The Great Purim Baking Caper

Today, I originally planned to write about immigration, which I would categorize as a political topic. But then, I started baking the Purim cookie known as hamantashen and things went so wrong that I thought I should share that experience with you.  I would categorize that topic as a family/personal Musing. While I much appreciate the regular feedback I get on my Musings, very, very, very few readers actually write comments on our website. I have no way of knowing if more people grimace in disappointment when the topic is political or social or whether a greater number shake their heads when I get personal, muttering, “I don’t really need to hear that.” So, until thousands more of you comment letting me know where your interests lie, I will continue to write about whatever is plucking at my mind and heartstrings.

I just spent four hours making cookies that are not as beautifully shaped (pictures below) and possibly not even as tasty as ones I could buy for $2.99 a dozen. If you don’t understand this, you are probably not female and cannot be (on this issue at least) what Anne of Green Gables would call a kindred spirit.

We celebrate Purim, the Feast of Esther, this coming Sunday. It is a one day celebration that actually lasts for over two weeks. From the beginning of the Hebrew month of Adar, until the holiday falls two weeks later, Jewish schools and homes are full of fun. Carnivals, singing and games abound, and young and old spend an inordinate amount of time planning costumes to be worn on Purim. At its most basic, this recalls the idea that Queen Esther did not disclose who she really was when taken to the king’s palace. Little girls usually love dressing as princesses and brides somewhat in keeping with the original tale. However, if you live near a Jewish community and on Sunday see Darth Vader or a robot or a Smurf walking around, you’ll realize that current costumes do not necessarily relate to Persia of thousands of years ago.

Aside from the optional wearing of costumes, a number of other things make the day special. We listen to a recitation of the Book of Esther, once in the evening (this year Saturday night) and once during the day (this year Sunday). We give gifts of charity to the poor and enjoy a festive meal, usually in the company of family and friends. My cookie baking episode stems from another unique Purim celebration. We give gifts of food to each other, called Shalach Manot. All these observances serve the purpose of binding people closer, recognizing that God granted the miracle of Haman’s destruction only after the Jews followed Esther’s request to gather together, to unify.

While, technically, the requirement is to give two items of food to one other person, almost no one limits themselves to that. Not only do most of us increase the quantity of both food items and recipients, it is not at all uncommon to use this gift as an opportunity for creativity. Some of us like creating themes, such as one of my daughters who this year is presenting grated items such as cole slaw and carrot kugel based on the theme, “Make Purim Grate Again.” Unfortunately, this year I drew a blank on thinking of a theme. I’ve been under the weather for over a week and have somewhat of a Winnie the Pooh brain – fuzzy. Cleverness has not been a feature of my life. (Though if you noticed the second literary reference, that is because I am in charge of games for our festive meal and the theme is ‘pen names,’ so that’s where my mind is at when it is working.)

Feeling a little more energetic this morning, I decided that at least I could bake hamantaschen to give away. The name itself refers to the villain of the story, Haman, and this poppy-seed filled triangular shaped cookie has been associated with the holiday since at least the 1500s. I have made hundreds of these over the years, though not being a poppy seed fan, I fill mine with chocolate.

Pulling out my tried and true recipe, I noticed that I was running low on flour, though it looked like I would have enough for one batch. I dutifully mixed the flour, salt and baking powder, following the instruction to combine dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, I prepared shortening. That is when I made mistake number one (I did tell you my mind has been fuzzy). Instead of creaming the shortening with sugar, I looked at the sugar, said, “That’s a dry ingredient,” and added it to the first bowl. So, I now have a plastic bag filled with four cups of flour, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1-1/2 teaspoons of baking powder waiting for me to find a recipe that calls for that mixture – suggestions are welcome.

I thought of calling my husband and asking him to pick up more flour on his way home, but rejected that thought rather quickly. I knew what would happen. He would go to the store and be totally befuddled by the variety of flours available. While his brilliant mind leaps nimbly from physics to economics, six competing brands of high-gluten vs. whole wheat vs. white flour would be too much to handle. Not only that, but his basic principle in grocery shopping is that the more expensive the better the quality. My instincts are to buy only things that are on sale. We are financially solvent because I do 98% of our food shopping. While our budget could probably stand an expensive bag of flour, I would get less pleasure from the final product knowing how much it cost.

No problem. As long as I didn’t spill any flour, I had enough to eke out another four cups, with about half a cup to spare. I started over. At which point, problem number two made an appearance. The dough was way too sticky to be rolled out and cut into the proper shape. That half cup of extra flour was definitely needed and even with it, the dough kept on sticking to my rolling pin. I persevered, cutting out circles and attempting to transfer them to a baking sheet to be filled and pressed into a triangular shape. Some cut-outs withstood the transfer, while others fell apart. Eventually, I stopped cutting out rounds and just put a circle of dough on the parchment paper, patting it down to make a circle once it was in place. Why I didn’t do that from the start is not apparent to me – I had some vague idea about wanting to do it the way I always had despite it being frustratingly difficult.

