Tuesday, March 03, 2009

oznei haman — the sefardi way

the holiday of purim is probably one of the best of the jewish holidays in that it is filled with loads of sweets and pastries. people will spend hours baking and prepare elaborate gift baskets for family, friends and neighbours which we call mishlo'ach man'ot. it is a considered a very happy occasion, one which children remember fondly once they are grown.

one vivid memory i have is related to this recipe and the one i posted for hamantaschen. first off, one needs to know that many of the pastries and breads (especially sefardi ones) have something in particular to do with the evil haman, the archenemy of the jews in the purim story which took place in ancient persia. to keep this in memory throughout the generations, these foods have been likened to certain body parts (hair, ears & eyes usually) and clothing (pockets & hat) of this evil character.

as we all know, some foods go by different names in different locales and much depends upon what you've grown up with or your community adopts. such is the case with one of the most well known items eaten on this holiday and the beginning of my small, somewhat amusing story/memory .....

first off, a short language lesson:

in hebrew -

[one] ear = o'zen
[two] ears = oze'nigh'eem
the ears of = oze'nay ..... (e.g. oznei haman - the ears of haman)

in spanish -

hojuelas = small leaves (leaflets)
[one] ear = oreja; [2 or more] ears = orejas

in my house, the pastries you see below were called by two names - oznei haman or hojuelas d'haman. hojuelas, or small leaves, seemed to be the more formal spanish name. they often were just called orejas (literally ears). they really looked like ears and always amused us as children .... ears never tasted so good, especially when covered with icing sugar! little leaves just didn't seem to have the same intrigue.

back to the story:

purim = holiday where people dress up in costumes, listen to story of purim (at synagogues & schools), make noise, eat tons of food, adults drink, kids get "high" on candy (LOL) at costume/masquerade parties. festival type atmosphere where kids play carnival type games, win prizes ..... complete frenzy and madness.


setting: grade one - 1st year at hebrew school several days before the holiday
the characters: BB (me), classmates, my parents and morah malka (the hebrew teacher)

act I: waiting for teacher to arrive

classmates - yay, it's almost purim!!
BB - can't wait! (thinking of big party and lots of candy :)) )
classmates - BB, what are you wearing?!?
BB - not telling! it's a surprise :)

act II: (our teacher Malka arrives)

morah malka - ok, children settle down!
(classmates) - laughing, playing .... not listening (typical)
morah malka - yeladim, bevakasha - sheket akhshav (children, please, quiet now!)
(classmates) - still laughing, chasing eachother
morah malka - (face is red) -- YELADIM!!! AMARTI SHEKET!! (children, i said QUIET!)
(classmates) - freeze on the spot and sit down ....

act III: the lesson

morah malka - blah, blah, blah -- explaining about purim story again
classmates - listening intently amused by story (BB not listening, looking at ceiling has heard story 5 million times)
morah malka - mah okhlim b'hag hazeh, yeladim?? (what do we eat on this holiday children?)
classmates - candy!!!
morah malka - mah od? (what else?) BB? ma od okhlim? (BB what else do we eat?)
BB - uhhhh ..... oznei haman!!
morah malka - metzuyan, BB! (excellent, BB) - go and draw oznei haman on the blackboard.
BB - goes to draw oznei haman on the board
morah malka - BB, mah zeh?!? (BB, what is that?)
BB - oznei haman!
morah malka - zeh lo oznei haman - atah lo makshiv l'shiurim! (that's not oznei haman, you don't listen to the lessons, do you?)
BB - yes, it is!
morah malka - NO, it's not. shev! (sit down)
BB - NO!
morah malka - {evil teacher eyes looking at BB} i SAID, sit down, now!
BB - (sits down, crosses his arms and stares back at teacher thinking teacher has flipped out and is crazy)
morah malka - (picks another student to draw oznei haman)
BB - stares at kid drawing oznei haman on board
morah malka - yaff'eh me'od! (beautiful). you see, BB, THAT IS oznei haman!
BB - no, it's NOT! it's hamantaschen!!
morah malka - b'deey'uk - oznei haman, hamantaschen, otoh ha'dvar (right! exactly the same thing!)
BB - NO! not the same (mutters to himself - esa morah no sabe nada! that teacher doesn't know anything).
morah malka - mah amarta? (what did you say?)
BB - i said you don't know anything.
morah malka - {BIG evil eyes giving 'you're SO in trouble' stares} ok, we'll see.
BB - (gulp)

act IV: the parents at home later that evening

parents - so, BB, what happened at hebrew school?
BB - huh? what do you mean? umm..... nothing.
parents - really? {they don't tell me she called home to tell them i was rude}
BB - (smiles) she's crazy! she doesn't know what haman's ears look like - she thinks they're triangles.
parents - (both burst out laughing)
BB- what's so funny??!!! (nearly crying)
parents - nothing
BB - esa mora es una loca (that teacher is a nut). i'm NOT going back.
parents - no, she's just ashkenazi ..... AND you ARE going back.

