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Hamantaschen Baking with Hillel

A Report by Alli Wessells ('14)

Kosher Kitchen
February 20th, 2013

Reporter Alli Wessells ('14) looks on as Kayla Blum ('15) prepares the Hamentaschen

Hamentaschen. It’s a mouthful to say for a small pastry, but say it to a person familiar with the holiday of Purim and their eyes will light up in anticipation of a doughy tricorne treat.

The cookie gets its name from the holiday’s villan: Haman (a name guaranteed to set noisemakers off) who is mythologized as wearing a three-sided hat. No proper Purim party is complete without hamentaschen to snack on between costume parades and dancing.

At Hillel, anticipation of this happy holiday was in the air, smelling like freshly baked cookies (with a bit of orange zest thrown in). Students happily selected different fillings to place into the center of circles of dough, overseen by Hillel Religious Life Co-Chair, Emily Branton, ’14. No real fixed ratio exists for the amount of filling added. Small children conspire to have as many chocolate chips as possible in one hamentaschen, but Smith students were more sensible, preferring to ensure enough space to pinch dough into the signature three points.

Branton was delighted for the opportunity to experiment with different fillings. While traditional concoctions such as chocolate chip, raspberry and poppyseed were present, she gleefully showed off two personal creations: chocolate-chip-cherry and orange-fig. This reporter looks forward to eating a chocolate-cherry hamentaschen. Or three.

Participants enjoyed the opportunity to help bake under Branton’s directions, laughing as they swapped stories about their day. With an impish grin to my uninspired ‘reporter’s question’ about her thoughts on the event, Hannah Francis, ’16, said, “I’m digging it,” before going on to explain how enjoyable it is “to make dough, hang out, and even talk about philosophy” with other students. Francis is admittedly no slouch in the dessert department after spending her high school years working in a pastry shop. Indeed, she was very much in her element as her quick fingers neatly sealed in dough with the air of a pro as she exchanged quips with Rachel Dean, ‘13.

Rachel Dean (‘13) rolls out thin, even sheets as Hillel Religious Life Co-Chair, Emily Branton ('14) advises

Dean, a member of the Smith Christian Fellowship, was enthusiastically rolling dough out into thin, even sheets. She spoke of baking as a “good social activity where I can chat with people. It’s definitely not awkward at all” (with the possible exception of my journalistic questions) for anyone to stop by and help.

Hillel board members were also on hand, like Kayla Blum, ’15 and Becca Shipper, ’16. Both girls confidentially reported their excitement to eat poppyseed hamentaschen, a favorite that I’ve never understood (though, granted, I will eat them in lieu of lemon). Shipper, who lives her life gluten free, will be enjoying her own special hamentaschen (made with rice flour, potato starch and tapioca starch) at the party on Saturday night. Regardless, she was helping out, explaining that “it’s really fun to participate in a cultural Jewish tradition” even in a white flour-heavy kitchen.

Lily Ritter, ’15, co-chair of Hillel, succinctly sums up this activity with the declaration “the hamentaschen are delicious!” Indeed, and this writer enjoyed the party with several plates of hamentaschen and more than one cup of Purim punch.