Story and photo by Jessica Grann
Haman’s fingers, you say? It makes me start to giggle just thinking about it. Most people think of hamantaschen when it comes to Purim treats, but in Sephardic culture, it doesn’t seem strange to eat Haman’s fingers, Haman’s eyes or Haman’s ears. Children really enjoy preparing and eating Haman’s fingers, and I find a little helper in the kitchen makes the prep work go much more quickly.
These treats are not overly sweet, as phyllo-based pastries with syrup often are. There is just a small amount of powdered sugar in the filling and a bit more sprinkled on top once they cool completely.
- 1 1-pound box phyllo pastry
- ¾ cup walnuts
- ¾ cup almonds, with the skin is fine
- 6 tablespoons powdered sugar for the filling and a little extra for dusting
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon orange blossom water, optional. Don’t make a special trip to the store if you don’t have it already.
- 1 pinch sea salt
- ½ stick butter or margarine (4 tablespoons), melted
The phyllo pastry that I buy comes in 18×12 inch sheets. Defrost in it your refrigerator the night before you’re going to prepare these pastries.
Preheat the oven to 400 F and place the oven rack in the upper third of the oven.
Grind the nuts to a medium consistency in a food processor, or chop them by hand.
Combine the ground nuts, powdered sugar, cinnamon and orange blossom water in a bowl, stirring a few times to distribute the sugar and cinnamon evenly.
Before opening the box of phyllo dough, dampen a clean tea towel. Open the pastry, unfold it and cut in half lengthwise and crosswise. You can use a sharp knife to cut the pastry, or kitchen shears if that is easier for you. This will create 4 portions of equally sized rectangles. Combine them to create one stack of phyllo pastry, and cover immediately with the damp tea towel.
Take 2-3 pieces of phyllo rectangles out at a time, making sure to keep the pastry you are not immediately working with continually covered.
Measure 1 tablespoon of the nut mixture and sprinkle it evenly near the edge closest to you. Fold the pastry away from you, turning over one time to cover the nuts before folding in each side toward the center. The pastry will stay nicely if you run your fingers gently up the crease. Once both sides are folded in, begin to slowly roll the pastry away from you to form a cigar using your fingers to keep everything straight and even. Phyllo pastry is delicate and can tear. Just keep rolling because it is very forgiving.
Place the seamed side down on a baking sheet and brush the top and sides with the melted butter or margarine. If you have a helper, you can do this very quickly. One person can roll, and one person can brush the pastries and get them into the oven. I place them about half an inch apart on the baking sheet. It is not necessary to grease the baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown. Once baked, let cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet, before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.
Dust with powdered sugar immediately before serving. Happy Purim!
Jessica Grann is a home chef living in Pittsburgh.