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Purim Goodies

Hamantaschen Lucia's Cookies Ginger Snaps Disappearing Marshmallow Brownies Peanut Butter Cookies Caramel Popcorn Ding-Bats Joyce's Refrigerator Bars Banana Quick Bread

On Purim, we are enjoined to give one another presents of food. Our family performs this mitzvah by baking goodies, putting them in baskets or plates, and delivering them to our friends. We also give tzedakah to an organization that feeds the hungry, thus fulfilling yet another of the four mitzvot associated with Purim.

First, a Note on Hamantaschen

Everyone, but everyone, has a recipe for hamantaschen. At least, everyone Jewish has a recipe for hamantaschen. So what's a hamantaschen? It's a filled cookie that usually starts out as a circle with the dough folded up over the filling to form a sort of triangle. They sort of look like this.

picture of triangular filled cookie

Next spring when we bake some for our friends, we will put up a real picture.

We also have a recipe for hamantaschen dough. We developed it one year by reading several dozen recipes for dough, including some not originally intended for hamantaschen, making lots of batches of dough, and conducting extensive taste tests. So this is the one our family likes - it's sweeter than many doughs (we like that!), but it is very easy to handle (we like that, too).

Beit HaChatulim Hamantaschen Dough

Makes enough for about 40 cookies.

1 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
3-1/2 cups flour (We use 2 unbleached white, 1-1/2 whole wheat)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons honey

Beat oil and sugar together.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.
Add honey, continuing beating.
Gradually add flour and baking powder (sift them together if you insist - we never do). Mix well, using hands at the end if absolutely necessary.

Roll dough out to 1/4-inch thickness (don't roll too thin). Batter may be slightly oily.
We sometimes roll the dough between pieces of waxed paper if it seems necessary, but usually we don't.
Cut dough into 3-inch circles, or a near approximation. Put a generous amount of filling in the center of each circle and fold up the sides to form a triangle shape (see above).

Bake on greased cookie sheets at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown.

LEARN FROM OUR EXPERIENCES DEPARTMENT: Don't double the recipe, don't refrigerate the dough.

What to put in the Hamantaschen

Chocolate is very popular in our house, especially when the kids are the ones making the cookies. Chocolate chips (especially the milk chocolate ones) and chunks off a dark chocolate bar work equally well for us. We also use fruit preserves or conserves - the type that are all fruit rather than mostly sugar.

For the adults in our house and among our acquantaince, Joan makes mohn (poppy seed) filling from scratch every year. Mohn is a little hard to describe, but it's got poppy seeds and nuts and raisins in it, so how bad can it be? We aren't going to put the recipe here because it involves a lot of messing around in the kitchen and the recipe we use is published in Arthur Waskow's wonderful book Seasons of Our Joy.

Mohn is also available commercially in cans, usually in the kosher food section of your supermarket. (But it's not as good as the homemade variety.)

Lucia's Cookies

Lucia used to work for Joan a long, long time ago. Her gifts to our family include a beautiful long-haired black cat who lived with Joan's sister in New Mexico for many years, this recipe, and two other cookie recipes (appropriately known as Lucia's Other Cookies and Lucia's Roll-Out Cookies).

Outsides
3/4 cup butter
1-1/2 cups brown sugar
12 ounces dark chocolate (chips or bars)
2 Tablespoons water
3 cups flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
dash of salt

Melt butter and sugar over medium heat.
Remove from heat, stir in chocolate and water until melted.
Beat in eggs, then add dry ingredients.
Drop onto greased cookie sheets and bake at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes (1-2 minutes after tops begin to split).

Size of cookies depends a lot on how many you want to end up with. Lucia made fewer and bigger cookies. I make more and smaller cookies.

Cool cookies completely on wire racks. Then form sandwiches, using two similar-sized cookies and the filling below.

Insides
5 Tablespoons butter
3 cups powdered sugar
1/8 teasoon peppermint extract
1/4 cup cream (or milk - we use condensed skim milk)

Cream 1 cup sugar with butter. Add extract. Add cream and rest of sugar alternately, mixing until smooth.

Ginger Snaps

3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
dash of salt

Cream butter and sugar.
Beat in egg and molasses.
Stir together dry ingredients and add to butter/sugar mixture.
Chill until easy to handle.
Shape into 1-inch balls; roll in sugar to coat.
Place on ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake at 350 degrees for 11 to 13 minutes.

