Purim is a celebration of justice, where evil was dealt a fatal blow and life continued, if only for a little while, happily.
At Purim, as with most holidays, Jews can state, “They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat.”
However at Purim we must add an addendum: “Let’s help others eat as well.” We are traditionally obligated to send mishloach manot, sometimes called shalach manot, a gift of at least two different items of food, drink or sweets that can be eaten immediately. These should be sent not only to our families and friends, but to those less fortunate than ourselves.
Food is a celebration of life. It keeps us well, and at the same time, it’s a source of joy and delight. The gift of food is also an opportunity to help the community and strengthen relationships among people.
Purim baskets are easy to put together, and making them can be an enjoyable family event.
First, make a list of the recipients of your baskets and decide what you want the baskets to contain. Fruit, nuts, dried fruit, small bottles of grape juice or wine, hamantashen and other baked treats as well as candies are popular choices.
Next, select your containers. Visit the dollar store, where you will find a treasure trove of interesting containers, baskets and boxes to fill, or be creative and design your own container from paper or fabric. Don’t forget the transparent wrapping paper and shredded coloured tissue paper to line the bottom of the baskets or containers! Settle on what you plan to bake and write a shopping list. When you have everything you need, prepare the baked goods and wrap them in plastic wrap. Assemble and wrap the baskets. Plan to deliver the baskets on Purim. If you have young children, it’s great fun to let them help deliver the baskets while wearing their Purim costumes.
The Purim pastries below are fun to make, scrumptious to eat and great to share.
HAMANTASHEN WITH CHOCOLATE GANACHE FILLING
These dainty pastries are sweet and unique. They are sure to become a brand new holiday tradition.
4 1/4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 oz. heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup margarine or butter
2 1/2 tsp. orange zest
3 cups flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
Place chopped chocolate and cream into a glass bowl and melt in the microwave for one minute on high.
Remove the chocolate from the microwave and whisk until all lumps are gone. Chill in refrigerator until filling is firm.
Preheat oven to 350. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a food processor, beat eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. Add margarine or butter and orange zest. Add the flour, baking powder and salt into the batter to form dough. Cool in fridge for about 20 minutes.
On a floured board, roll out dough to 1/4-in. thick, and with a glass or cookie cutter, cut dough into 3-in. circles. Spoon 1 tsp. of filling into centre of each circle. Pinch edges tightly to form three corners. A small amount of the filling should peek out. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown. Place cookie sheets on wire racks until cool. Makes about two dozen hamantashen.
STUFFED MIDDLE EASTERN PURIM COOKIES
Purim’s answer to how they get the caramel into the Caramilk bar!
1 1/2 cups margarine or butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. orange zest
4 cups flour
6-8 tbsp. water
1/2 cup coarsely ground walnuts,
12 oz. pitted dates
2 tsp. fresh orange juice
1 tbsp. orange zest
icing sugar for rolling if desired
Place margarine or butter, sugar and orange zest in food processor and process until combined. Add flour and process until it is a crumbly consistency. Add water until soft dough forms. (Dough will form a ball shape in processor.) Cover for about 30 minutes.
In a separate bowl, combine the next four ingredients.
To bake: preheat oven to 350. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Form dough into walnut-size balls. Flatten slightly and make a hole in the centre with your thumb. Fill with a heaping teaspoon of filling. Press sides together to close the dough. Roll in your hands to reform into a ball. Place on cookie sheet 1-2 in. apart. Make a design on top with fork tines. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until light brown in colour. Cool on wire rack. When cool, roll in icing sugar. Makes about 80 cookies.
ORANGE PECAN TARTS
3 packages of frozen tart shells (36 tart shells)
1 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup margarine or butter
2 tsp. pure vanilla
zest of one large orange
2 tbsp. Grand Marnier
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups pecan halves
Preheat oven to 350. Place tart shells on a baking sheet and par-bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven. In a large bowl or processor, combine eggs, honey, brown sugar, margarine or butter, vanilla, orange zest, Grand Marnier and salt. Divide pecans between the tart shells. Spoon mixture into each tart shell covering over the pecans, tart shells should be full. Return to oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until tart edges are light brown and the filling is golden. Cool on wire rack.