On to the filling. A few weeks ago, I tried a new cookie recipe that had a lovely chocolate filling. You won’t be shocked to read that this led to complication number three. Following what I thought were the exact same directions as previously, I ended up with a measuring cup of melted chocolate. While it looked like a great ice cream topping, it fell short as a cookie filling. I added more chocolate to the mixture and eventually deciding that it would harden after baking, I completed my hamantaschen baking.

I am now the proud owner of five dozen hamantaschen ready for distribution. It took four hours, not including the clean up that awaits. Of course, since most of the people I know are also baking hamantaschen, there is going to be a surplus in the neighborhood and no one will really appreciate mine anyway. While the memory of my baking escapade may be fresh enough next year to have me skip making them from scratch, I know that, with God’s gracious gift of health and energy, I will at some point make them again, refuting my husband’s diatribe against tradition. While I completely agree with him regarding religion and politics, tradition reigns in my kitchen.


135 thoughts on “The Great Purim Baking Caper”

  1. My husband and I were also in Jerusalem this year for Purim. There were 23 of us on the trip, led by our Pastor. It was our first trip to Israel and we loved it! We enjoyed chocolate and date hamentaschen, both quite delicious! And we enjoyed seeing all the costumes!

    1. Date hamentaschen! That sounds delicious. I’m glad you enjoyed your trip – Israel is an amazing land.

  2. I’m late to this party because we are unpacking from a trip to Israel that included 3 days in Jerusalem during Purim. To paraphrase our son, “They certainly know how to throw a party!”
    We were part of a small (9 of us) tour, saw many sites and sights; glad we went, glad to be home, would gladly go back!
    Susan, please write on whatever moves you. Personally, I tend to prefer the home-and-family posts. Thanks to both of you for your separate and combined commentary!

    1. Lyna, Purim is an amazing time to be in Jerusalem. The entire city is having a party that takes place one day later than most of the country. How wonderful you could be there and thanks for your words of encouragement.

  3. Hi Susan,
    Thank you for my chuckles for the day. It sounds like something I’d do and yes, I too would not ask my spouse to pick up flour. He too would be confused by all of the choices and grab one which would end up being the totally wrong type of flour! 🙂

    1. To be fair, we have the blessing of abundant choices and it can be confusing. More than once I’ve come home from the market thinking I got one thing and it was actually a variation on the theme.

  4. Dear Susan: I applaud your efforts. Your hamantaschen are most certainly delicious and with a few more runs, will be perfect in execution (pun intended). Thank you for all of your musings, but this one in particular spoke to me.

  5. It is rarely the recipes that go ‘as planned’ that we remember. It is always the mishaps, the well-intentioned disasters, and the fearless experimentation that make for the best and most memorable kitchen stories!

    My family will never, ever let me live down my efforts at making a ‘healthy cheesecake’, substituting cottage cheese and figs for more traditional ingredients. It was an experiment that did not work as well as I’d hoped, but to my family’s credit, everyone at least tried a few bites before we all agreed ‘It’s the thought that counts’. It was nearly a quarter-century ago, but it is far more memorable and entertaining now than any of the successes I’ve had before or since. God bless you and yours.

    1. You reminded me of my fiddlehead experiment. While we were boating in the Pacific northwest, I thought we should try a local food. I don’t think anyone but me had more than one bite – but at least most of the family took a bite.

  6. I am a new follower and I love your rich traditions and thoughts. I also love the admission of sometimes flops happen in the kitchen. I am so eager to learn more of the reasons behind traditions. My childhood home did not celebrate many traditions and it seems the traditions make the occasion more festive and are also a teaching tool.

  7. Have you ever seen the Family Circle comic where the child has a beautiful picture in his head but the finished product falls far short? That is me when baking. My family is very kind about it though and tells me it is the taste that counts – which they seem quite pleased with

    1. I think I know the comic you mean. I’d rather it taste good and not be as gorgeous than the other way around.

  8. Dear Susan,Your Musings the Rabbi’s Thought Tools are such a help and inspiration to me I don’t respond because I feel inarticulate. Please keep up your work, you are such a source of strength to me. God bless you in a all you do. Pamela

    1. You don’t sound inarticulate at all, Pamela. I appreciate your words. God bless you.

  9. Carl from South Carolina

    HAHa-First Susan, print whatever you want, I WILL read it, and enjoy because I am ALWAYS learning….
    and to the description of Rabbi that is what my WIFEY says of me….
    Hv a GR8 holiday

    1. Well, we certainly don’t want to let you and my husband loose in a supermarket together, Carl. Thanks for the good wishes.

  10. Thank you, Mrs. Lapin, for your insightful, full-of-love, maternal-ideals-embodied writings. I skimmed through several of the comments the readers made, and I didn’t notice anyone mentioning your daughter’s terrific idea to “Make Purim GRATE Again”. Wonderful thought! When our church gave out our annual Christmas baskets this year to all our neighborhood friends, business associates, needy people, etc., I stuck an American Flag into each one and was going to have a ribbon printed that said “Peace on earth, Good will to men, Make America Great Again”. (Didn’t have time for the ribbon – I think you, like myself, have more ideas that go down the drain without being realized simply because of the time factor!) Anyway, just wanted to mention that as well! Blessed Purim to Rabbi Lapin and you, and may God our Father draw you both eternally closer to Him and to all whom He has placed in your life!

    1. What a lovely blessing, Celesta. Thank you. One of the absolutely fun things on Purim is seeing so many creative ideas in costumes, in themed food gifts and more. It is a holiday that really allows and encourages everyone to join the fun using their individual sense of humor and having fun in a wholesome and appropriate way.

  11. Mrs. Lapin,
    This post was great! Having just finished recording a video recipe where the bread didn’t turn out properly, it was… shall I say refreshing, to read about your cookie baking episode!
    For the bag of dry ingredients on your counter… here’s a recipe you may like to try, it’s one of our family’s favorites.

    In a large bowl combine:
    1 cup Oil
    2 cups Milk
    4 eggs (slightly beaten)
    Lemon zest or extract

    Mix above ingredients with a wire whisk, then stir in:
    6 cups Flour (we like to use part whole wheat)
    3 Tbsp baking powder
    1 tsp Salt
    2 cups chopped pecans
    3 cups chopped frozen cranberries

    Prepare muffin pans and distribute batter as evenly as possible.
    Heat oven to 400F and bake muffins for 18-20 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
    Makes about 24 muffins

    This makes enough to feed our family of 11…or in your case, enough to share with several people during Purim 🙂

    1. Thanks, Gracine. We love muffins, so I will have to try your recipe! I’m sorry your bread didn’t turn out. Sometimes we figure out what went wrong and lots of times, we don’t.

      1. That’s the truth! However, I’m happy to report the next batch of bread turned out beautiful!
        You’ll have to let us know how you like the muffins when you try the recipe..

    2. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Gracine-
      with you baking what look like such scrumptious muffins my only question is how do y’all keep such trim figures?

  12. Thank you, Susan, for your confessions! I can cook all year long until I have to take a dish somewhere. I made hamentashen last year for the first time and I loved them. I didn’t get around to it this year and I am regretting it already. Thank you for being so open and transparent. I will vicariously enjoy your chocolate hamentashen!

  13. Hi Susan,

    RE: the bag of flour and sugar. Can you sift the sugar out of the flour? If you get a sieve that’s fine enough it might even work.

    Love making hamentaschen. Don’t particularly like the ones from the baker.

    BTW, and since you asked, I very much like both the musings and the political commentary. I go to a Conservative synagogue and it’s swimming in liberals – no surprise – that do not share my political viewpoints. I love being able to read political commentary based on conservative values. It helps to make me feel not so alone, and know that I’m not the “lost cause” they think I am.

  14. Your bag of dry ingredients waiting for a recipe…..maybe add enough softened butter to hold it all together, some nuts, and you have shortbread! Never made it with baking powder, but who knows? It may be just fine. Would probably make a good topping for a fruit crisp also, but I’d go for the shortbread. Let us all know what you do please=) Really enjoyed this personal article.
    Appreciate your frugality at the grocery store, but our food is so adulterated now, that you just about have to pay more to get something that is made without being genetically modified, or full of chemicals and unhealthy ingredients. After becoming aware of the horrendous conditions that animals in factory farms have to endure, I now can only purchase meat/eggs/dairy that are pastured and certified humanely treated, if I eat animal products at all. It just sickens me how they are treated. Just to say, your husband may have good reasons for spending more on grocery items. I would rather pay more for organic food and less at the doctor’s office or for medications. It’s a different world from what we grew up in.

    1. You’re making a good point, and I do spend more when I have a reason to think it’s worth it. But sometimes, it’s just packaging or branding and there’s no reason to go for the more expensive or the most expensive.

  15. Keep sharing everything in your columns. I find that many of us place Spiritual leaders on pedestals. We expect them to do no wrong, have no failures, and are perfect in every way. But by doing this we place them into a position where they can’t possibly understand our faults and failures. They become super human and untouchable. And we can’t possibly be like them. So we can become discouraged and think, “Why try.” But we need leaders who are human, with everything that entails. Who make mistakes, have failures and yet keep going, pick themselves up and start all over again and with God’s help they handle everything that is thrown at them. I love your columns. On another note, I find, I can make a recipe hundreds of times, successfully, but if I have been under the weather, have a lot on my mind or have my three youngest Grandchildren, at my side, all asking for three different things, at the same time, my successful recipe can turn into a big flop. Or if I try to rush things, my recipes will be a failure every time. So don’t be too hard on yourself and I think your dry ingredients would make a good sweet biscuit. Add a cup of some dried fruit, another teaspoon and a half of baking powder and a teaspoon of cinnamon, cut in a cup of shortening and add enough milk to make a soft dough. Kneed it in some flour, roll it out, cut into circles, place them in a greased 9 x 13 pan and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven until nice and brown. Then make your favorite vanilla icing and drizzle over the top of your biscuits. Yummy!

    1. You’re making an interesting point, Rebecca. My husband and I find many pastors we know who speak openly about major mistakes in their lives before they became Christian. I know that I don’t write often about difficulties with children because it would be betraying their privacy, but then I feel it’s unfair only to write about the good stuff. So, it’s a hard balance. But feel free to know that I make lots of mistakes! Thanks for the recipe. I made cake this morning and messed up again! I wrote about it in the “On Our Mind” column:

  16. Happy Purim to you , Susan! A little history…I am a Jew by maternal birthright and as of the past two years, have returned to my heritage as it was unobserved for a two generation span. That being said, please allow me to give you a little encouragement. “…no one will really appreciate mine anyway.” I personally won’t have the pleasure of tasting your yummy chocolate hamantaschen, but I very much appreciate that you took the time and effort to make them. I will bake mine today for the first time ever. I will think of you and be encouraged by your efforts and example. I know that my joy will not come from picture perfect cookies, but I will know the joy of heart in making them and in turn giving them will lift someone.
    You see, your cookies have done just that for me. Thank you for sharing your cookies for they are far more than chocolate cookies on a tray amongst many trays of beautiful hamataschen. Right?
    Kindest of thanks,

    1. Wow, Elaine. Sounds like you have an interesting family story to tell. I hope we’ll have a chance to meet and hear your tale. I’m so glad you’re baking too. Enjoy Purim.

  17. April Schuiling

    I found this post both entertaining and enlightening! 🙂 You had me hooked at the Anne of Green Gables reference and nodding my head in agreement with the struggles of trying to bake (or do anything for that matter) while trying to clear the mental cobwebs after an illness. As a Christian, I also learned something new about Purim – thank you! I think it was a good choice to post this, we can all use a little levity every now and again. Keep up the good work!

    1. April, when you mentioned Anne of Green Gables just now, I remembered at least two of her major cooking mess ups. One where she mixed up ingredients and one where she knew that a mouse had gotten into some container of something because she didn’t close the lid tight. It’s been a while since I’ve re-read the books. I guess it’s time to do that again.

  18. Susan, your expressing “what is plucking at my mind and heartstrings” is what seems to appeal to so many of us. I love the variety of subjects that you focus on in your delightful style and with the delicious counterpoint of your remarkable husband. Since my favorite thing to make for dinner is reservations, you won’t find me attempting hamantaschen, but I do have a few survival skills and can readily identify with your misadventures. In a community swarming with hamantaschen, yours are distinctive! And may your “weather” clouds swiftly part. Interesting how many of “the boys” jumped into this discussion.

    1. Since we moved to a Jewish community with a variety of kosher restaurants (and since we are empty nesters) we make more reservations than we used to, Deb. But I do love a home-cooked meal and having guests when possible.

  19. I look forward to your weekly Musings regardless of the topic. Your insights are a blessing each and every week.

      1. When I think of the book of Esther I think of a young woman thrust into greatness that she had no idea was coming. So many times we think of women like Esther of understanding
        G-d’s plan when in reality there is something that G-d puts down inside of them that when the moment comes to respond they know what to do. Some might call it instinct, but I know it to be the spirit of G-d leading. Thank for your musing.

        1. April, do you think that is different for men and for women? I think individuals of both genders owe it to ourselves to work on making ourselves equipped to answer any call that may come, but we are all usually thrust into situations that we had no idea were coming. And yes, we pray for God to lead us to do the right thing in whatever situation we find ourselves.

  20. I enjoy all you write and try to comment but they don’t seem to post maybe because I respond the next day. Continue to share what stirs you after all that is implied in the name musings. Happy Purim

    1. Elayne, I will look out for your comments, but we post them whenever they come. There must be some glitch between your electrons and ours. I’m glad this one came through.

  21. I too love all your musings and thought tools! I first saw you on Ancient Jewish Wisdom on TCT! I have a question tho. What is required to qualify something as kosher?

    1. Donna, I think we actually did a TCT show on this. If not – it’s a great topic. I’m afraid it’s too long an answer for here especially as we are ten for Shabbat dinner tonight and I need to get cracking.

  22. ‘I know that, with God’s gracious gift of health and energy ‘ – well after baking something of doubtful nutritional value maybe a gift of health will be needed – how about trying a tasty healthy recipe

    1. Oh, Allan. I think a treat that is going to be shared so that each individual only eats a minuscule amount is a great place for less healthy ingredients.

    2. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Oh please don’t encourage Mrs. Lapin, Allan,
      next thing we’ll start seeing whole wheat bread and raw veggies gracing the Lapin table. No, sir, let’s have none of that. But thanks for writing anyway-

        1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

          Thanks Allan
          but no thanks; I prefer traditional families, traditional weapons, and traditional food.

  23. Please, add the commas after your names, please? If not, then, being humans we can just keep on truckin’ !

    1. Where are we missing a comma? I hope it is a technical computer choice place rather than a grammar error.

  24. Thank you, Susan and you too, Daniel for your willingness and ability to share your experiences and
    ponderings with me and so many others who, for a moment (and more), are awakened to think things through from what you express to what has happened in our own lives causing us to realise that for all our differences, we are one family! Enjoy!

  25. We met Rabbi Lapin at “Man in the Moon” and have followed the website ever since. We love the podcasts and your musings, Susan…on whatever subject you choose. We find ancient Jewish wisdom rather fascinating, which was rather neglected in our Christian upbringing. I shop like you do, Susan, but my husband does 95% of the shopping because he likes it and I get extremely frustrated in crowded aisles and feeling rushed. As for baking, I guarantee I have had more disasters than your cookie episode! I love to cook, as my kids have always called it “real food”, meaning meals. Keep the posts coming!

    1. We met so many wonderful people at ‘Man in the Moon.’ Vicki, I know the stereotype is women spending money while men wince, but put my husband and me in a supermarket with the same shopping list and he will spend at least 20% more than I will. Baking is fun, but ‘real food’ is where it’s at.

  26. Shannon, she who loves maths

    Loved this Musing!
    I brought me back to when I was a little girl learning to bake. I wanted no help or instruction….thats what cookbooks were for.
    I learned 2 valuable lessons that day: the smoke alarm is not a timer, and firefighters will eat anything.

  27. Susan, you can write whatever you want. It’s your column and I am interested in what you have to say as much as the Rabbi himself.

    Now, as to the hamantaschen, my favorite hamantaschen has strawberry jams or maybe chocolate inside. Even though I can cook for myself (and very well, I might add), baking for me is like giving Wile E. Coyote power tools. It’s not that I’m a disaster in the kitchen with the flour, etc. (I used to make doughnuts at a doughnut store and it was hard to get it right), it’s just I never learned properly.

    So, Susan, bake away! Hag samayach for Sunday and, if there’s any leftover, send them to Kansas City! I’ll help finish them off, especially the chocolate ones! 🙂

    1. Jam is quite a common filling. I still prefer chocolate! I actually love baking and cooking when I’m not trying to fit them in among a dozen other activities. And I’m not fancy, but things do usually come out very tasty.

  28. Dianne Pickford

    Mmmm! How about adding the recipe to store page?! ?? You would indeed be prospering by “serving God’s other children.” Lol.

    1. Well, we actually did consider a cookbook at one point. One of our daughters was working on it but then she had a baby and we got distracted by other projects…the story of the difference between things that we dream about and things that we do.

  29. David Altschuler

    Re your 2nd paragraph: While I’m not a female (yet) I absolutely do understand and would hope to consider myself a kindred spirit. It is my experience from countless hours in the kitchen (eating) that while cooking is an art, baking is a science – any deviation in timing, ingredients, temperature, etc. results in catastrophe.
    While I’m thousands of miles away from you, “geographically also,” should you have any problems in the kitchen, I’d be honored to have you call me for advice.

    1. David, you and I have been kindred spirits for years. You got in on the grandfather clause by marrying one of my best friends and by being one of my husband’s closest friends. Cooking advice? I’ll ask your wife. Or actually, your son. I hear he’s awesome. I’m still waiting for an invitation to his house that we can coordinate with our schedule.

  30. Susan,
    Reading your musings on Purim brought back childhood memories of Purim. I could almost smell & taste the freshly baked Hamantaschen. I remember hearing the story of Esther, Mordechai and Haman from the Rabbi while we twirled our noise makers and booed every time Haman’s name was mentioned.
    Purim always reminded us of G_d’s eternal love for his people .
    Thank you for the story & for reminding me of some lovely memories of bygone years.

    1. Jeff, what I didn’t mention in the Musing is the Purim is seen as the prime example of God’s eternal love being there even when it isn’t overtly visible. Unlike Passover with plagues and the splitting sea, God’s name doesn’t even appear – on the surface- in the Book of Esther. You have to know where to look to see His name and you have to choose to see His actions and support. Or you can choose to fall back on the claim of coincidence and luck. It’s our choice.

  31. Not political? Not interested! Read it anyway and thank you so much. I didn’t realize how badly I needed that. And all the helpful comments were so wonderful at demonstrating how the sense of community can bring such joy.

    1. Jim, I cringe at the comment sections on many sites (not only news and political ones), and love how we feel that there is an increased sense of community since our updated website allows for comments.

  32. The ones selling for $2.99 do not have the love that you included in yours. This makes yours unbelievably special. I had always rather have homemade treats. I feel sure your family does, too.
    Today was a heavy news day for family friends. Having a light hearted topic was a welcome relief. Thank you for sharing Purim traditions. It feels like a blessing.

    1. I’m sure that sharing difficult news with good friends like you, Judy, lightened the cloud a bit. I too love homemade treats.

