Turning away from grief – for us in Israel and for the suffering of Japan – I’ve been putting my mind towards Purim. I confess, after the shock and tears, it’s a strange feeling to know that a joyful holiday is only around the corner. I hope that this coming Purim will truly foretell hasty redemption and rejoicing.
It was therapeutic to turn to my kitchen, take up my measuring cups, and get to work on something delicious. I found an interesting Iraqi recipe on this eclectic site. Rich pastries stuffed with cheese, nuts, or dates. They’re meant to be eaten on Purim, I guess, because each one hides a sweet or savory filling in the dough (symbolizing how Queen Esther hid her Jewish origins from Ahasuerosh until the time came to plead against the genocide Haman had plotted).
I must say – this reminds me of the wry joke that goes around the Internet every so often: How do you define a Jewish holiday?
Like this: 1. They wanted to kill us. 2. We were saved. 3. Let’s eat!
Not true for all holidays of course, but close enough, close enough.
So here is what I baked today, adapted from the original recipe.
Ba’aba Beh Tamur – Iraqi Stuffed Pastries for Purim
About 30 pastries
Notes: the original recipe calls for butter. Pareve margarine works fine too. Likewise, it assumes that you’ll be mixing the dough in a mixer. I just beat everything up by hand.
Here in Israel, you can get concentrated essences of rose and orange water. They’re much stronger than the “waters” and I prefer to use them.
I substituted 1 teaspoon freshly-smashed cardamom seeds for the fennel in the recipe because I dislike fennel. Lacking either of those, use 2 teaspoons cinnamon or the zest of 1 lemon. The dough must have something aromatic or it will be too bland.
My filling was almond/pecan, the nuts ground up quickly in the food processor. I’ll include the recipe for date filling as well. Finally, the buttery dough does seem to call for cheese. I’ll suggest alternative cheeses to the original version’s.
1 cube fresh yeast
1 cup warm water
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground fennel seed
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons melted butter (or marg)
1 beaten egg for glazing
For Almond Filling:
1 cup ground almonds
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon each rose water and orange water or 1/4 teaspoon edible rose and orange essences.
1. Dissolve yeast in water. Add flour, baking powder, fennel or other spice, and melted butter. Mix until you have a soft dough that forms a ball.
2. Cover with plastic bag or damp cloth; allow to rise 1 hour or until doubled.
3. Preheat oven to 425°F – 200°C.
4. Work with a quarter of the dough at the time for convenience. Roll it out 1/4″ thin. Use a large biscuit cutter or glass to cut into 3″ rounds. Brush the rounds with a little water.
5. Mix filling ingredients in a small bowl. Put 1 teaspoon filling in the center of each round and fold it over. Press your fingers down all around the edges to seal, or use the tines of a fork. Brush beaten egg on pastries.
Bake 25 minutes.
Date Filling for about 30 pastries:
8 oz. – 250 grams pitted, finely chopped dates. Here you can get date paste in blocks and that’s better.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon milk
1 egg white
Combine ingredients in top of a double boiler and cook 5 minutes, stirring a few times. Allow the mixture to cool and roll it into balls for stuffing the pastry. When forming the pastry, place a small ball at the center of each pastry round and pinch the sides upwards to make a closed bundle. Flip over and flatten slightly with the rolling pin. Pierce with a fork in several places. Paint the pastries with an egg white and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake as directed above.
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup mild yellow cheese, grated
1 teaspoon dried, crumbled za’atar, oregano or rosemary
1 finely chopped scallion
Combine cheeses, herbs, and egg. Bake pastries as half-circles as in the almond filling.
By the way, I wonder if the correct name for this pastry is ba’aba beh tanur, no “m.” I don’t speak Arabic, so I can’t tell if someone’s typo may not be going around, as typos do.