The Way the Purim Cookie Crumbles

By Tova Horwitz

The holiday of Purim פורים is just around the corner and the festive spirit can already be felt on the streets of Israel. The joyous day celebrates Esther, Mordechai and the Jews’ victory over the evil Haman, and is commemorated today in modern Israel and around the world with a host of fun traditions including giving baskets of food to friends משלוח מנות, having a food and drink filled party סעודה, dressing up in costumes תחפושות, giving charity צדקה, and of course eating special triangular shaped cookies called אוזני המן or hamantaschen.

These cookies, whose name translates to Haman’s ears, are formed in the shape of a triangle (or the shape of Haman’s ears) and are traditionally made out of delicious shortbread or cookie dough pastry and filled with fruit flavored jam, poppy seeds, fig, chocolate, or other delectable fillings. In more recent years, the traditional cookie has been completely revamped resulting in a dizzying debut of mouth watering and inventive flavors and different types of dough.

If this is your first time being in Israel around Purim time, you may be surprised by the sight (and smell) of so many hamantaschen practically everywhere you look – in every supermarket סוּפֶּרמַרקֶט, small grocery מכולת, bakery מַאֲפִיָה, coffee shop בית קפה and eatery. The sheer variety of flavors can be dizzying. To make it a little simpler, here is a breakdown of the varieties that are most popular and which you’ll likely encounter on the streets of Israel this time of year.

The classic flavors, which are probably still the most common and which will satisfy traditionalists, include poppyseed פרג, date תמר, jam ריבה, and fig תאנה. Chocolate שוקולד although perhaps not as traditional as the other flavors, is also a hugely popular hit among both kids and adults, and probably the most loved flavor of all. Other spins on the traditional varieties include various flavors of jam such apricot מִשׁמֵשׁ, raspberry פֶּטֶל, or cherry דוּבדְבָן, as well as chalva חלבה, nutella, and various type of nut fillings. You’ll find these classics sometimes sprinkled with powder sugar and sometimes not.

Other more exotic flavors that can be found at specialty bakeries around the country include varieties or combinations of apple pie פאי תפוחים, white chocolate שוקולד לבן, pistachio פיסטוק, pralines פרלין, dulce de leche ריבת חלב, peanut butter חמאת בוטנים, sweet cheese גבינה מתוקה and even many savory varieties. You will also find hamantaschen made of chocolate pastry as well as dough made with yeast. For the more health conscious, it won’t be hard to find hamantaschen made out of melt in your mouth whole wheat חיטה מלאה flour or spelt כוסמין flour and perhaps filled with slightly healthier dried fruit fillings.

Whether you prefer sweet, savory or something in between, you’ll certainly enjoy tasting the many flavors until you find the perfect Purim cookie that you love. Bon appetit בתאבון!!

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