  33. Charlie Newling

    Ms. Lapin: Just so you know, I have yet to find one of your “musings”, political or otherwise, other than informative, educational, and enjoyable. I suspect I’m one of the “silent majority” who read your writing with interest but find no need to comment. I met you and Rabbi Lapin at several events years ago when I lived in Tacoma. Now from rural Wisconsin, I still follow with enthusiasm what you both have to say. As for the poppy seeds, save them for me.

    1. If you like poppy seeds, Charles, hang around a Jewish neighborhood this time of year. The supermarkets will be full of it. I’m not sure you’ll find it in rural Wisconsin, though. We loved meeting people in the northwest as we do all over the country. Thanks for letting me know you’re reading.

  34. Christy Williams

    Susan, I love to read both you and your husband’s writting. And I especially love when you write about something you are doing in your home. It is refreshing. I was homeschooled so I did learn some baking with my mom. It has been a great help because when I got married a year and a half ago, I discovered my husband can cook anything he wants but can’t bake at all. Thankfully I have a bit of a edge there so I can still surprise and hear his praise of my baked good. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts Susan and please don’t stop.
    With gratitude,

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Congratulations new bride Christy-
      I know you wrote to Susan but I’m sure she’ll welcome my help here as surely as she does in the kitchen or while shopping….which, come to think of it, is not at all! Your new husband will soon discover, if he hasn’t already, that food prepared and served by a loving wife delivers far deeper satisfaction than gourmet fare produced by a five star restaurant with a bad-tempered foreign chef. So it won’t be only your baking that he will cherish. Enjoy being together; eating together is really such an important part of marriage and family.

  35. Please write whatever piques your interest. The variety is welcome. Your description of your husband is me, and of yourself is my wife. I wonder if it’s Mars-Venus universal?

    1. Not universal, Timothy, but common. You can see from the comments here that many of community are males who love cooking. Our son is actually an excellent cook. Unlike his father whose ‘bachelor’ fridge held film and batteries, he cooks and bakes extremely well. My husband does make a great chocolate cake, but he’s only made it twice since we got married.

      1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

        Here we go again–
        Open season on husbands. Or is it open season on rabbis? For sure, it’s a tough day to be a rabbinical husband. Really! Is this the time and place to talk of what my fridge contained 20 years ago? Remember Kodachrome film? Where else was I supposed to keep it? And is this the time and place to invite me to make another chocolate cake? You could just ask; you didn’t need to include that sting “he’s only made it twice…” I caught that. And when our son does get married, I hope his wife will be the sort of woman who makes his own culinary skills look weak by comparison just like you.
        Your husband

        1. Susan Gilliland

          Rabbi, my husband is proud to say his only trip to the kitchen in our 34 years is to make sure I have turned off the cooktop or oven. He fears I have no concept of the use of residual heat. I do indeed!

  36. I wholeheartedly agree with Mark that you should write what is on your mind and heart at the time. And though I don’t comment often I soak up every word of both you and your husband. I thoroughly love the mix of topics and when it comes from people who know and follow the scriptures and and ancient Jewish wisdom it is always applicable. As Isaiah 55:11 promises, the words you and the Rabbi share with us do not return void but wherever they go there is prosperity. Thank you so much for sharing. Now to see if I can make hamantaschen gluten-free with a sugar substitute.

    1. Thanks, Craig. I’m sure there are many gluten-free recipe out there and I know that there are lots of sugar substitutes. Good luck.

  37. Am thinking that chocolate WAS, in fact, a bean in the raw … a seed, actually. And one of God’s very finest creations! Esther, being as creative as she must have been, would, undoubtedly, have used chocolate in some of her recipes. 🙂

  38. Your wit and humor brought a refreshing levity to my day. I love hearing about how the Jewish holidays are celebrated and what is expected to be achieved through them; bringing people closer together. Thank you for sharing your baking foibles. I will have to search for a recipe for hamantaschen and try it!

    1. Let me know how they come out, April. Nowadays you can find all sorts of fancy ones in addition to the basic recipes that have been used for generations. I will say that chocolate filling is common now, but when I started making them that was an innovation.

    1. Thank you, Ben. It’s lovely to hear from you. BTW, our son has just accepted a position in Henderson so he will be heading out your way in a few months. Our loss is your gain. We will have to connect you.

    2. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      And best wishes to you and your family Ben–
      I’ve always thought that making cookies is a lot like spinning a good yarn.. different ingredients mixed in sometimes unexpected ways, a specific sequence to be followed, turning up the heat, and at the end a delectable morsel.

  39. I wish to comment 1000 times about how much I enjoy reading about your family traditions. Keep up the good work and enjoy your cookies. PS My husband doesn’t let me shop for the baking ingredients. I always get the wrong vanilla.

    1. I felt a bit guilty writing about the flour, because I do get a special (and expensive) flour for my Shabbat challah – just not for anything else. I wonder what vanilla is so special?

      1. There is an awesome vanilla from Madagascar. It is rather expensive but the richness of the vanilla flavor makes it worth the expense. I believe you can get it at Whole Foods.

