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Bake Purim biscuits

First suggested by 20th Finchley (Woodside Park) Scout Group
Make triangular treats called Hamantaschen to mark the Jewish festival of Purim.

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You’ll need

  • Ingredients (see recipe)
  • Weighing scales
  • Teaspoon
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Wooden spoon
  • Rolling pin
  • Circular pastry cutter or cup
  • Baking tray
  • Greaseproof paper
  • Wire rack (optional)
  • Heat-proof oven gloves
  • Spatula/similar
  • Access to an oven
  • Anti-bacterial spray and cloth
  • Fire extinguisher or fire blanket
  • First aid kit, including for burns

Before you begin

  • Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Additional help to carry out your risk assessment, including examples can be found here. Don’t forget to make sure all young people and adults involved in the activity know how to take part safely.
  • Make sure you’ll have enough adult helpers. You may need some parents and carers to help if you’re short on helpers.

Planning this activity

  • Making Hamantaschen is a great activity to plan in around Purim. Purim is a Jewish festival that usually falls in February or March each year.   
  • You could invite someone who celebrates Purim to your session and invite them to share their experiences. If there’s a predominantly Jewish Scout Group near you, why not reach out to them, and see if you can enjoy this activity together.
  • Remember to check for allergies, eating problems or dietary requirements and adjust the recipe as needed. Make sure you've checked everyone's dietary requirements and allergies then adapted the recipe as appropriate. This may include ensuring no cross-contamination during food preparation, too. 
  • Check if there are any items of food (or packaging) that people can’t touch or be near to or if there are items that people might not be comfortable using in the activity. 
  • Some people may not like certain food textures or tastes and that’s OK. Try to find an alternative for them. No-one has to use all the ingredients or be made to try foods if they’re not happy, comfortable or don’t want to. 
  • You could run our kitchen safety and hygiene activities, Kitchen risk bingo and Home kitchen hygiene prior to running this session. 
  • Remember to have a hand washing station and take extra hygiene precautions when handling food. Look at our guidance on food preparation. 
  • Make sure you have all the ingredients ready.  
  • You may want to run a kitchen safety talk and show people how to use the equipment safely, such as for cooking or chopping ingredients.  
  • If using a gas stove, make sure it’s on a stable heatproof surface and in a clear and open area, with plenty of ventilation. Gas can increase risk of  carbon monoxide exposure. We have more guidance on different cooking methods.

The story of Esther happened more than 2000 years ago in Ancient Persia. There lived a woman called Esther. Esther’s uncle was called Mordecai and he was the leader of the Jews.

The King at the time, King Ahasuerus, asked Esther to marry him and become his new Queen. Her uncle, Mordecai, told Esther not to tell the King she was Jewish, so she didn’t.

King Ahasuerus had a minister called Haman, who hated the Jews. Haman wanted everyone to bow down to him. Mordecai refused to bow down to Haman, as he believed this was against his Jewish beliefs.

This made Haman very angry. He decided to take revenge on all the Jews. He told the King that Jews were a threat and action needed to be taken. The King told Haman he could do what he wanted, so Haman made plans to kill all the Jews on a certain date. He drew lots to choose the date.

Mordecai found out about Haman’s plan and asked Esther for help. He wanted her to talk to the King to ask him to save the Jewish people. However, no one was allowed to approach the King without permission, not even Esther. Anyone who did was likely to be killed. 

Esther knew she would be risking her life, but she agreed to tell the King. She said she’d tell him only if all the Jewish people spent time fasting and praying first.

Esther summoned the courage to tell the king about Haman's evil plan. She explained that this was because Haman was going to kill all the Jewish people and that she was Jewish. 

The King was furious and stopped Haman’s plan. The King sent Haman away forever. Esther’s bravery and standing up for her people helped save all the Jews. 

  • Purim is a Jewish festival that usually falls in February or March each year. It starts at sunset on the first day and then finishes at nightfall the next. 
  • Purim is usually pronounced PUH-rim or pooh-REEM.
  • It's a time for celebration and is a lively and fun festival. People dress up in costumes, share food and drink including triangular biscuits called hamantaschen, and enjoy spending time with family and friends.  People also give gifts to their friends and to people in need. 
  • Explain that Purim comes from the biblical Book of Esther. Jews remember Esther, who was the Queen of Persia more than 2,000 years ago. 
  • The name of the festival, Purim, means ‘lots’ in Ancient Persian. Haman drew lots to decide when he was going to carry out his plan.
  • The Book of Esther is read aloud at the synagogue. A synagogue is a religious place of worship for Jewish people. During the story, every time Haman's name is mentioned the children stamp their feet, boo, hiss and shake rattles to drown out the sound of his name. After the service, some children dress up and act out the story. 
  • On the day before Purim, Jews might fast, to commemorate how the Jewish people fasted and prayed to God for the Jewish people to be saved.    

Introduce the activity 

  1. Tell everyone that you’ll be doing an activity that links to the Jewish festival of Purim. It’s usually pronounced PUH-rim or pooh-REEM.
  2. Ask if anyone knows anything about Purim. Is anyone celebrating Purim or know someone who is?  
  3. Explain that Purim is important to Jews as they are remembering God's power to save them and that good overcomes evil. It's a time for celebration and is a lively and fun festival.
  4. Tell everyone you’re going to make Hamantaschen, which is pronounced han-mahn-TAH-shn. Does anyone know what these are?
  5. Tell everyone that Hamantaschen are triangular biscuits eaten during Purim. They're traditionally filled with poppy seeds, because in the story of Esther, which is remembered during Purim, Esther only ate seeds while she lived in the King's palace.
  6. Everyone should wash their hands and get ready to cook. You might want to remind everyone about ways to keep safe in the kitchen you’re using and to regularly wash their hands. 

