Baked treats for Purim
Photo: Tina Wasserman
Pretzel Dog Hamantaschen

By Tina Wasserman

In all my years of cooking, I have rarely had to throw out a dish or finished product that was inedible. I thought those days ended decades ago with the sweetbreads I tried to handle or the puff pastry I left by an open window in late spring which melted all the layers of butter, rendering the dough impossible to roll out. However, in my effort to offer you some more alternatives this Purim I tried a number of recipes for baked goods that I thought would give me ideas so that I could add my own flavor profile. Some of these recipes were from famous food writers. I am now painfully aware that the finished dish will come out edible only if someone rewrites the directions! So many items went directly into the trash.

The following recipes are ones that I have made for years and one that I did try, did change the directions and did give credit for the idea, if not the execution.

Enjoy the holiday and remember the meaning behind the story of Purim.

Haman’s ‘Ears’

We tend to think triangular cookies best represent the villain Haman, but many in European countries use the ear to represent him. Why the ear? It was very common in the medieval and Renaissance eras to denigrate convicted criminals by cutting off part of their ears. In Judaism, Haman is seen as a criminal, hence the pastry in his “honor.” These are often called Wirre Gedanken in Germany and Bugie in Italian bakeries but the Jewish people in these regions adapted the recipe to meet their needs. Enjoy!

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for rolling
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Confectioners’ sugar
  1. Combine the first four ingredients in a mixing bowl. Set aside.
  2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together until well combined. Proceed immediately to add this mixture to the flour and stir by hand or machine until a soft, slightly sticky dough is formed.
  3. Turn out dough onto a generously floured board and gently knead the dough for 15 strokes to form a soft ball of dough. Cover with the inverted used mixing bowl and let the dough rest for ½ hour.
  4. Divide the dough in half and roll one-half on a moderately floured board until it is very thin (1/16 of an inch) and almost transparent.
  5. Pour three inches of oil into a deep pot or fryer and heat to 375 degrees.
  6. Cut strips of dough that are about 4 inches in length by 1 inch. As you lift up each strip the dough will stretch a little; this is OK. Bring the two ends of dough together and lightly press them to form a sagging O.
  7. Fry dough 3 or 4 pieces at a time until golden. Drain on crumpled paper towels.
  8. When all the dough is fried, place on a serving tray and sprinkle liberally with confectioners’ sugar while still warm.

Tina’s Tidbits:

  • Dough made with oil will always appear to be sticky, even when its consistency is correct. Use a little more flour on your board when rolling out the dough to prevent it from sticking.
  • Confectioners’ sugar will adhere much better when it is sprinkled on food that is warm rather than cool.
  • These cookies can be stored in an airtight container for a few hours but really are best served within an hour.
  • The stretched dough will fry in shapes that are not perfect circles or ovals; this is fine because no ear is perfectly oval and all have irregular shapes.

Pretzel Dog Hamantaschen
Adapted from a Nosher recipe

I really wanted to give you a recipe that wasn’t just for desserts. When I saw this I was skeptical, especially after having thrown out some other experiments. This recipe didn’t list an author and I was not happy with the instructions, so I adapted the recipe and tried it out and added my extensive steps so that you would have these wind up in your mouths and not in your trash cans! When I got tired of making the hamantaschen I took the leftover dough, rolled it into thin logs, folded them like pretzels and then dipped them in the solution listed below, sprinkled them with coarse salt and baked them…hello Philly Pretzels!

