Hamantaschen cookies for Purim, "Oznei Haman" in Hebrew .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Since I never encountered it in the country of my birth, it always fascinates me here in Israel how, immediately following one festival, all baking energy and focus are directed toward the next one. The day following Simhat Torah, you will invariable find sufganiyot in the stores, months before Hanukka. The day after Hanukka, you will start seeing hamentashen on the bakery shelves, many months before Purim.
It is a philosophical discussion whether one should be deluged with festival fare months in advance so that by the time you get to the actual festival you are so sick of the stuff that you can’t even look at it, let alone eat it. I think our Sages, in their wisdom, forbade eating matza from two weeks before Passover so it would be novel and tasty on the festival itself.
Whether we like it or not, though, the day after Purim, everyone shifts into Passover mode, and the great clean-up begins. An underlying trait of the Jewish People is their inherent sense of humor, perhaps because God Himself has a sense of humor, as it were. It takes a well-developed sense of humor to plan a festival where we are deluged with tons of hametz in the form of mishloah manot for Purim, a short four weeks before Passover.
This is also where the Jewish People’s inherent creativity kicks in. How to get rid of all that hametz in just three weeks? If you have young children, half the problem is solved. In one week, all the candies and salty snacks will be demolished.
The post-Purim binge is one solution for not wasting “good” food, although it may come back to bite you the future dentist bills. Dentists love Purim! Many adults have been known to tuck in a little on the mishloah manot goodies, but they are usually more selective – those candies available only from overseas, the homemade cookies and hamentashen, etc.
Another solution is to collect all the leftover mishloah manot and give them to needy people or to soldiers. But did anyone ever think about how a needy person could afford to pay a whopping dentist bill after their family indulges in the sweet stuff? It may seem like a good idea to give the whole lot to soldiers, but have you ever considered it from the soldiers’ perspective? One day someone shows up at an isolated base (with only 15 soldiers) and dumps tons of assorted goodies on them.
Sometimes I am convinced that the entire snack-food industry around Purim is a conspiracy. Nobody actually intends to ever eat the stuff. It is just a way to make the snackfood manufacturers rich. The produce just cascades from one destination to the next and never actually gets eaten.
Nobody really has the heart to throw it out themselves, so they just pass it on to the next person, thereby easing their conscience.
This and other earth-shattering issues continue to weigh upon the great minds of our time and probably will for centuries to come, so far be it from me to tender a solution. Instead, I would like to make my own little contribution to the effort by addressing what is perhaps the most niggling problem of this period – the wafers. Have you ever noticed that no matter how you try get rid of all the mishloah manot, those persistent chocolate- covered wafers defy our best efforts and inevitably gravitate to the bottom of the pile? This is one problem I can help you with, since with a little embellishment, wafers make an excellent dessert. It is an extremely quick dessert to make and a nobrainer.
Unfortunately, it is not the healthiest or most slimming of desserts, but nobody’s perfect.
I wish you all a happy and productive Passover clean-up and remember, the main purpose of cleaning for Passover has nothing to do with getting rid of all the hametz. It is really about spring cleaning and getting rid of all those old books and items that you will never use and dusting the top of that cupboard you have neglected the whole year! What would we do without Passover? WAFER DESSERT SURPRISE
This incredibly quick dessert is a refrigerator cake that requires no baking.
✔ Whatever leftover wafers you have (chocolate-coated or not)
✔ 4½ cups whipping cream
✔ ¼ cup icing sugar
✔ 2 tsp. vanilla essence
Chop the wafers into small chunks (not crumbs). Whip cream, icing sugar and vanilla until medium peaks form. In a deep square or rectangular baking pan, spread a layer of cream about 1 cm. thick on the bottom.
Spread a layer of wafer chunks over the cream. Spread another layer of cream over the wafers and repeat until you reach the top of the pan. The top layer will be a cream layer, which you may decorate attractively by piping the remaining cream or grating some chocolate shavings from other chocolate leftovers. Refrigerate for 4 hours and serve. Master baker Les Saidel is CEO of the Saidel Artisan Baking Institute (www.saidels.com), which specializes in training and education in the field of organic, healthy, artisan baking, and inventor of Rambam Bread. He also lectures and works as a consultant in the fields of cereal chemistry, health and nutrition.