A happy buzz of laughter and conversation filled the kitchen at Temple Beth Shalom on a recent afternoon, as women gathered to bake hamantaschen for the 72nd annual Kosher Dinner.
The enticing scent of vanilla, dates and strawberry jam wafted into the hallway.
Hamantaschen, triangular cookies with jam in the middle, are traditionally made during the Jewish holiday of Purim. “We’ll have a Purim party for the kids and serve the cookies,” said Annette Goldstein, wife of Rabbi Michael Goldstein. “Whatever isn’t eaten we’ll sell at the dinner.”
As with many Jewish foods, there’s a story behind the recipe. Hamantaschen is a Yiddish term that means “Haman’s pockets.” Rabbi Goldstein said, “These pastries come out of Europe from the Middle Ages.” They are baked for Purim because the holiday commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people from Haman’s plan to destroy them.
Annette Goldstein had the dough already mixed and ready to roll out when the women arrived. “I used about 20 pounds of flour and three pounds of margarine,” she said, as she surveyed the bustling kitchen.
For seven decades, the Jewish community has offered a taste of its food and culture to neighbors. “It’s gotten much bigger,” Rabbi Goldstein said of the March 10 event. “We serve an average of 2,000 meals.”
The menu includes beef brisket, potato knishes, spiced apples, carrot tzimmes and apricot kuchen.
But the dinner is about sharing more than just traditional food. Upon arrival, guests will be ushered into the sanctuary while they wait to be seated for the meal. They will be treated to traditional Jewish music and Goldstein will explain the meaning of kosher.
Goldstein is particularly pleased about a new addition. “This year a group of our teens will be performing contemporary and popular music,” he said.
Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, a teenager had volunteered to help with the hamantaschen baking. “This is actually my first time baking, ever,” said Erin Kaya, 16, as she rolled out the dough. She’d already sampled one of the treats. She laughed. “Once you eat one, you can’t stop,” she said.
Other volunteers have more experience. “I’ve done it all,” said Phyllis Moss as she described the various delicacies she’s prepared. She’s been helping with the dinner since 1968. “They’re still using my brisket recipe,” she said. “But now the men are doing the cooking and the slicing.”
Kathy Golden is another longtime volunteer. “I started rolling silverware in napkins for each place setting in the basement of the old synagogue,” she said.
With thousands of meals served and homemade baked goods available for purchase, the event is a massive undertaking for the relatively small congregation.
But the volunteers consider the work their gift to the Spokane area. “We Jews love to eat and we love to feed people,” Golden said. “We look forward to entertaining and opening our house. It’s a way to say thank you to the community.”
Temple Beth Shalom members gathered during baking days before the dinner to make goodies, including hamantaschen, for the deli bar at the Kosher Dinner. Recipe courtesy of Temple Beth Shalom annual Kosher Dinner.
For the dough:
3 sticks margarine
2 cups sugar
4 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the filling:
1 1/2 cups prunes
1/2 pound dates
1 cup raisins
3 cups walnuts
10 ounces strawberry jam
2 1/2 cups crushed pineapple (do not drain)
3 ounces lemon juice
For the glaze:
2 to 3 eggs
2 to 3 tablespoons water
Cream margarine and sugar; add 6 eggs, orange juice and vanilla and beat well. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Chill dough before rolling out.
To make the filling, grind prunes, dates, raisins and nuts. Add rest of ingredients, including pineapple juice. Mix with hands until there are no lumps.
When the dough has chilled, roll it out to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut circles from the dough with an 8-ounce water glass. Place 3/4 teaspoon filling in center of dough. Pinch dough together in center to form three-cornered hat. Brush each pastry with beaten eggs that have been diluted slightly with water. Place on greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes or until golden.
Yield: 12 to 16 dozen hamantaschen
From Phyllis Moss, Spokane Valley
2 cups warm water
3 packages (2 tablespoons) yeast
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
1 tablespoon salt
8 cups flour, divided (see note)
For the egg wash:
1 pinch sugar
A bit of water
In a large bowl, combine warm water, yeast and bit of sugar. When the yeast is foamy, after about 10 minutes, whisk in the rest of the sugar, 1 tablespoon salt and 2 cups flour until well blended.
Add the eggs, whisking well to combine. Gradually add flour until the dough holds together and is ready for kneading.
Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead 500 times, about 10 to 12 minutes. When the bread is smooth and elastic, place it in a greased bowl, cover and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size.
Cut the dough in half and then cut each half into six equal pieces for each loaf. Roll each ball into a strand about 1 1/2 inches wide. Place the 6 strands in a row, parallel to one another. Pinch the tops of the strands together. Move the outside right strand over 2 strands. Then take the second strand from the left and move it to the far right. Take the outside left strand and move it over 2. Move second strand from the right over to the far left. Start over with the outside right strand. Continue this until all strands are braided. If strands are uneven, cut the extra dough and tuck ends underneath.
For a circular loaf, twist into a circle, pinching ends together. Make a second loaf the same way.
Place braided loaves on a greased cookie sheet with at least 2 inches in between. Allow braids to rise again.
For the egg wash, whisk two eggs, a pinch of sugar and a bit of water together in a small bowl. Brush loaves with egg wash and then bake in a 350 degree oven 30 to 35 minutes.
Remove loaves from oven and transfer to a cooling rack. Cover loaves with a kitchen towel to prevent them from cooling too quickly.
Note: It may take a bit more or less flour for the bread depending on the moisture content of the flour and the weather, Moss said.
Yield: 2 loaves challah
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