You’re probably still getting over the indulgence of Fat Tuesday, but there’s another religious holiday on the way that is begging you to consume some more baked goods. Next Wednesday, March 4, marks the start of Purim, and the Jewish holiday is known for prizing some sweet treats to commemorate (that are definitely worth trying regardless of religious affiliation). They’re called hamantaschen, and here’s what you need to know and where to find them for the holiday.
Hamantaschen are triangular cookies generally filled with poppy (the most traditional) or some other kind of seed or dried fruit. Meaning “Haman’s pockets” in Yiddish, they get their name and three-cornered shape from Haman, the malefactor in the Purim story.
The Book of Esther tells the tale: Haman, the grand vizier to King Ahasuerus of Persia, was a diehard anti-Semite. When Mordecai, a Jewish member of Ahasuerus’ court and relative of Queen Esther (there’s some confusion as to whether they were husband and wife or Mordecai her adoptive cousin or uncle), refuses to bow to the grand vizier, Haman plots to kill Mordecai and the rest of the Jewish people in the kingdom.
But Mordecai and Esther find out about Haman’s plans and in the end manage to sabotage their foe (again, the exact details differ from source to source). Haman, in an ironic twist of fate, is eventually hanged on the gallows he built for Mordecai.
To commemorate, hamantaschen are consumed as part of the holiday celebration, which also includes charity, feasting, and reading of the Megillah. The shape of the cookies is said to represent Haman’s triangular hat, although another interpretation is that the three corners symbolize Queen Esther’s strength and the religion’s forebears: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Here are five places to find hamantaschen in NYC.
Breads Bakery (18 East 16th Street; 212-633-2253) offers the classic poppy seed along with some unique flavors of its own, including marzipan, apple, chocolate (similar to a brownie), vanilla and chocolate chip, and a new date-and-walnut option. The shop makes them in batches throughout the day, so they’re always fresh and available, but if you’re looking for a large order, it’s best to call ahead. If you’d like to be nice to some out-of-town friends or relatives, nationwide shipping is provided through foodydirect.com. The treats are offered now through the holiday.
Russ and Daughters (179 East Houston Street; 212-475-4880) serves the more customary flavors of the treat with options like prune, apricot, poppy seed, and sometimes raspberry. They’re not just sold for the holiday; here, you can get your fix throughout the year.
William Greenberg Desserts (1100 Madison Avenue; 212-861-1340) is another bakery that offers hamantaschen year-round. It always has prune, poppy, cherry, and apricot in stock; however, if you call ahead, you can get custom flavors like cheese (which is sometimes available in store), chocolate, raspberry, and more.
Weiss Homemade Kosher Bakery (5011 13th Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-438-0407) serves the pastry just through Purim. So if you want to try its rendition, you’ll need to act fast. Flavors include raspberry, apricot, prune, poppy, chocolate, rosemary, and nut.
Isaac’s Bake Shop (1419 Avenue J, Brooklyn; 718-377-9291) sells an old-school selection of the treat just for the holiday. Flavors include classics like raspberry, prune, apricot, and poppy seed, but we suggest calling ahead to see what’s on hand, as not all of the aforementioned are always available.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.