Growing up Catholic, with an Irish heritage, I remember one short pre-Easter holiday: Saint Patrick’s Day. As children, my siblings and I had likely seen the last of snow days until next winter. The air was warm enough that we didn’t need to wear our puffy winter coats to the bus stop in the morning. On some days, the sun shown so bright and hot during recess, that I started running toward the shady spots on the playground during tag. At home, Mom made green jello and bought Irish potatoes for dessert, even if March 17th fell on a school night.
The jello was served in a large white bowl, one that I only saw on holidays like Thanksgiving, and Easter. The Irish potatoes came in a thin white cardboard box that reminded me of the long boxes of Russell Stover assorted chocolates that we’d eat on Christmas at my grandparents. Each little “potato” sat in a green paper basket, like a muffin tin. The potatoes were dusted with brown sugar and cinnamon that clung to your fingers, and they tasted like coconut and butter. They were delicious.
As I got older, I started to associate Saint Patrick’s Day with Irish soda bread, which Mom started buying for the holiday as well. Irish soda bread tasted like a denser version of Pepperidge Farm raisin bread, which I loved to eat for breakfast on the weekends, slathered with butter and dusted with cinnamon and sugar. The Irish soda bread was thick, like pound cake in texture, with a hard crust that was dusted with flour, like the end of a loaf of bread.
Recently, I married into a Jewish family, and started associating new holidays with Spring. I attended my first Passover seder a few years ago, and was fascinated by both the meal and the prayer, steeped in thousands of years of tradition.
Recently, I learned of Purim, which, like Saint Patrick’s Day was to Easter for me, was a pre-Passover holiday for my husband when he was a child. Each year in March or April, depending on the Hebrew calendar that year, he and his friends would eat Hamantaschen, little triangle pastries filled with fruit jam, chocolate, or poppyseeds, and exclaim, “Happy Purim!”
Purim this year was celebrated on March 9 and 10, and this year, I had a chance to try one of these pastries for the first time.
At a local Jewish market, we bought a tray of apricot, strawberry, raspberry, and chocolate.
I tried them all, and was an instant fan! These little cake-like triangles were just as good as Irish soda bread. I couldn’t believe I was just discovering them. But then again, having grown up in an Irish Catholic family, I wasn’t surprised.
The texture of Hamantaschen is like a thick sugar cookie, or a scone, only it doesn’t crumble when you break it. The taste is sweet, like a cross between a brioche bread and a biscotti. The fruit filling reminded me of that of a turnover. The chocolate filling, however, is almost identical in taste to the filling of the French pastry pain au chocolat. It’s a rich, dark chocolate without any additives.
Now part of a blended family, I’m adding Hamantaschen to my list of Spring favorites, right alongside Irish soda bread, green jello, and Irish potatoes.
While you’re in self-isolation due to COVID-19, here’s a great Hamantaschen recipe to try baking: https://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/how-to/article/how-to-make-hamantaschen