luckily, this plan was foiled and the jews of what is now modern-day iran and environs were saved due to the valiant efforts of the heroine of the story, queen esther. every year, we listen to the recorded history in the often elaborately decorated megilat ester [scroll of esther] and make noise and a ruckus when the evil haman's name is mentioned. both children and adults dress up in masquerade to commemorate and celebrate this happy holiday. it is a major celebration in israel and perhaps the happiest one of the jewish calendar of holidays. it's also the one time when jewish adults are "encouraged" [responsibly, of course] to drink alcohol in copious amounts.
the following recipe comes from another friend of mine who actually escaped from iran, alone as a teenager, in the 1980's making his way first to israel and then to canada. it is a cookie both he and his family eat at jewish holidays and is a mizrachi (middle eastern) version of the popular ashkenazi mohn [poppyseed] cookie. it only seems appropriate to post something from the part of the world where the whole story of purim took place centuries ago. it is also perfect for those people who cannot consume flour; it is completely gluten free.
poppy seeds are very popular in many cakes, cookies and pastries for the purim holiday and these are no exception. this particular cookie is often likened to a type of shortbread and can be made with margarine or butter, or even oil. traditionally, they are made with rose water and cardamom. my friend's mom even adds a tsp or so of crumbled dried rose petals sometimes. dried rose petals for cooking are available at iranian or middle eastern stores. i prefer these cookies the way i show below, however. it is possible to flavour them the way you prefer — you can use lemon juice and zest as one option, too, if you don't like or have orange flower water.
rice flour poppyseed cookies
1 stick margarine or butter (1/4 lb), softened
2/3 c *sugar
2 tsp orange flower water [try to use it; it makes a big difference]
3 tsp water
1/2 - 1 tsp poppyseeds
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder, rounded
2 1/2 - 2 3/4 c **rice flour (i use bob's redmill)
1/4 c poppy seeds for rolling cookies
*you can use just regular white sugar but my friend's mother says to measure it and then put it in a processor or blender and grind it finer for a few minutes. some naan berenji versions also use confectioner's/icing sugar.
**no rice flour? you can grind your own in a coffee grinder; just make sure to sift it well. it should be very finely ground.
cream the margarine or butter and sugar until it is well blended. grinding the sugar helps with the incorporation.
add the eggs and blend well. it will look curdled after this addition.
mix in the salt and the baking powder. also add the water and orange flower or rose water.
add the and poppy seeds and mix again.
now blend in the rice flour.
it should be very thick. take note that it is still a soft dough and delicate. doesn't it remind you of vanilla ice cream?
measure out 35 portions of about 2 tsps each. at this point you can continue if you are comfortable working with a softer dough or you can refrigerate them for about 20 to 30 minutes. i like making them right away as i find the edges tend to crack after they've been refrigerated. also, measuring out the portions helps to make the shaping go faster and lets them chill more effectively. it is worth the few minutes preparation.
heat the oven t0 350F.
fill a small dish with the 1/4 c of poppy seeds and set it next to you. take a small ball and roll it so it is round. now dip the top half into the poppy seeds.
place this on a parchment lined baking sheet or lightly greased one.
press down on the ball with your fingers gently to expand it to make a round which is about 1/4 inch thick.
do this to the rest and leave space between them (about 1 1/2 to 2 inches).
bake them for exactly 20 minutes or until they are very lightly browned at the edges.
place them on a rack to cool. they are still somewhat delicate at this point and need to cool fully before eating them. they will firm up further when completely cooled.