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Faith Kramer
Past President, Hadassah Oakland Ruach Chapter

What’s in a Name: From Hadassah to Esther and Back

Photo courtesy of the author.
Photo courtesy of the author.

Celebrate Purim’s Hidden Meanings and Secret Strengths with Candied Carrot Hamantaschen

Purim is the superhero of holidays around our house and not just because my sons’ childhood rabbi dressed up as Superman for the megillah reading. It is a holiday celebrating inner strength, strategic thinking, perseverance, and hidden identity much like that of a caped crusader, masked do-gooder, or other costumed defender of justice.

The foods of Purim reflect these qualities with pastries “disguised” as Haman’s hat, pocket, ears, or fingers to show that he was vanquished by Mordecai and Esther and the spiritual principle of justice. It is common for dishes to have fillings to symbolize the secrets in the story. There are also vegetarian savory foods to honor Esther, who kept true to the Jewish dietary laws by eating only vegetables while in the palace.

Another level of hidden meaning is Esther’s name. The Queen changed her name from the Hebrew “Hadassah” (myrtle) to “Esther” (said to be of Babylonian or Persian extraction and possibly meaning star, woman, or even myrtle) upon entering the palace, perhaps to hide her Jewishness.

It was the Queen’s Hebrew name that inspired Hadassah founder Henrietta Szold and the women who joined her to name their new organization the Hadassah Chapter of the Daughters of Zion. Its inaugural meeting, in 1912, was held near Purim. From this modest start grew the organization we know today as Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America.

All these associations make Purim a very special time of year to me. I especially enjoy creating new recipes to celebrate the holiday. This Candied Carrot Hamantaschen recipe reflects my Eastern European Jewish heritage, with the traditional Haman’s three-corner-hat shape and the untraditional filling, inspired by the spoon sweets of the Balkans and Russia, of a type of preserve usually served to guests on a spoon as a gesture of hospitality. To me, the hidden sweetness of the orange and cinnamon-flavored carrot filling also adds to the meanings and subterfuge of the holiday and reflects the sweetness of overcoming evil.

Candied Carrot Hamantaschen
Makes 12 Cookies 

Hamantaschen Dough (see below)
1-3/4 cups sliced carrots (cut in 1/4-inch rounds)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. grated orange zest
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. orange oil OR 1/2 tsp. orange extract (you can substitute 1/2 cup orange juice in carrot cooking liquid)
Water as needed
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
Flour as needed
1 large egg yolk, beaten with 1 tbsp. water

Place carrots in saucepan with water just to cover. Stir in sugar, zest, salt and orange oil. Bring to simmer over medium heat, stirring often. Lower heat. Simmer uncovered 45-60 minutes, stirring occasionally, until carrots are very, very soft and most of the liquid is evaporated and what is left is syrupy. Remove from heat. Stir in cinnamon. Coarsely mash carrots.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly flour the work surface and rolling pin. Roll out dough 1/4-inch thick. Cut into 3-to-3 1/2-inch diameter circles with cookie cutter or upside-down glass. Combine scraps into a ball and repeat as necessary. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Lightly brush the outer rim of the top of each circle with egg wash. Place 1/2 tbsp. of filling in center of each. Push up 3 sides to form a triangle, firmly pinching so cookies maintain their shape. Brush egg wash on the outside of cookies, making sure to cover all pinched seams. Bake 22-25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on rack.

Hamantaschen Dough – Use your favorite recipe or try this one: Stir together 1 cup flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, 2 tbsp. sugar, and 1/8 tsp. salt. Cut 4 tbsp. room temperature unsalted butter or parve stick margarine (if margarine is salted, leave out salt) into small pieces. Use two forks to cut butter into flour until the bits of combined butter and flour are each about the size of a lentil. Mix in 1 large egg (beaten). Stir in 2 tbsp. of regular or non-dairy milk until a rough dough forms. Hand-knead until ball forms.

Note: Recipe doubles well.

About the Author
Faith Kramer, a former president and current board member of the Hadassah Oakland Ruach Chapter, is a member of the Hadassah Writers' Circle. The California-based food writer is the author of “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen.” (The Collective Book Studio). She writes a twice-a-month recipe column for the J, Northern California’s Jewish News Source. See more about her cookbook, other writing, and recipes at faithkramer.com. She can be reached at faith@faithkramer.com
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