        1. Hmmm. There is a Whole Foods I pass sometimes. I’ll have to look. I get the huge bottle at Costco.

          1. My favorite new vanilla is called Vanilla Bean paste! So fantastic and like a jel so easy to add to baking.

        2. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

          I absolutely insist that you try the Madagascar vanilla and also Susan G’s Vanilla Bean Paste. We can stave off boredom during those long winter evenings when we sit before the fire staring silently at one another, by having a taste test comparison. I bet I can distinguish one from the other. (In any event I have a 33.3% chance of getting it right!)
          Your husband

  40. You two make me smile. I appreciate the kindhearted banter between you (as displayed in today’s Musings and its comment section). As part of our homeschool studies a few years ago, we celebrated (I’m sure, imperfectly) the Jewish feasts together as a family. Due to all the work and time involved, my respect and admiration for the Jewish woman of the family grew greatly.

    1. It’s a team effort, Lori. I appreciate my husband making sure that I can spend the time making holiday specialties and cooking for Shabbat. One of the plusses of homeschooling is that cooking and baking were a group effort and educational, of course! Nothing makes learning fractions and weights easier than needing it in real life.

  41. Regarding your leftover flour mix, I think you have the foundation for scones. Add 1-1/2 tsp of additional baking powder and mix well. Cut in 1/2 cup of shortening with a pastry blender then mix in about 1-1/2 cups of milk with a fork. At this point, you may mix in 1 cup of raisins or dried cranberries. (If you use cranberries, some grated orange peel is a good addition.) Turn out on a floured board and knead briefly, then pat into twp circles about 3/4″ to 1″ thick. Put on an ungreased cookie sheet, then cut each into 8 pieces, creating pie-shaped wedges. You may brush the tops with milk and sprinkle with sugar if you want them sweeter. Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, until tops are lightly browned.

    1. Carlisle – that sounds like a great scone recipe. Thank you. Funnily enough, Pastors Nathalie and Tracey Armstrong just visited us from Seattle and they brought me four boxes of Puyallup Fair Scones mix because they knew we loved the Fair and the packaged scones are even kosher.

  42. For what it’s worth, I think you should continue to write about whatever moves you to pick up a pen or a keyboard. The rest will take care of itself.

    1. Just what I want to hear, Mark! And truthfully, what I was planning to do anyway. My guess is that people divide in all sorts of ways in terms of interests as do I.

  43. I love your story. Every year that Purim comes, I long to make delicious hamentaschen. Unfortunately, I have some physical issues that have made baking difficult for the last few years. So I buy store-made hamentaschen. Not even close to the delicious shortbread-like cookie with various fillings I loved. A very dear friend of blessed memory shared that recipe with me years ago. I had never heard the story about Queen Esther eating nuts and seeds to keep kosher. What a delightful addition to the traditions surrounding Purim. Please continue to share your personal/family musings. They are enlightening and delightful and, like today’s musing, cheer the soul. Chag sameach Purim.

    1. I hope your physical issues resolve soon, Joyce. Your hamentaschen recipe sounds wonderful.

        1. Truthfully, I have recipes I love, but my hamentaschen recipe isn’t one of them. I think you’ll do better with a Google search. Though I’ll see if I can find my mother-in-law’s yeast dough recipe and post that one.

  44. Dear Susan,

    I started my working life in kitchens and still love to cook. I think anyone who has spent time in the kitchen cooking something for family and friends can relate. I am sure the hamantaschen will be wonderful. Have a blessed Purim and may the Lord be with you and yours.

    PS: I always enjoy your posts, regardless of the topic. Politics, family or even baking!

  45. Dear Susan , I had taken a study on the book of Esther several years ago , and at the end there was a recipe for this cookie ! I have thought about that recipe every time I hear of Purim. I am not familiar at all with this cookie, but now , after reading this , I feel as though I have made it myself , and probably had the same results ! ha ha ha . Karen Jones.

    1. That’s funny, Karen. There are tons of recipes. My husband prefers a yeast based dough while I grew up with cookie dough hamantaschen. The traditional poppy seed is based on the transmission that Queen Esther kept kosher in the palace by eating nuts and seeds. My husband loves poppy seeds – I like chocolate. This year, our daughter made poppy seed for her father, so I got to make chocolate.

      1. “So, until thousands more of you comment letting me know where your interests lie, I will continue to write about whatever is plucking at my mind and heartstrings.”

        Although I am a man and happily married these last 48 years, your cookie commentary hasn’t been totally lost on me. I have found that I enjoy preparing culinary delights for my spouse and have become so adept at it with her blessing, that we now refer to the kitchen as “my kitchen” and I do all the meal planning and grocery shopping. This has been well received because formerly all of that has been her duty throughout child rearing years and I imagine that in some respects she came to view it as expected household drudgery. Do tell the Rabbi that I drive the car unlike some who let their wife drive while they sit in the passenger seat, and I do pay the bills here as head of this household, so there’s not a worry that I will begin dressing differently in this lifetime. I do admire Queen Esther for how she so skillfully interceded for the Israelites during their captivity, it goes to show us that there is a time and place when a woman has to be strong, assertive and resolute when it’s in God’s will and in His perfect timing.

        1. Mark, my husband will be glad that he doesn’t need to worry about you! Actually, most of the redemptions, including Passover and Chanuka featured women and men each doing his or her own part. But Esther definitely occupies a special niche.

        2. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

          You amaze me Mark–
          I gaze in open-mouthed amazement at the wonders that Susan works in the kitchen and now you tell me you can handle this as well–along with planning and shopping? I feel so inadequate now….
          oh well

        3. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

          Dear Mark–
          Like you, most guys prefer being behind the wheel, while most (not all) women prefer the passenger seat. It does look as if the Good Lord created us differently, doesn’t it? Who knew?

      2. Dear Susan,
        I learn so much from you and the Rabbi. I enjoy as well as learn from your stories. You are such a blessing. Maybe one of these days I will ask you and hopefully you will respond. In the meantime, please keep writing what the Lord lays on your mind or heart. Have a blessed Purim in the company of family and friends!


  46. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

    Hello Susan–
    In a spirit of Purim-induced magnanimity, that warm spirit in which King Ahashveirosh said to his wife, Esther, “whatever you want dear, up to half my kingdom”, I will overlook your cruel slander of my shopping ability. I will confess to frequent feelings of utter confusion while standing in the baking aisle of the store to which you dispatched me. Many is the time I have stood drooping with despair in front of 43 brands of cereal or 3 different bins of bananas (organic, sustainably sourced, and what…brutal bloody bananas?) and some kindhearted female shopper rescues me with the Florence Nightingale-like words, “you look a bit confused-wife send you shopping?”
    But I do my best,
    Your husband

    1. Hello, Rabbi! To your very pointed comment of defense all I can say is: ‘You said it, buster!’ We are not the old Soviet Union, where two hundred would-be shoppers queue up in line at the Konsum for one miserable sack of flour, take it or leave it. NOOOO. Our land of plenty and the spirit of ethical (or unethical) capitalism have endowed us with multiple manufacturers, multiple grades and bewildering varieties of many a product (New and IMPROVED!). To tell the truth, my poor wife sometimes loses her way, for what graced the shelf two months ago is no longer in the running! POOF! Old products simply disappear! If it is still on the shelf, some ultra-savvy millennial marketing mountebank has crunched the sales numbers and SHAZAM! updated the packaging to a new presentation and POW! the retail manager has shifted its position in the store to a location more aligned with millennial shopping habits, as steered infallibly by the shopper’s bar-coded customer ID-and-tracking-card. The Bottom Line: on certain items like pie shells and instant biscuits I myself have simply given up and resigned as a subject-matter-non-expert. But modern supermarketing gives even our wives a hard time. If my wife is any indication, then I speak with some authority.

      1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

        Dear James–
        Right on! I absolutely love the bounty in an American market. I love the variety and choice. I love going to state fairs where farmers, granges, and 4H clubs display their harvests. I love having twenty different choices for cereals, jams, and even asparagus. There is something quite wonderful about this demonstrated view that humans are all wonderful different. Being in the retail business means catering to that variety. Cars with and without options in every color. Homes for every taste and budget. Vacations, restaurants, and clothing to suit every unique taste.
        The communist system that says “You’re a human you need clothes, here’s pants and a jacket. Food? Here’s bread” in the same way a farmer would feed all his cows in exactly the same way.
        We are still doing a few things right in this country aren’t we.

    2. You two are my favorites, you know that, right? As a baker with a gazillion mishaps to my name, a children’s author with a vivid imagination and a lover of all Jewish festivities – especially Purim, I followed each line of your culinary trials and Rabbi’s shopping trials with glee! I love your musings, Susan – especially the personal ones! ??

      1. It’s always wonderful to hear from you, Martha. I follow your publishing adventures on FB, though I don’t get on that often. If you have a gazillion mishaps in the kitchen it sounds like it could be another book!

        1. Might have to add that in! My kids call me Martha Stewart unplugged. I will try everything she does – but I’m not a perfectionist so sometimes …. oh and I never follow a recipe – constant tweaking, that’s my motto!?

    3. Stephanie Newkirk

      I have been many people’s Florence. I am a tall woman over six feet. That is just one gift I have received from the Giver of gifts. Reaching to the heights of store shelving and deciphering a wife’s request has always provided joy for me. Befuddlement and utter confusion may just give others opportunity.

      1. Stephanie, it sounds like you turn supermarket trips into an opportunity to serve your fellow man – what a great way to serve God.

    4. Oh my Heart!!! This is the most hysterical musing ever! I could not have enjoyed anything more. Susan, I am sorry, I kind of feel the same as far as the more expensive the better. Lol. And we are definitely “kindred spirits” with cooking.

      1. Oh dear. I will have to buy the ingredients when we bake challah together. Though I do use King Arthur flour for that and it does cost more but I think I do see the difference.

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