We’re just a couple of weeks away from Passover and eight days of matzo, but I’m still thinking about Purim, now a few weeks in the rear view mirror.
Several years ago, not long after I began writing this blog, I marveled at my amazing good fortune at having hamantashen show up in the break room at work around Purim time. I had been craving these little jam-filled triangular cookies, probably owing more to nostalgia than to their flavor. But there I was, working out in the desert, feeling exiled to the Diaspora as only a Jew can.
I’m fairly sure I was the only Jew in our little Colorado River town, and the last thing I expected was that anyone would have ever heard of hamantashen, much less have known where to get some. I knew I could find something resembling the prune, apricot or cherry filled treats that I associated with the reading of the biblical Book of Esther each spring, if only I had the will to make the four-hour round trip to Palm Springs or the five-hour drive to Phoenix and back. Granted, they wouldn’t be the same as the buttery pastries I remember from Pakula’s Bakery, now long gone mainstay of my hometown of Spring Valley, New York, but any facsimile would do in a pinch. And I felt like pinching myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming when a package of hamantashen showed up on the round table in our break room. As if out of thin air, an answer to prayer, were they really there? Yes, I answered with the first taste. Supermarket variety, to be sure, but it felt like a care package from home, shlach manot. They turned out to be a gift to the staff from a former manager, now retired, who knew nothing of Purim when she picked up some cookies at a supermarket over in Indio. It felt like nothing short of a Purim miracle.
Here in Sacramento, hamantashen are available at several retail stores. And yet the irony is that, this Purim, I tasted none. As it turned out, there are things other than miles that would distance me from hamantashen. The bottom line is that when you’re vegan, gluten-free and have to watch your sugar intake, special holiday foods cannot be taken for granted, even when they are readily available.
I pondered whether, with the right ingredients and a bit of ingenuity, it might be possible to create hamantashen that would satisfy my food limitations. Vegan margarine could easily substitute for butter, and a little oil or applesauce for an egg. There are plenty of artificial sweeteners out there. But what of the flour? Could hamantashen be made of rice flour, almond flour or amaranth?
Yes! Turns out that, a fee years back, April Peveteaux over at Gluten is My Bitch posted a yummy-looking recipe for gluten-free, dairy-free hamantashen. Sub applesauce for the eggs, bring out the Sweet ‘N Low or Splenda, use sugar-free jam for the filling, and I would venture to say we’re there. I don’t bake, but I hope someone will try it out and let me know whether it’s worth the effort.
I found another such recipe courtesy of Lisa Rose at realfoodkosher.com. She suggests using a combination of rice and almond flour and substituting coconut oil for butter.
Anyone want to make me some hamantashen? Must be gluten-free and vegan. I should have asked my mother-in-law. She made me a batch a few years ago and they were some of the best I’ve ever eaten.
Short of homemade, however, I suppose these are my favorites, if only because I don’t have to prepare them. At about a dollar an ounce, the price seems fairly reasonable. The only time I ever ordered hamantashen through the mail, they came mostly broken, including more crumbs than I knew what to do with. But those were “fresh” bakery-style, not packaged, so I suppose the result was to be expected.
I guess there’s not too much that you can’t buy online these days. Maybe next year, eh?