March 24, 2016

Noshin’ on Hamantashen

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As Spring approaches, most Cornellians think of blossoming flowers and warming temperatures. But for the Jewish minority at Cornell and across the world, the start of Spring also means celebrating the holiday of Purim, a festival that commemorates the saving of the Hebrews from the wicked Persian vizier Haman.

Jewish law dictates that we celebrate the occasion through binge drinking, although underaged Cornellians know better than to engage in this deeply illicit activity. In lieu of getting inebriated, those 21 and under must find an alternative consumable form through which to observe the holiday. Hamantashen are the way to go.

The three-sided pastry represents the triangular hat donned by Haman and is traditionally filled with fruits and nuts.

Few college students have the time, money or energy to bake hamantashen. This recipe was somewhat of an experiment to see if they could be made using easily accessible ingredients. It barely resembles the pastries you’ll find at your synagogue or grandparents’ house, and some might even consider them sacrilegious — but to me, they’re nothing short of delectable.

Start off by buying a cylinder of ready-to-bake chocolate chip cookie dough, as well as any pre-made fillings of your choice. I obtained marshmallow fluff, cream cheese, strawberry jam, chocolate chips and peanut butter but the combinations are endless, so use whatever fillings you like.

Tear off a handful of cookie dough and smash it into a flat, triangular shape. After you place it on a cookie sheet, add a spoonful of filling to the center. Warning: don’t go overboard with the fillings. Like me, you may be tempted to smother the dough with copious amounts of filling, but that will result in a messy overflow when you bake them.

The next step is to carefully fold, stretch and press the exposed edges to the middle to form the pyramidal shape. Don’t worry if you rip the dough — it can easily be patched with more dough. Once you get the basic shape, you can sharpen the geometry to create a more striking final product.

Speaking of geometry, I remember learning somewhere that freezing dough for a couple minutes prior to baking ensures a sturdier baked product. This is critical for hamantashen, since you want them to retain their structural integrity throughout the baking and afterwards. After forming my hamentashen and placing them in the freezer prior to baking, I was certain that the finished products would be as aesthetically pleasing as my grandma’s.

Boy, was I wrong. After cooking my hamantashen for 15 or so minutes in a 350 degree oven, they had completely flattened out and the pyramidal shape I had yearned for was completely destroyed. On top of this, the cookie dough was not sturdy enough to hold together, and collapsed immediately when I tried to pick it up.

Looks aside, my hamantashen turned out amazing. The cookie dough worked well with the sweet fillings I chose — after all, there’s no way peanut butter, marshmallow fluff and jelly could taste bad with cookie dough. And, judging by the fact that the leftovers I put in my dorm lounge were quickly gobbled up, I’d consider this experiment a success.

The observance of any holiday has a lot to do with intent. In this spirit, my hamantashen recipe adhered to Jewish law. In making this recipe, your hamentashen may not taste or look like the traditional hamantashen you know and love, but at least you tried your hardest to make them have three sides and to continue a millennia-old practice. And in the end, it’s the thought that matters.

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