Monday, March 14, 2016

Haman's purple hat and my subversive challah

This time of the year really brings out the creative pastry chef in me. I put my thinking cap on - aptly so, because it's time to bake some hamantaschen.  For those less familiar, Hamantaschen is a triangular filled-pastry normally baked to celebrate the Jewish holiday: Purim. The cookie, symbolyzing Haman's presumably triangular hat is eaten as if to slight Haman; Haman being the villain in the Jewish story in the Book of Esther. The real etymology of the word, hamantaschen, is rooted from Mohn-taschen which is germanic for Mohn- (poppyseed) and tasch (pouch). Poppyseed filling is the traditional one, and is perhaps everyone's favorite. That's definitely true for my family.

The story of Queen Esther is about humility and how this strong Jewish woman married the King, saved him and the Jews by outwitting the wicked Haman. You'd think that the King would know that she's Jewish, but this is zinger in the story in the end. (Sorry for the spoiler!) Anyway, there's something about how ignorant one can be with differing cultures,even leaders, that really resonated with me. Thus, while I always make the special hamantaschen with traditional filling (poppy, apricot, prune), I also like to create something unique that would speak to my Asian culture infused in the Jewish tradition. It's a great way to teach my kids about my background, and their uniqueness, and how cultural mixing can have great outcomes, even delicious ones! Last year, I made Azuki bean-filled hamantaschen.  This year, I'm making Ube-ntaschen. Gah, purple little hats! What would Haman say?!

I've already written about my love affair with ube previously. Needless to say, it's one that knows no bounds and is crossing the cultural lines. With its deep purple shade and sweet, earthy taste, what's not to love? So yes, I made Haman's hat purple. Oh, and I didn't stop there, I added shredded coconut just for good measure. After baking, the coconut turned golden brown and complemented the purple ube really well. Whoever wears this kind of hat is definitely stylin'!

I'm happy with how it turned out. Happier even that my kids find this cultural mixing a norm. The purple ube-ntaschen quite the contrast (less sweet) compared to its prune and poppyseed counterparts.

And to keep the theme, I'm making 'diversified' challah this week too. Some folks may argue that it's not really challah if it's mixed with something. To them I say: Live a little! ...And technically, we call our staple one Babkachallah (one word!). ...And, (in an even more defensive tone), I do make traditional challah when hubby requests it. Today's "subversive challah", as my husband calls it, is slightly different. I dug up my previously prepared then frozen sweet red bean paste and added that to the dough while kneading. Another way to get the kids to get some protein, no matter how small it may be. But then again, they tend to eat an entire babkachallah on Shabbat. Their only requirement is that our challah have chocolate. I have to say this one came out good, the red bean taste was not overwhelming but gives a certain sweetness to the batter. 

So, let's see - I've already tried chocolate, coconut, ube, olives, figs, raisins, prunes, currants, cheese, nuts, and different herbs. Oooh. I just thought of something - lavender and lemon! And maybe pistachio! That's gotta be good in spring or summer. If you have additional challah ideas for me to try, let me know. And there's always room in our Shabbat table!