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Celebrating Purim With Traditional Hamantaschen

March 20, 1986|JUDY ZEIDLER | Zeidler is a free-lance writer who teaches Jewish and other ethnic cookery. and

Purim is not a religious holiday; it honors Queen Esther, who saved her people from the cruel Haman, a bitter enemy of the Israelites. The story of Esther is read from the Megillah and noise makers, called grogers, are rattled whenever the name of Haman is mentioned.

Purim, which falls on Tuesday this year, is traditionally a day of feasting and happiness. Gifts are given to the poor, to family and to friends. The gifts include special sweets, including the holiday's famous filled three-cornered pastries, called Hamantaschen, which are made in either the shape of Haman's hat or his ears, depending on which story you believe.

Custom decrees that the main meal is always served at midday, so that Purim never becomes just another working day. My family, which now numbers 15 including children and grandchildren, will share a festive midday meal and gather in the kitchen to make our own do-it-yourself Hamantaschen for dessert.

This Purim, I am going all out with some new versions of the classic pastry. Since Hamantaschen can be made with a variety of sweet doughs, I am preparing four versions: orange-flavored, poppy seed, whole-wheat and chocolate. The doughs are prepared in advance, covered with plastic wrap and foil, then sealed in airtight bags and stored in the refrigerator. Bowls of different fillings will be waiting to be spooned on the rolled out pastry. I have extra rolling pins on hand for family members who want to roll their own.

To add to the festivities, I have experimented with some new fillings. The classic poppy seed mixture is always a favorite, and traditional prune fillings are a reminder of the plum merchant who was a hero in Jewish folklore. In addition to these two, I am adding a new raspberry mixture, a chocolate-flavored filling and an apricot filling. Chocolate is not as unusual as it may seem, since chocolate-flavored Hamantaschen have been baked in Israel for many years.

Buttered, foil-lined baking sheets will await the filled pastries, and my ovens will be preheated and ready for the holiday treats. It will be fun for young and old to mix and match the four fillings with the four different doughs.

In 10 minutes the Hamantaschen will be baked and ready to eat hot from the oven. We will return to the table for our dessert and a chance to compare flavors and share our favorite combinations. Of course, we always include a sweet wine with dessert. Tea and coffee will be served, and milk for the children since this is a dairy meal.

Besides the Hamantaschen recipes, I am including some new poppy seed treats which are perfect for Purim. And if you have young children in the family, be sure to invite them to help with dessert. WHOLE-WHEAT HAMANTASCHEN

1/2 cup butter or margarine

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup honey

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Filling of choice

Cream together butter, sugar, honey, vanilla, lemon juice and eggs. Sift together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add to butter mixture and blend well. Place on floured board and knead into smooth ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour.

Divide in 4 to 6 parts. Roll out each part on floured board 1/8 inch thick and cut into 2- or 3-inch rounds. Drop generous teaspoon of filling in center. Bring edges up to form triangle and pinch seams together to seal. Re-roll scraps and repeat with remaining dough and filling.

Line baking sheets with greased foil. Arrange Hamantaschen on pan and bake at 350 degrees 15 minutes or until edges and bottoms are brown. Cool on wire rack. May be frozen before baking. Store in airtight container after baking. Makes about 4 dozen. POPPY SEED HAMANTASCHEN

1 cup butter or margarine

2/3 cup sugar

2 hard-cooked egg yolks, mashed

1 egg yolk

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons poppy seeds

Filling of choice

Cream butter with sugar. Blend in cooked and uncooked yolks and vanilla. Add flour, salt and poppy seeds and blend until smooth. Knead into ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill 30 minutes for easier handling.

Divide into 2 parts. Roll out each part 1/8 inch thick. For easier handling, roll out on floured wax paper and remove each round with metal spatula. Cut into 2-inch rounds. Place teaspoon of filling on each round. Pinch edges together to form triangle. Re-roll scraps and repeat with remaining dough and filling.

Line baking sheets with greased foil. Arrange Hamantaschen on foil and bake at 350 degrees 10 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Makes about 3 dozen. ORANGE-FLAVORED HAMANTASCHEN

1 cup butter or margarine

Sugar

3 eggs

1/4 cup orange juice

Grated peel of 1 orange

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Filling of choice

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