Friday, February 22, 2013

Fifty Second Friday: Gift of Giving

Purim, one of the liveliest and most entertaining holidays on the Jewish calendar, takes place this weekend (Sunday, to be more precise). It celebrates how the Jews of Persia escaped extermination during the biblical era. As tradition dictates, every year we read over the story of how Queen Esther and her cousin Mordechai outmaneuver the evil Haman to save their people in the city of Shushan, Persia. We dress up in costume, make loud noises every time the name of Haman is mentioned, and generally have an uproariously good time.

But the holiday also has its serious side, and it is largely about giving thanks for what we have. The word 'purim' itself means 'lots' - as in a lottery. It's important here to take a moment to think about your own lot in life. One of the mandates of Purim is to exchange mishloach manot (mutual gifts of food) and give mattanot l'evyonim (charity to the poor). Even the poorest among us are expected to give what they can. This is a perfect opportunity to take a step back and think about the amazing people in our lives, the little things for which we have to be thankful every day, and how to give back (build up good karma)!

All Jewish holidays have certain characteristics in common. They begin at sundown and end at sundown; they usually involve the Jewish people overcoming hardship or persecution; and they revolve around food and drink of one kind or another. While on Purim one is expected to drink until the distinction between Mordechai and Haman is blurred, it is also customary to bake hamentaschen cookies - in the shape of Haman's three-pointed hat - to give out as gifts of food. Of course you know I can't turn down any chance to make tasty treats...

Hamentaschen (gf, vg)
Adapted from Eric Miss America

1/2 cup earth balance or chilled coconut oil
3/4 cup sugar (if using raw or coarse, food process first)
zest of one orange
3 tbs almond milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbs applesauce
1 tbs cornstarch

1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup millet flour
1/4 cup arrowroot
1/4 cup garbanzo bean flour
1/4 cup almond meal
1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder

Assorted fillings: get creative! Jams, nut butters, chocolate, etc. For some off-the-beaten-path ideas, click here.

1. Use a large bowl, and cream fat and sugar until fluffy (or at least well-combined). Add in zest, milk, and vanilla. Continue to mix until smooth.
2. Whisk together applesauce and cornstarch. Set aside.
3. In a smaller bowl, mix all draw ingredients. 
4. Incorporate applesauce "egg" into oil mixture. Then, in three parts, mix in dry ingredients until dough begins to come together and a ball can be made. Cut in half, and put one segment covered in the refrigerator.
5. Roll out the other half on parchment to about 1/4 inch thickness. Use a round cookie cutter or empty tin can (I used a glass ~4in diameter) to cut out circles. Place a dollop of filling, about 1 tsp, in the center of the circle. Fold in sides to create a triangle, and pinch edges close. 
6. Place on lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes, until starting to brown and centers begin to bubble. Remove and allow to cool completely!

Happy Purim and Chag Sameach!

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