What villain is associated with Purim? If you said “Haman,” you are right, of course. But for many people, the holiday has other villains, including eggs, dairy, wheat gluten, peanuts, tree nuts and soy. Bite into a hamantashen, open a basket of mishloach manot and dig into the festive meal – and the glorious holiday of Purim could bring some very unwelcome surprises for people with food allergies and sensitivities. Today, advice for a merry and safe Purim.
“The other day, someone asked what my plans are for Purim. I think, like every other parent of food allergic children, my heart skipped a beat and sunk to my feet. Not this time of year again!” writes Sara Atkins. “Purim should be filled with fun, excitement, and laughs, but for a family dealing with food allergies, it’s pure fear.
“At the Megillah reading, we sat outside and watched as everyone enjoyed the festivities. I had brought his safe cookies for him to eat, but as I looked at his face, I saw tears rolling down his cheeks. He knew he was missing out. The next day he refused to go with his father to deliver the Purim baskets, and even though we offered him as many of his safe cookies as he wanted, all he really wanted was his big brother’s hamantashen.”
Atkins then explains how, through hard work and some clever food substitutions, she was able to transform Purim into a holiday her children would actually look forward to.
“Here it is… the allergy-free, awesome, delicious, contemporary-flavoured hamantashen recipe just in time for today’s holiday of Purim,” writes blogger Rachel. With an introduction like that, she better have something good in store. She says her Lemon Hamantashen are a little bit “funky” and call for a half block of silken tofu. Rachel adds, “don’t be afraid, trust me, you’ll never know.”
Rachel’s recipe requires flour, which of course is a showstopper for anyone with celiac disease, an intolerance to gluten. That’s where Chef Eitan Bernath comes in. The variation he has created for his mother calls for gluten-free flour, baking powder, sugar, orange extract, canola oil and orange juice. The chef adds: “By the way, my mom isn’t gluten-free by choice. I know it’s trendy now to be gluten-free. But I can assure you my mom definitely doesn’t think so!”
Want more? Nancy Lapid shares six gluten-free hamantashen recipes including a dairy version that calls for butter, cream cheese, sugar, vanilla extract and an (optional) egg.
No eggs allowed? No problem. According to the (perfectly named) site, Allergy Shmallergy, here’s your substitution for two eggs: “1/4 cup applesauce and 1 1/2 tsp Ener-G egg replacer combined with 2 Tablespoons water or soy milk.”
Here’s the ultimate challenge: a grain-free hamantashen. Is such a thing possible? Elana Amsterdam’s gorgeous Nut-Free Chocolate Hamantashen uses coconut flour and coconut sugar along with chocolate chips and palm shortening. She adds the word to the wise. “Because this recipe utilizes coconut flour, these traditional Jewish cookies are best cooled for 3-4 hours and then stored in an air tight container (on the counter), and eaten within 48 hours. Baked goods made with coconut flour will get very dry if you leave them out, becoming inedible.”
Aside from hamantashen, you should also take into consideration food allergies and sensitivities as you pack up the mishloach manot gift baskets or plan your menu for the seudah, the festive meal eaten at the end of the holiday. Advises Tamar Waga, “Mishloach manot must be carefully scrutinized for food allergy safety… If you don’t know what’s in it, don’t eat it! It is vital that young children with food allergies be closely supervised to assure accidental ingestion of allergens doesn’t occur. You’d be surprised how many chocolates and candies have nut and egg ingredients. Have safe treats on hand for your kids to avert ‘I want my candy meltdowns.’”
DebbieN faced a different challenge: how to bake up a batch of low-carb hamantashen without artificial sweeteners that will be safe – and appealing – to a child with diabetes. The problem with hamantashen is that they deliver the carbs, but “they don’t have enough fibre or protein to slow down the sugars and avoid a spike in blood glucose. In short, not high-quality nutrition.” After coming upon some unsatisfactory solutions, she found one that makes sense: substituting almond meal for some or most of the flour. Check out her blog for dough and Debbie’s tricks to stretch those carbs.
As for the filling, Nancy Pascal says, “Low-carb jam works well and tastes delicious. Sugar free chocolate chips are very good when hot, but not as delightful when cold, so you can try placing the hamantashen in the microwave for a few seconds before eating.”
Sara Atkins, whom we met earlier, seems more at ease – after taking the necessary precautions.
“That fear will never go away as long as the kids are still allergic. But the fear that they will be turned off from Judaism because the celebrations have only brought them heartache is gone, and because of that, my heart skips a few less beats and doesn’t sink as far into my feet when I hear it’s Purim time once again.”