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!!).



Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

What a great holiday! Thanks for sharing that hilariously funny story with us... These ears look delicious!



P-S. It's great to see that you are still posting recipes....

Anonymous said...

so glad you're back, bb!!!! simply, two excellent posts, such a hard work you've made to show us how to make both hojuelas and hamantaschen. as always, lots of information and fun. loved your "drama play" :), you were certainly all of a character as a young kid, poor morah malka, she knew nothing!!! :)))))))).
mil gracias for sharing, now i HAVE to make these!