Disappearing Marshmallow Brownies

This was originally a Pillsbury Bake-Off recipe. We modified it slightly, and always double it (as shown below) because half of this recipe is never enough. If you want a smaller batch, just cut this in half and bake in an 8x8 pan.

6 ounces butterscotch chips
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1-1/2 cups flour
2/3 cups brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
dash salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups miniature marshmallows
12 ounces chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Melt butterscotch chips and margarine. Cool.
Add flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, vanilla, and eggs.
Mix well.
Fold in marshmallows, chocolate chips, and nuts.
Spread into greased 9x13 baking pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. Center will be jiggly when first removed from oven.
Cool and cut into bars.

Peanut Butter Cookies

This is probably the first recipe Joan ever collected. She can remember making these cookies with her family when she was 8 or 9 years old.

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup shortening (Crisco)
1 cup peanut butter
2 beaten eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
dash salt

Cream together shortening and sugars.
Add peanut butter and mix well.
Add eggs and vanilla.
Combine dry ingredients and add, stirring until blended.

Drop on greased cookie sheet.
Criss-cross with fork dipped in flour.

Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.

Caramel Popcorn

This is a perennial favorite. It takes a long time to make, but it's not actually labor-intensive.

10-12 quarts popped popcorn (unbuttered, unsalted)
1 1-lb. box brown sugar
(NOTE: I've never had success using brown sugar from bags for some reason.)
1/2 cup light Karo syrup
1/2 pound butter or margarine
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
a few dashes of salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Put the popcorn in a big ovenproof pot or pan at 250 degrees to keep it warm while the coating is prepared. You should spray or butter the pan before you start.

Combine brown sugar, Karo syrup, butter, cream of tartar, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, to 260 degrees on a candy thermometer (about 5 minutes - soft ball stage).
Remove from heat and stir in baking soda quickly and thoroughly.
Pour syrup over hot popcorn, stirring to coat.
Bake at 200 degrees for 1 to 2 hours, stirring every 15 to 20 minutes or so. Test occasionally for doneness. The popcorn should be crunchy, not chewy.
Turn popcorn out onto waxed paper to cool.
Store in airtight container.

Ding-Bats

We make these cookies as a bar, but the original recipe called for making 1-inch balls and rolling them in coconut or powdered sugar. They are certainly more decorative as balls, but spreading them in a pan tastes just as good.

1 stick butter or margarine
1 egg
1 cup sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
1 8-ounce package dates
4 cups Rice Krispies
salt
vanilla extract
coconut or powdered sugar

Combine butter, sugar, egg, and dates in a heavy saucepan.
Cook over low heat, stirring continuously, until just starting to boil.
Add pecans; cook 10 minutes. Continue stirring.
Remove from heat.
Add dash of salt, vanilla, and Rice Krispies. Mix well.
Spread into a buttered 9x13 pan. Sprinkle top with coconut or powdered sugar.
Cut into bars or small squares when cool.

Joyce's Refrigerator Bars

Line the bottom of a 9x13 pan with graham crackers. Break them up if you have to.

Melt 2 sticks butter in saucepan.
Beat together and add to butter:
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 cup sugar
Bring to a boil and remove from heat.

Add to mixture in pan:
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup crushed graham crackers (about 5 or 6 big ones)
Pour this mixture over the graham crackers in the 9x13 pan.
Top with another layer of graham crackers.

Make cream cheese icing and spread over top layer of graham crackers:
3/4 stick butter
1 box powdered sugar
3 ounces cream cheese
1 to 2 Tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Chill bars in refrigerator for at least 2 hours before cutting.

Banana (Nut) Bread

Another of Joan's oldest collected recipes. She made this often when she was in high school.

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
3 ripe bananas, mashed
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
dash salt
3 Tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped nuts
NOTE: Walnuts seem to work better than pecans. And if you don't want the nuts, just leave them out.

Beat oil and sugar together.
Add eggs and banana pulp; beat well.
Add dry ingredients, milk, and vanilla.
Mix well, stir in nuts.

Pour into an oiled 9x5 loaf pan. (If you don't have a nonstick pan, you may want to line the bottom of the pan with waxed paper.) Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Check for doneness with a cake tester.

Cool thoroughly; overnight is best.

NOTE: For Purim, we usually make this without nuts in small loaf pans or mini-muffin cups. The baking time has to be adjusted downward accordingly. We don't have a note on how long to cook these, but it's probably 10-15 minutes for mini-muffins, around 30 minutes for small loaves. Also, they don't need to cool like the loaf does. (They taste great when still warm!)