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Forget the Cookies: Celebrate Purim this Year with a Hamantaschen Pizza
Forget the Cookies: Celebrate Purim this Year with a Hamantaschen Pizza

Forget the Cookies: Celebrate Purim this Year with a Hamantaschen Pizza

Liza Schoenfein (@lifedeathdinner) is a food writer, editor, recipe developer and regular contributor to the Forward. She’s published work in Epicurious, Self and Saveur, among others, and serves up recipes and stories on her blog Life, Death & Dinner.

Growing up in a none-too-observant Jewish household, I didn’t know much about Purim beyond the fact that the holiday is associated with triangular cookies called hamantaschen. These cookies invoke either the hat, pockets or ears of Haman, the chief minister of King Ahasuerus, who, according to the Book of Esther, convinced the king to execute all Jews living in Persia (current day Iran). 

Luckily, the King’s wife, Esther (who was secretly Jewish) and her cousin, Mordechai, persuaded him to cancel the order. The King also allowed Jewish people to destroy their enemies, so the festival of Purim celebrates their victory. (In the Hebrew calendar, Purim doesn’t fall on the same date each year, but it’s usually sometime in March.) 

What I’ve learned in adulthood is that I was missing out. Purim is undeniably the most raucous holiday on the Jewish calendar, complete with masquerade parties and the exchanging of food and wine gifts. (There’s also an imperative to make donations to those in need.) Getting plastered is encouraged; in fact, there’s a saying that Purim revelers should drink until they can’t tell the difference between “blessed is Mordechai” and “cursed is Haman.” 

This is obviously why there should be pizza: Partying people need something solid in their stomachs before embarking on so much imbibing. 

Last year, I came up with a recipe for little pizza-flavoured hamantaschen, reducing the sugar in the traditional cookies and substituting tomato sauce and cheese for traditional fillings such as fruit or poppy seeds. Encouraged by their deliciousness, I decided to try my hand at hamantaschen pizza this year. That is, full-size triangular pies — one sweet and one savoury. (Savoury hamantaschen is a fairly recent and entirely welcome development, acting like angular canapés that pair beautifully with drinks.)   

My first hurdle was figuring out the dough — one that would work in my Ooni. From Leah Koenig’s excellent “The Jewish Cookbook,” I learned that while today’s hamantaschen are usually made with cookie dough, “the Purim confection was traditionally made with an enriched yeast dough that yielded a puffed and tender pastry encircling the sweet filling.” 

Huzzah! But for the addition of eggs, sugar and vanilla, Koenig’s recipe looks a lot like one for pizza dough. Using that as a model, I created two yeast doughs, one with one-third cup of sugar and one with just enough to help activate the yeast. For the sweet pie, I went the traditional route, whipping up a version of lekvar, a fruit filling from Central and Eastern Europe usually made from prunes or dried apricots. I opted for apricots and gave the filling extra dimension with the addition of candied ginger and a sprinkling of toasted almonds. (Pistachios would also be fabulous.) 

For the savoury pie, I wanted something particularly celebratory, full of bold flavours and vibrant colors. I love the Mediterranean combination of sweet, caramelised onions and briny black olives, perhaps best brought to life in the classic Provençal tart called pissaladiére. That dish calls for anchovies (which would be great on this pizza too), but instead, I decided to paddle southeast toward Persia. The onion-olive base is scattered with pomegranate seeds (originating in Persia, they symbolize wealth, fertility, life and death in many religions, including Judaism), feta and a handful of chopped parsley and mint. 

The resulting pie is bright with a balance of sweet-savoury-salty-sour goodness and it’s also eminently adaptable. If I didn’t have pomegranate seeds, I might have tossed a smattering of pickled red onion on top; feta could easily be replaced with goat cheese or something blue; and while mint and parsley played perfectly together, either would work on its own. 

But there was one more hurdle: to make the pizzas resemble hamantaschen, I had to fold the edges of the dough in toward the middle, pinching three corners together with my fingers, which was pretty simple. The challenge then was figuring out how hot to get the Ooni before launching the pies. It had to be hot enough to cook the crust quickly before burning the fillings but not so hot that the outside crust charred before the extra-thick edges cooked through. The trick, it turned out, was to keep the oven hot but the flame low and to move the pie to the right, away from the fire, when it looked like it was starting to char. 

Whether you want to party like it’s the 4th Century BCE or simply break free of the tyranny of the round pizza, these hamantaschen pizzas prove once and for all that Purim is about more than fruit-filled triangular cookies.

Check out Liza’s recipe for apricot-ginger hamantaschen pizza, or go for the savoury version with caramelised onions, olives and pomegranate seeds. (Or cook both – It is a celebration, after all!)

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