The Great Latke-Hamantash Debate

Excerpts from

The Great Latke-Hamantash Debate

Edited by Ruth Fredman Cernea

Hamantashen Fit for an Ex-Queen

As the Latke-Hamantash Debate demonstrates, even those who fight together for the honor of the hamantash can come to blows over the matter of the best filling. The traditionalists (conservatives?) look askance at anything but poppy seed or prune, and argue over which of these is most destined for this delicate pastry. Others prefer cherry, apricot, or apple, but even these innovations are rejected by the modern apikoros, the child raised in America who sees chocolate chips as the only possible substance that should be stuffed inside the hamantash.

And then there is the other eternal question: cake or cookie dough? On the Web today one can find countless combinations of dough and filling, and the problem is compounded: which is the true hamantash? How elusive reality, how enduring the quest to understand the Divine plan!

Ex-Queen Vashti, who walked away from a life of ease in the palace of Shushan, Persia, long ago, thereby paving the way for Esther’s ascendancy and the salvation of the Jews, reminds us of what is important in life, aside from hamantashen. Vashti refused to be degraded and disgraced by parading around like a Persian Miss America before her husband’s drunken friends, and maintained her dignity and independence in the face of male oppression. In honor of this early feminist, Robin Leidner, University of Pennsylvania, offers her special Liberation Hamantashen.

Liberation Hamantashen

(Makes about 24)

¾ cup sugar
2 cups sifted flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup shortening
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 17-ounce jar prune butter (lekvar). Can also use poppy seeds (mohn), apricot filling, or cherry pie filling.

  1. Sift the sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Work in the shortening by hand. Add the egg and orange juice, mixing until dough is formed. Chill overnight if possible, or at least two hours.
  2. Roll out the dough about 1/8 inch thick on a lightly floured board. Cut into 3-inch circles (a teacup works). Place one heaping teaspoonful of the filling in each. Pinch three edges of the dough together (use a knife or spatula to lift the edges), but leave a small opening in the center; the resulting pastry will be in the shape of a triangle with a little of the filling showing. Place on a greased cookie sheet. Cover with a cloth and set aside for ½ hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Baste hamantashen with beaten egg for a shinier crust, if desired. Bake hamantashen for about 20 minutes, or until delicately browned on top.

Book details:

Ruth Fredman Cernea, editor
Foreword by Ted Cohen
The Great Latke-Hamantash Debate
©2005, 250 pages
Cloth $18.00 ISBN: 978-0-226-10023-4
Paper $12.00 ISBN: 978-0-226-10024-1

For information on purchasing the book—from bookstores or here online—please go to the webpage for The Great Latke-Hamantash Debate.

See also: