Purim, Sephardi-Style

Pistachio biscotti
Pistachio biscotti

If you grew up in an Ashkenazi Jewish family, you probably ate traditional hamantashen filled with sweet poppy seed filling, prunes, or jam. Recent updates include filling them with Israeli chocolate spread, a Hershey’s Kiss, or a spoonful of chocolate chip cookie dough. Some families like a cookie-type dough, while others prefer to use sweet yeast dough.

However, if you grew up in a Sephardi Jewish family, your Purim traditions were definitely different. Linda Capeloto Sendowski of Beverly Hills, Calif., author of Sephardic Baking from Nona and More Favorites shares some of her favourite Purim recipes as well as other Sephardi specialties.




o 5 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
o 2 tsp. salt
o 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
o 1 cup ice water
o 3/4 cup safflower or sunflower oil


o 21 extra large, hard-boiled eggs (optional: dye eggs blue, following dying kit instructions)

Place flour in a large bowl, add salt and Parmesan and stir. In a bowl or two-cup glass measure, add ice water and then whisk in oil. Add liquid to flour mixture and combine with your hands. Dough should be pliable but not too soft.

Divide dough into 21 portions. Break off a walnut-sized piece from each portion and roll into a smooth ball. Flatten ball into a disc about 2 1/2–3 in. in diameter with a rolling pin or your hand. Placed cooked, coloured egg in centre of disc. With the remaining dough from each portion, roll out two or three ropes, 1/3 in. in diameter and long enough to go from one side of the disc to the other. Twist the rope and then attach it to one side of the disc, stretch it over the egg, and attach to the other side of the disc. This creates a cage over the egg. Twist ropes for a better look.


Heat oven to 400. Place folares on parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake until dough is golden brown and crisp, about 15 to 20 minutes. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.

Yield: About 21 folares


That first bite of biscotti is sublime. These are just sweet enough, with a subtle blend of flavours that will not interfere with your demitasse of espresso, and crisp enough to withstand dunking in hot tea. Pistachios, dried cherries and orange rind make a great taste combination. Linda’s family enjoys them, and she likes to put them in little bags to give away or add them to her Purim platicos.

o 6 cups all-purpose unbleached flour, plus 1 additional cup for kneading
o 2 tsp. baking powder
o 2 tsp. ground anise
o 2 tbsp. fresh lemon zest
o 2 tsp. sea salt
o 4 extra large eggs
o 2 1/2 cups sugar
o 1 cup sunflower oil
o 2 tbsp. lemon juice
o 1 tbsp. orange juice
o 2 1/2 cups unsalted pistachios, ground
o 1 cup tart dried cherries, chopped into medium pieces
o 3/4 cup whole unsalted pistachios

Preheat oven to 350. Line rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine 6 cups of flour, baking powder, anise, zest, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. Place eggs in bowl of a stand mixer. Add sugar and beat on medium speed until light in colour and thick and smooth. Add oil. Beat, starting at lowest speed and increasing until medium, until well combined. Add lemon and orange juice and mix. Add ground pistachios and mix then, add flour mixture. Mix on lowest speed until flour is incorporated. Lastly, add dried cherries and pistachios and mix until just distributed.

Remove dough from mixer bowl and place on a wooden or stone work surface dusted with flour. Dough may be slightly sticky. Knead dough gently until smooth and easy to work with, adding some or all of the final cup of flour. Roll dough into a smooth ball, flatten, and slice into four equal pieces. With your hands, form four logs, about 2 x 10-in. each.

Carefully place two logs on each baking sheet. Bake 25 to 28 minutes or until golden.

Remove baking sheets from oven and turn temperature down to 200. Carefully remove logs from baking sheets and place on a large cutting board without breaking them.

Immediately cut them on a sharp diagonal, with a long serrated knife, about 1/4- to -1/3- in. thick.

Carefully return sliced biscotti to baking sheets, lined with clean parchment paper, with enough space between them so air can circulate all around them. You will need additional baking sheets, as once sliced, biscotti will take up more room.

Toast biscotti in a 200 oven for 2 hours. Turn off oven and leave biscotti in closed oven overnight. They should be crisp. Store in an airtight tin.

Yield: 60 to 80 biscotti

* Tip: Linda always bakes her biscotti after dinner. After baking and slicing, she puts a timer on the oven for 2 hours, for toasting, and then it shuts off automatically. Biscotti can stay in the oven all night.

* Note: Biscotti always looks underbaked when sliced, but they will finish baking and dry out during the toasting time.



When Linda’s children were young, they all participated in the baking. Everyone received a piece of dough to roll out and fill. Although the results weren’t perfect, her kids loved eating theirs fresh from the oven.


1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (you may substitute pareve margarine)
1 cup sugar
2 extra-large eggs
3 tsp. fresh orange juice
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. almond extract
4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour, plus extra for rolling out
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt


1 (12 oz) jar of black-cherry preserves (Use any flavour of preserves you prefer, such as red raspberry or apricot. You could also use lekvar, or prune filling.)

Using a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula and mix for a couple more seconds. Add eggs, orange juice, vanilla, and almond extract to the bowl. Beat again until creamy.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt, and stir them together. Add to the mixer bowl; turn mixer on low to start, and then mix on medium until a ball forms.

Remove dough from mixing bowl and transfer to a wooden or stone surface, and gently roll it into a disc. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour or up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 350. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide into two discs. Place one disc, wrapped, back in the refrigerator.


Dust the work surface with flour. Using a rolling pin, roll out first disc into a rectangle, about 1/8 in. thick. Using a 3-in.pinked biscuit cutter, cut out as many rounds as possible.

Work fast and with a light touch to keep dough from becoming too warm and soft. Reform the leftover dough, roll it out again with rolling pin, and cut more rounds. Refrigerate at any point if dough becomes too soft to work with. Continue until all the dough is cut.

Place a rounded tsp. of jam or other filling in the centre of each round. Pinch the dough circle up to form a triangle, leaving it a bit open in the centre. Be careful not to let the filling ooze out.

Line two rimmed baking sheets with a Silpat or parchment paper. Place the formed triangles on the sheet without touching – they expand a little during baking

Bake on a rack in the centre of the oven for 20 minutes or until light golden in colour.

Remove hamantashen from the pan with a spatula and place them on a cooling rack to keep the bottoms crisp. Hamantashen should be stored in an airtight container when cool.

They also freeze well in an airtight container.

Yield: 40 to 44 pieces