By Guest Pastry Chef Rachelle D. Ferneau
KosherEye is delighted to feature our very creative and talented "Foodie" Friend, Rachelle Ferneau. She is the pastry chef/owner of Eden Cake, a boutique kosher bakery in Potomac, Maryland which specializes in pareve desserts.
Purim is our holiday of joy and frivolity, celebrating the physical survival of the Jewish people: the triumph of the courageous Esther and Mordechai over the evil Haman, who intended to wipe out the Jewish nation. We enjoy the festive customs of reading the Megillah and sounding the grogger at the mention of Haman’s name, dressing in costumes, giving Mishloach Manot (gifts of food to friends) and Matanot L’Evyonim (charity to the poor), putting on Purim shpiels (funny skits)and enjoying the Purim seudah or feast.
While there are some traditional foods (and drink) that are consumed on Purim, the eating of hamantaschen in particular has become synonymous with the holiday of Purim. These triangular pastries, stuffed with a variety of sweet fillings, mock the three-cornered hat of Haman. It just wouldn’t be Purim without them. So many flavors to choose from, too: poppy seed, apricot, cherry, even chocolate chips have become a popular mainstay. Everyone has their personal favorite.
This year, however, I am inspired by pie. Familiar, homespun and always welcome, pies are what the culinary experts are predicting will be the next “big thing” to follow the immensely popular cupcake trend. Who knows? “Easy as pie” is a common phrase, but actually making good pie is anything but easy. There are so many steps to get right: Margarine vs. shortening in the pie crust? How long do I chill the dough? Is the pie crust light and flaky, not mushy or doughy? Precook the filling or not? How can I make the filling hold together so it doesn’t run when the pie is cut? And then there’s the top of the pie to consider: lattice, second crust, crumble, streusel, meringue? What if it browns, or worse, burns before the pie is cooked? Making pie isn’t as simple as it looks, and it is labor intensive and time consuming.
So combining pie-inspired fillings with hamantaschen construction becomes the perfect solution! Hamantaschen dough is easy to handle, the cookies are manageable in size and quick to assemble, and when enclosing a filling, they resemble (though not in shape) an individually-sized pie. Okay, so maybe this is a bit of a stretch, but this is the holiday to have some fun, and there’s no harm in reinterpreting dishes, especially when the results taste this good.
I have experimented with my two all-time favorite pies: apple and pecan. Apple pie is comforting and well-loved by all, and well, I am a sucker for anything with nuts, especially when complemented by a bit of chocolate. You can prepare the fillings in advance so assembly will be a snap. So have fun and create some new triangular “pies” and enjoy them during your own festivities! Happy Purim!
March 6, 2011