March 9, 2017 | Posted by Stephanie Banyas
Growing up a good gentile girl in a small town outside of Pittsburgh, I had never heard of a Hamentashen, much less eaten one. I didn’t experience my first triangle-shaped, fruit-filled cookie until I was 28 years old -- and it was love at first bite!
» get the recipe «
I moved to New York City many years ago after attending college in Chicago. Because the rents were so high in NYC at that time (nothing has changed) and I was not making a lot of money (luckily, that changed a bit), I had to get a roommate…enter Laura Jasphy, a good Jewish girl born and raised in New York City. Laura and I came from two totally different backgrounds but instantly connected and have remained best of friends to this day.
Laura introduced me to all things New York (ABT, Metropolitan Opera, Fairway, museums, Off Broadway shows) but most importantly, she introduced me to the wonderful world of Jewish cuisine. Soon I was eating matzoh ball soup and pastrami sandwiches on rye from 2nd Avenue Deli, potato knish slathered with brown mustard on the Lower East Side, and whitefish salad on bagels from Zabar’s. French toast would never be made with anything but Challah bread again.
Laura is a great cook and baker and she spends each High Holiday in her very small NYC kitchen preparing traditional dishes for each occasion: brisket and Haroseth for Passover; incredibly rich and moist honey cake (her secret: buckwheat honey!) for Rosh Hashanah; and latkes with homemade applesauce for Hanukkah. I ate like a king when I lived with her…or, shall I say, like Queen Esther...which brings me to one of my favorite Jewish pastries: Hamentashen.
You can find this buttery, rich cookie year-round in delis and bakeries in NYC, but traditionally it is only made once a year, for Purim. Read more about the Purim holiday (and Queen Esther), and how this cookie got its name and shape, here.
I have to admit that I make these cookies often, always to give to my Jewish friends and co-workers on Purim, but also for myself throughout the year because I love them so much.
This recipe for Hamentashen was given to me by Laura, who found it in a copy of a publication called The Jewish Week in the early 1990’s. Laura uses the traditional fillings (prune, apricot and poppy seeds) for her Hamentashen. While I love the apricot, I have never been a fan of the prune or poppy seed.
When I moved into my own apartment many years ago and began baking my own batches of Hamentashen, I experimented with different jams and jellies: raspberry-apricot, strawberry-rhubarb, orange marmalade, blueberry and blackberry jams and, more recently, lemon and lime curds, which pair beautifully with this cookie.
For Jews, Hamentashen symbolizes the defeated enemy of the Jewish people (Haman). For me, Hamentashen symbolizes the uniting of cultures through food and a friendship that has lasted over two decades.