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Lots of Cookies for Purim

February 29, 1996|SOPHIE RUSSELL

Cookies are to Purim what turkey is to Thanksgiving. One is almost unthinkable without the other.

And nothing better suits the carnival aspect of the holiday that celebrates the day Queen Esther saved the Jews from the hands of the villain Haman than inviting friends and family to enjoy platters of cookies from around the Jewish world.

The most traditional cookie for Purim is hamantaschen. And in many places, the best-loved filling for hamantaschen is made from poppy seeds. The recipe for this menu comes from "Faye Levy's International Jewish Cookbook" (Warner Books, 1991).

Levy recommends grinding the poppy seeds in a spice grinder, then cooking them in milk and honey for a more delicately textured filling. She says the 1-2-3 cookie dough--though Austro-Hungarian in origin--is one she learned in a cooking course in Tel Aviv. It is extremely easy and makes a rich, crisp wrapper for the creamy filling.

In her cookbook "Jewish Cooking in America" (Alfred Knopf, 1994), Joan Nathan says Middle Eastern Jews favor a cookie called ma'amoul for Purim. Shaped much like hamantaschen, they are filled with cinnamon-flavored ground walnuts.

The delicate coconut macaroons from Susan Friedland's "The Passover Table" (HarperPerennial, 1994) are a perfect foil for the richer stuffed pastries.

But you can't live on cookies alone, even for a one-day holiday like Purim. To add a little ballast to the menu (and to keep the young ones from bouncing off the walls), we recommend this incredibly simple oven-braised brisket of beef from "Mama Leah's Jewish Kitchen," by Leah Loeb Fischer (Collier Books, 1994).

To prevent the meat from drying out, make sure the brisket is covered with liquid throughout the cooking time. Check and turn the brisket if liquid seems to be getting low. Make the brisket the night before and you can cut down on calories by skimming the fat that hardens on top of the liquid.

Menu

Brisket in Natural Gravy

Syrian Stuffed Cookies

Hamantaschen With Poppyseed-Raisin Filling

Coconut Macaroons

Staples

1 dozen eggs

Sugar

Lemons

Flour

Powdered sugar

Baking powder

Salt

Butter or margarine

Oranges

Milk

Sugar

Honey

Raisins

Unbleached flour

Cinnamon

Onions

Carrots

Bay leaves

Garlic

Black pepper

Shopping List

6 ounces unsweetened coconut

1/4 pound poppy seeds

1/4 pound shelled walnuts

1 (4- to 5-pound) brisket

Game Plan

Day or two before: Make macaroons and store in airtight container.

Night before: Make Syrian stuffed cookies and store in airtight container. Make brisket and refrigerate brisket and vegetables separately overnight.

Morning of party: Make hamantaschen.

One hour before party: Skim fat from brisket liquid and reheat meat. Arrange cookies on plate.

30 minutes before party: Reheat vegetables.

10 minutes before party: Slice brisket and arrange on platter with vegetables. Put sauce in gravy boat.

HAMANTASCHEN WITH POPPYSEED-RAISIN FILLING

1-2-3 COOKIE DOUGH

1 egg

1 egg yolk

3 3/4 cups flour

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup plus 5 tablespoons cold butter or margarine, cut in small pieces

2 1/2 teaspoons grated orange rind

1 to 2 tablespoons orange juice, optional

Beat egg with yolk to blend. Set aside.

Combine flour, powdered sugar, baking powder and salt in food processor fitted with metal blade. Process briefly to blend. Scatter butter pieces over mixture. Pulse rapidly on and off until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle with grated rind and pour blended eggs evenly over mixture. Pulse rapidly, scraping down sides of food processor occasionally, until dough begins to come together in ball. If crumbs are dry, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon orange juice and process briefly. Repeat if crumbs are still dry.

Transfer dough to work surface. Knead lightly to blend. With rubber spatula, transfer dough to sheet of plastic wrap, wrap and push together. Shape dough in flat disc. Refrigerate at least 3 hours or up to 3 days.

Makes about 2 1/4 pounds dough, enough for 4 dozen hamantaschen.

FILLING

1/4 cup (1/4 pound) poppy seeds

1/2 cup milk

1/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons honey

1/2 cup raisins

3 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

If finer texture is preferred, grind poppy seeds in spice grinder.

Simmer whole or ground poppy seeds, milk, sugar and honey in small saucepan over low heat, stirring often, until thick, 15 to 20 minutes. Add raisins and butter and stir until butter melts. Remove from heat. Stir in grated lemon rind. Chill well before using.

Divide dough in 4 equal pieces. Roll 1 piece out on lightly floured surface until about 1/8-inch thick. Cut dough using 3-inch round cookie cutter. Brush edges lightly with water. Put 1 teaspoon filling in center of each circle. Pull up edges of circle in 3 arcs that meet in center above filling. Close firmly and pinch edges to seal. (Close hamantaschen well and do not be tempted to use extra filling, or cookies will leak during baking.) Put on greased baking sheet and refrigerate. Refrigerate scraps.

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