  • 1½ cups water
  • 1 packet rapid-rise yeast or 2¼ teaspoons dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1¼ teaspoons kosher salt or 1 teaspoon regular salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3½ cups all-purpose flour plus additional for kneading and rolling
  • 9 cups water
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • Cooked kosher Italian sausage or any cooked hot dog or sausage
  • 1 egg mixed with 1 teaspoon water
  • Everything but the Bagel seasoning or kosher salt for topping, optional
  • Marinara sauce or mustard for serving
  1. Place the water in a 4-quart glass bowl and microwave on high for 50 seconds. The temperature should be between 110 and 115 degrees. Whisk in the sugar and yeast and allow it to sit and ferment for 3-5 minutes until foaming.
  2. Whisk in the salt and oil and then whisk in the first cup of flour.
  3. Switch to a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon and gradually add 2 more cups of flour. Dough will be sticky. Add another ¼ cup of flour and mix until the flour is mostly incorporated.
  4. Sprinkle your work surface with 2 tablespoons of flour and knead the dough by hand until a relatively smooth ball is formed. Try not to use too much additional flour, but if dough is really sticking to your counter or board then use a little more. You shouldn’t need more than a total of 3½-3¾ cups of flour for the entire recipe.
  5. Place a tablespoon of oil in a 3-quart bowl and coat the sides and bottom. Add the dough ball, flip it over to coat all over, cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free location for 15 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400-425 degrees (lower temperature if you have a convection oven that doesn’t automatically drop the temperature 25 degrees).
  7. Cover 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
  8. In a 6-quart wide soup pot or Dutch oven, bring 9 cups of water and 1 cup of baking soda to a rolling boil.
  9. Have a large skimmer utensil or a slotted spatula readily available as well as a knife and your hot dogs or sausage ready to be cut. (Number of pieces depends on the number of Hamantaschen Pretzels you make.)
  10. Remove dough from bowl and place half the dough on a lightly floured surface.
  11. Roll dough to about ¼-inch thickness and cut with a 3-inch round cutter that has been dipped in flour to prevent sticking.
  12. Take each round of dough, pat it down a little and then form into an equilateral triangle by pushing the bottom edge (6 o’clock) up with your thumbs and your forefingers coming down from the upper edges at 2 and 10 o’clock. Pinch the corners together well.
  13. Working with 3 or four triangles at a time, drop the dough, open side down, into the boiling water mixture and boil only for 10 seconds.
  14. Using the large flat skimmer or slotted spatula, remove the hamantaschen face down on the spatula to drain any water from the interior but place the triangles on the prepared cookie sheet face up.
  15. Before you shape and boil another batch of dough triangles, cut ½- to ¾-inch pieces from your meat and place firmly in the center of each triangle. Re-pinch the corners again and then repeat steps 11-14 until you have used all the dough.
  16. Pinch the corners one more time. Brush the tops of the dough with the egg wash and then sprinkle with the suggested optional toppings.
  17. Bake in the oven until golden brown, about 12-15 minutes.
  18. Serve immediately or warm in a low oven before serving.
  19. If using the Italian sausage, serve with warm marinara sauce.

Tina’s Tidbits:

  • I prefer to heat my water in a microwave and then test with a thermometer to get the correct temperature to grow the yeast. Hot tap water might seem fine but many of our water heaters are set for 140 degrees and that would kill the yeast. If you don’t own a good instant-read thermometer, I strongly recommend the Thermapen.
  • Unlike making bread, when the yeast is often added to a good proportion of the flour and then the warm water is added, here the yeast is not protected from the heat so it is imperative that the water temperature does not go above 115 degrees.
  • I initially tried using less water and less baking soda, but you really need a 6-quart pot to give the dough room to soak up the alkaline solution, which creates the characteristic surface of a pretzel.
Photo: Tina Wasserman
Almond Poppy Seed Pound Cake

Almond Poppy Seed Pound Cake

I recently taught this recipe at Anshai Torah and it was a big hit. My records show that I have offered it to you every other year since 2019. It is worth repeating because almost all of you will have some half-empty cans of filling in your refrigerators after you have maxed out your efforts to make millions of hamantaschen! Moist and delicious, this cake is worth opening some new cans and making two cakes that will store beautifully in the freezer for when you need to whip out a dessert for company and don’t have time to bake.

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • ½ cup canned poppy seed dessert filling
  • ½ cup canned almond dessert filling or apricot filling
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract, or 1 teaspoon if using apricot filling
  • 1 cup low-fat, thick Greek yogurt
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Lightly spray 18 tea cake pans (smaller than mini-loaves), 6 mini-loaf pans or 1 large Bundt pan with cooking spray or lightly grease with vegetable oil. Set aside.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar together on high speed until light and fluffy and well combined. Scrape down sides of bowl.
  4. Add poppy seed filling, almond OR apricot filling, almond extract and vanilla extract to butter mixture and mix at medium-high speed until all ingredients are well combined. Scrape down sides of bowl.
  5. Add eggs and beat at high speed until mixture is lighter in color and aerated.
  6. Add the yogurt and mix on high speed until well incorporated.
  7. In a small bowl, stir the flour, baking soda and salt together. On low speed, add this mixture to the mixing bowl and mix just until the batter is well combined.
  8. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pan of choice. If using a Bundt pan, place on a low-rimmed cookie sheet for stability. Bake for 25-45 minutes (depending on size of pan) until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  9. Let cakes cool for 5 minutes and then remove from pans and place on a cooling rack or on their sides (if mini-loaves) or upright (if Bundt cake). Cool thoroughly before covering or freezing for later use.
  10. Yield: 18 servings

Tina’s Tidbits:

  • I prefer to bake this cake in a Bundt pan because it is decorative. However, another pan option besides those listed above could be loaf pans. If you prefer to place a slice of cake on a plate surrounded with fresh berries or a scoop of ice cream, then freezing the cake in loaves allows you to cut clean slices off the frozen cake whenever needed.
  • I like the combination of poppy seed and almond but apricot filling with poppy seed works well too. These are all Solo canned fillings that I use because I know their moisture content works well with the cake.

Leave a Reply