***parents explain how she never heard about what OUR sefardi oznei haman looked like and that what i know as hamantaschen are also oznei haman amongst the ashkenazi - funny, i didn't find it as amusing as my parents did at the time (LOL) ***

act V: back at hebrew school on party day

parents (to morah malka) - BB has something special for you
morah malka - oh, really? what is it??
BB - (dressed in his pirate's outfit opens up a box) oznei haman!! OUR oznei haman!

the end!

morah malka enjoyed haman's ears tremendously and has probably never forgotten about me either (hehehe).

* * * * * * * * *
hojuelas (orejas/oznei) d'haman
haman's ears

irresistibly good, these deep-fried ear-shaped pastries are the sefardi version of the ashkenazi hamanataschen (both called oznei haman!). this recipe is always prepared in abundant amounts as they are eaten up very quickly; once you try them, you'll see why.

the following recipe is just a sample amount. it has been scaled down to try for those who have never made them before. i suggest doubling the recipe which will yield enough for about 5 to 6 people.


(double the amounts to make a 'standard' sized recipe) **you don't need to double oil for frying if increasing recipe**

1 egg
1 - 1 1/2 tsp orange flower water or 1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp olive oil (NOT extra virgin!)

1 c all purpose flour
2 tsp cornstarch (maizena)
1/8 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder, slightly heaped

oil for frying — we use regular olive oil; you can use vegetable oil also (~ 3 1/2 -4 c)


in a bowl, place the egg, oil and orange flower water (or vanilla) and stir well.

in another bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. add this mixture to the wet one and make a soft dough.

knead this dough for a few minutes and let it sit, covered, for about 1 - 2 hours. it is much like a pasta dough and must sit, well covered, for it to soften up. this will make it easier to roll out.

if you are doing this by hand, cut the dough in half and roll out the dough on a very well floured surface as thinly as you can get it. it will take you a while to do this as it is a more difficult dough to roll thinly.

i use a pasta machine which is the best way to do this. pass the dough through the machine on the widest setting 3 times and then repeat with increasingly smaller settings until you get a very thin sheet of dough.

place the dough on a flat surface and cut out circles (we use a 3 inch cutter). important: do not try to re-roll the scraps — keep them aside and cut them up if they are large and fry them after you have done all the hojuelas (keep them covered so they don't dry out). these are usually given to the kids or eaten as snacks and not served or given to guests.

cut the circles in half with a sharp knife.

take one half and, just a bit lower than the midpoint, pinch the pastry together.

it should look like an ear shape. place these on a plate and heat your oil over medium-low heat while you are doing this. KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR OIL and judge accordingly (as to your timing of heating the oil).

it is very important that your oil be at the right temperature —> if it is too low the hojuelas will not puff up properly and if it is too high, they will burn. you will need to fry one or two first to see and adjust the temperature if needed. remember also, the temperature will initially drop as you fry them and then rise again.

once they are a medium golden brown, carefully remove them and drain the pastries on paper towel.

once cool, dust them with powdered sugar. these keep well for a good 2 weeks (i doubt you'll have any left to keep around!!).


Monday, March 02, 2009

hooray for hamantaschen!

hamantaschen, or ohz'ney ha'man, as they are called in hebrew, are the typical ashkenazi cookie (pastries) eaten during the celebration of purim. as with almost all recipes, there are many variations on the same theme however the one thing which remains the same for this cookie is its shape — it is always triangular. this shape is supposedly reminiscent of the the hat the evil character haman wore. the other meaning, from yiddish, directly translates as haman's pockets (not hat).

there are basically 3 types of doughs used to make these much loved pastries: a yeasted type, a cookie version and a more delicate pastry one. all are good. much is based on personal taste for texture.

the fillings for hamantaschen are traditionally a poppy seed one or a fruit based one — most often of dried plums (prunes) sometimes mixed with raisins. there are a variety of different fillings these days based on the inventiveness of the cook and availability of ingredients. i typically stick with the basic ones and, if rushed for time, will use store-bought preserves as do many people.

most usually, the doughs are made parve (no animal or dairy products) so that they can be eaten at the se'udot — or festive meals — where meat is often on the menu.

the following are standard recipes i use. they are simple to make and yield excellent results. hamantaschen can be made ahead of schedule and frozen to save on time or to keep some aside for later.

i prepare the fillings and doughs the night/day before and then just roll out the dough and bake the cookies the next day. it is a great time saver.

the three doughs

yeasted dough

this is a more complicated dough only insomuch that it requires time for the dough to proof due to the inclusion of yeast. not everyone is comfortable with yeasted doughs. no worries, it's quite easy to work. this is a dairy version.


