! They're not too bad either! Yay!
If you've never heard about hamentashen, let me tell you about them.
What are Hamentashen?
They are little triangular cookies that contain some kind of sweet filling, such as the ever-popular poppyseed, the fruity apricot and raspberry, or the new-style chocolate chips. Mine were made with orange marmalade and strawberry preserves. They are eaten during the festival of Purim (see the story of Esther from the Bible) to remember when Haman plotted to kill God's people. As with most Judaic celebrations, the motto is "they tried to kill us, God saved us....LET'S EAT!"
The History of Hamentashen
The origin of the name is unclear and there are various theories. Some people say that Haman wore a three-cornered hat, and that is why the pocket of dough is triangular. Others refer to the midrash (story) that relates that when Haman entered the King's treasury, he was bent over, covered with shame, and humiliated (literally with clipped ears). I believe in Yiddish it literally means "pockets of Haman."
Since we had already cut a little into our weekly grocery budget and I was out or almost out of much needed baking items (sugar, vanilla, butter - none of which were on a really good sale), I decided to look for an easier and cheaper recipe. I am so glad that I did because I found this one on Allrecipes.com, and they turned out very good for being so easy (and cheap in my case!). The recipe for the dough consists of four ingredients - flour, eggs, water, and yellow cake mix. When I saw that (having read the Publix ad early that morning), I was so excited because I saw that Duncan Hines moist cake mixes are on BOGO this week. Since I was doubling the recipe, this would be perfect! So instead of having to buy sugar (we only buy the natural cane sugar, which is pretty expensive), vanilla, and butter, I only spent an extra $1.77 (sadly I didn't have any coupons for this, and I know there were some out there) for the dough part! Baruch HaShem (Praise God)! (A few words of advice if you use this recipe: You may need to add a little water to the dough, as mine was very crumbly at first and I had to knead it a little to make a nice ball of dough, and make sure to pinch the corners of the hamentashen together very tightly so that they don't open up in the oven.)
My Take on Hamentashen
As I was making these delightful little pastries last night, I thought of another reason why we eat hamentashen during this holiday. I was thinking about the book of Esther. She was a young Jewish girl born as Hadassah ("myrtle" in Hebrew), but as most Jews living in exile she had a Persian name, Esther, which in that language most likely means "star." But Esther in Hebrew can also be seen to be a derivative of the word for "hidden." Of course, there are many hidden details in this story - Hadassah hides her true identity for a time in the palace, Haman hides his plot, etc. However, the most notable hidden element in this story is God Himself; in fact, His Name does not appear in the book at all! Doesn't that seem a little odd? Well, of course, as we read this book we see God's hand throughout; He's there, but hidden. So as I was making the hamentashen last night, folding the edges up so as to hide the sweet surprise inside, I was thinking how hamentashen are a metaphor for the story of Esther, and actually for life itself. Sure, the triangular cookie part is good and it's interesting, but the more you bite into it, the more you'll find the hidden sweetness! God Himself is that sweetness. Some people think that God created the world and then left us to ourselves, but the more you really connect the dots in your life, you'll see the "hidden" Father in the middle of it all. Ask Him to reveal His "sweetness" to you, and that is definitely a prayer He will answer!
Purim and the Fast of Esther are next week - March 20th (Fast) and March 21 (Purim). Stay tuned for more on this holiday!
Thanks again to my husband for taking the picture!