Hamantaschen recipe

Ingredients: 

  • 100g softened unsalted butter, plus some spare for greasing
  • 1 large egg
  • 125g granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 200g plain flour, plus some spare for sprinkling
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons jam
  • Poppy seeds (optional)

Prep time: 15 – 20 minutes 

Cook time: 15 minutes (plus time to cool) 

Makes:  16  

Make your Hamantaschen

  1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees, or 180 degrees for a fan oven. 
  2. Grease the baking tray with some butter and line it with greaseproof paper.

Make your dough

  1. Put the butter, egg, sugar and vanilla extract into a large bowl.
  2. Mix with a spoon, until the mixture is nice and smooth.
  3. Add the flour and baking powder to the bowl. Combine everything to make your dough.  

Roll and cut your dough 

  1. Make sure you’ve got a nice clean surface to roll your dough on.
  2. Sprinkle a bit of flour on the surface, then roll the dough out with your rolling pin. If the dough’s sticking to the surface or the rolling pin, sprinkle over a bit of flour.  

Some people refrigerate the dough overnight, but this isn’t essential. 

  1. Roll out until it’s smooth and flat. It needs to be about 5mm thick.
  2. Cut your dough into circle shapes using a pastry cutter. You could also use the rim of a tumbler or plastic drinking cup. 
  3. Lay your shapes out on the baking tray, then put a teaspoon of jam in the middle of each one. 

Fold into triangles 

  1. To assemble the hamantaschen, paint the outer edge of a circle very lightly with egg wash. 
  2. Take the lower left edge of the circle and fold it at an angle towards the centre to make a flap that covers the left third of the circle. It should form one side of the triangle.
  3. Next, take the opposite side of the circle. Fold it up towards the centre, slightly overlapping the left side flap, to create a triangular tip at the bottom of the circle. You should be able to see the filling in the middle. 
  4. Finally, fold the top part of the circle downwards to create a third flap and complete the triangle - a small triangle of filling should be visible in the centre. 
  5. Gently pinch and press the points of the triangle together to make them really stick. Ideally, you want the edges to be over the next one on one side and under on the other to create a pinwheel effect. You’ll still be able to see some of the jam in the middle.
  6. People may wish to add the traditional poppy seeds by sprinkling them on top, but this is optional. 

Bake and cool  

  1. Using heatproof gloves, an adult should place them in the pre-heated oven until they're lightly browned. This should take around 12 to 15 minutes.
  2. When ready, an adult volunteer should wear heatproof gloves and carefully remove the biscuits from the oven. Place the tray on a heatproof surface, away from young people.
  3. Give the biscuits time to cool down.
  4. Use a spatula to carefully move the biscuits onto a wire rack or heatproof plate to finish cooling. The jam will be hot, so may need longer to cool down.
  5. When they’re cool, everyone should enjoy your Hamantaschen. People could also take them home. 

Reflection

This activity gave everyone the chance to explore faith and beliefs. It was an opportunity for everyone to learn a bit about an important occasion in the Jewish calendar or celebrate Purim within their group. For Jewish members, this is a delicious way to celebrate Purim and reflect what is means to them or their loved ones. 

You had the opportunity to reflect on or learn about Purim. Was there anything that surprised you? Is there anything you’d like to learn more about? 

One of the Scouts values is beliefs. Scouts always respect people’s beliefs, faiths and cultures, and everyone should be open to learn. Ask everyone why it’s important for people to learn about each other's faiths and beliefs, even if we don’t have a faith ourselves.  

Explain that part of being a global citizen, as well as being a Scout, is learning about different faiths, cultures and beliefs and identifying the things people have in common. Can you think of any similarities between Purim and occasions celebrated in other faiths or cultures?  

Safety

All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

Cooking

Teach young people how to use cooking equipment safely. Supervise them appropriately throughout. Make sure it’s safe to use and follow manufacturers’ guidelines for use.

Food

Remember to check for allergies, eating problems, fasting or dietary requirements and adjust the recipe as needed. Make sure you’ve suitable areas for storing and preparing food and avoid cross contamination of different foods. Take a look at our guidance on food safety and hygiene.

To make it easier, or if you’ll be short on time, you could measure out the ingredients before the session.  You could also prepare the dough before the session or use ready-made dough.

  • Remember to check your ingredients against any allergy or dietary requirements to ensure everyone can enjoy the recipe. This may mean using alternative ingredients. To make vegan biscuits, you could use plant-based butter and replace the egg with 2 tablespoons of apple sauce.
  • Be conscious about who may be fasting when running this activity – you may want to plan it for when everyone can get involved. 
  • There are lots of different jobs that need doing when planning, making and cooking on a kitchen. People can work in small groups or as a whole group, depending on what will work best for your group. There’s a role for everyone, so encourage everyone to be involved in a way that works for them.

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

One of the traditions of Purim is sharing food with others. You could make Hamantaschen to share with family, friends or others in the community.  

Think about how you could share food with others in the community, and those in need. You could put together food gifts for care homes, or donate to food banks. Find out more about supporting food banks in our Food matters activity.

  • Make sure everyone has the space to share their ideas. 
  • If anyone in the group celebrates Purim, offer them the opportunity to share their experiences, if they want to and are comfortable to do so.  It might be worth having a chat to them before the session, so they don’t feel ‘put on the spot’ or singled out. 
  • People could enjoy adapting the recipe – choosing their own fillings (such as chocolate spread or savoury fillings), or experimenting with flavouring the dough (some recipes use orange juice or grated orange zest).