2 1/2 tsp dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/2 c milk or water OR 1/4 c milk + 1/4 c water

2 large eggs
1/2 c oil (or melted butter or margarine)
1/2 c sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 c yogurt(not low fat kind) or sour cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

enough flour to make a nice dough ~ 4 to 4 1/2 c all purpose flour


heat the liquid until quite warm (you should be able to keep your finger it in without it burning).

add the 1 tsp sugar and stir to dissolve. add the yeast and stir and let proof for 15 minutes.

once proved, stir the yeast mixture. place this in a large bowl and add the oil or melted butter/margarine & the rest of the ingredients EXCEPT the flour.

mix the ingredients well and add the flour. work the mixture either in a heavy duty type mixer or by hand (kneading). it should have a consistency like that of a soft (bread) dough.

place the dough in a very lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap and let it prove for about 3 hours. you can put it in the fridge and let it prove overnight (easier way!) also.

roll out the dough to 1/8 - 1/4 inch thick and cut circles. fill the circles as usual and form the hamantaschen the usual way (see below).

place the filled hamantaschen on a baking sheet and loosely cover the tray and let the pastries double in size - remember, it is a yeasted dough. this will take about 1 to 1.5 hrs but it will depend upon the temperature of your kitchen.

after 1 hr, heat your oven to 375F. bake them for approximately 25 to 30 minutes. they should be golden brown.

cookie type dough

this is a great recipe which gives an irresistable cookie dough in the raw state! try not to eat it all up before you make your hamantaschen :)) the only thing to remember about this dough is that it will be very soft once you finish making it. it requires FULL CHILLING (overnight or at least 8 hrs) but is instantly ready to roll out from the fridge. i suggest rolling half and keeping the remainder in the fridge until needed. make sure to use a well floured surface and to flour (and keep flouring) the top of the dough well as you roll it out.


1/2 c margarine
1 c sugar
1 egg
2 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2 tbsp orange juice
1 tsp vanilla extract or pkg vanilla sugar


in a separate bowl, blend the dry ingredients together and set aside.

in another bowl, cream butter with sugar for several minutes until light.

add egg and blend well.

add vanilla and orange juice and mix again.

add the flour mixture and blend until you get a dough.

cover and chill overnight until ready to bake. (see below for rest of recipe).

this cookie dough bakes at 375F for approx. 12-15 min. depending on the pastry size. adjust accordingly.

pastry type dough

a "dairy" type dough based on cream cheese, this yields a more pastry like product. it has few ingredients and is quick to make.


1/2 lb (appr 250 g) cream cheese
1/2 lb (appr 250 g) butter
1/4 - 1/3 c icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 c all purpose flour (a little more if necessary)


cream the butter and cream cheese once at room temperature. add the vanilla and icing sugar and mix well. blend in the flour until you get a dough. don't overwork it.

let the dough chill overnight or all day long in the fridge. roll the dough out on a floured surface to about 1/4 inch thick. cut circles and fill as usual. these bake about 12 minutes at 400 F.

the two classic fillings

poppy seed filling


1 1/4 c poppy seeds
1/2 c milk or soymilk or water
1/2 c honey
1 tbsp margarine or butter
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla


in a coffee grinder or similar appliance, grind the poppy seeds to a powder. transfer to a bowl. they MUST be ground

in a small pot, place the rest of the ingredients along with the poppy seeds and cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes until thickened.

place in a bowl and let cool.

prune & walnut filling

a classic and simple filling to make, this tart one compliments the sweet dough which envelops it. note that some prune fillings are not (briefly) cooked. this one is and MUST be to achieve the proper texture and flavour.

if you don't want to, or cannot, use nuts then substitute with about 1/2 c of golden raisins and soak them along with the prunes.


1 pkg pitted prunes (375 g)
boiling water, to cover fruit

2 to 3 tbsp sugar
1 - 2 tbsp honey
1/2 lemon, juiced

1 c coarsely chopped walnuts


the night before, or in the early morning, place the prunes in a bowl. add boiling water to cover. let sit overnight so the fruit will rehydrate.

the next day or later that evening, drain the liquid (you can keep this to drink or for another purpose - or you can discard it).

place the well drained fruit in a food processor and grind it until pureed. add the sugar, honey and lemon juice. taste and adjust.

transfer to a bowl.

in a wide pan (non stick fry pan is best), toast the walnuts over medium heat for a few minutes. set aside.

turn up the heat to medium high and add the prune paste. cook this for about 4 to 5 minutes until it had reduced a bit and the colour changes to almost black. don't do it for too long and keep stirring as you cook it. you don't want the bottom to scorch.

place this mixture back in your bowl and add the toasted walnuts. mix well and let cool.

how to form your hamantaschen:

roll out the dough to 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick on a well floured surface. the thickness will depend on the type of dough you are using and how thick you like your finished pastry. you'll have to experiment with one or two to see what works best for you.

take a round cutter or empty tin and cut circles. they can be the size you like however remember the cooking times will change; the smaller the circle, the quicker it will cook.

i find it easiest to roll out the dough and cut all the circles and transfer them to the baking surface and fill and form them directly on that surface. again, do what works best for you.

the basic procedure is as follows:

place a teaspoon or more of filling in the center of the pastry circle. it will depend on the size of circle you cut. do not OVERFILL.

bring two edges up to meet and gently pinch them together. if you are using a yeasted type dough, you may need some liquid to help seal them. usually, it is not necessary with other types of doughs, like the cookie or pastry ones.

bring up the last edge to make a tri-cornered shape leaving the center open. you must be able to see the filling.

bake according to the directions of your dough recipe. each dough takes different temperatures and times. usually, the standard is 350 - 375 F for 12 to 15 minutes.

once they are lightly golden brown, remove from the oven and let cool.