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Queen Esther’s Toast

March 12, 2021
Photo: Cole SmothersPhoto: Cole Smothers

Every year at Purim we look forward to eating sweet triangular pastries called hamantaschen, but the first recipe I could find for cookies we might recognize as hamantaschen—filled with poppy seeds—appeared in Aunt Babette’s Cookbook of 1889. So what did American Jews eat on Purim before then? Purim fritters, also known as Queen Esther’s toast.

Featured in: A Purim Treat That’s Fit for a Queen


  • ½cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • ¾cup dark brown sugar
  • 2tablespoons maple or corn syrup
  • 4bananas
  • 6 1 ½inch-thick even-size slices of bread, like challah or brioche
  • 1 ½cups half-and-half
  • 6large eggs
  • 1teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1tablespoon orange zest
  • 4teaspoons confectioners’ sugar, for garnish
  • 1teaspoon cinnamon, to garnish
Yield: 8-10 servings


  • Step 1

    Melt the butter, brown sugar, and maple or corn syrup in a saucepan, stirring to break up the brown sugar. Bring to a boil and continue to cook for 2 minutes without stirring. Then coat the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch pan with this syrup and cool.

  • Step 2

    Cut the bananas in half-inch-thick circles. Scatter the fruit over the syrup in the pan.

  • Step 3

    Trim the crust from the bread if you wish to make the slices uniform (I don’t usually bother) and arrange the bread over the fruit.

  • Step 4

    Blend together the half-and-half, eggs, vanilla, and orange zest in a large mixing bowl and carefully pour the mixture over the bread in the pan, making sure that all the bread is well soaked. You might have to use a spatula to pat the bread down or spoon some of the egg mixture over the pieces. Refrigerate overnight.

  • Step 5

    When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and remove the casserole from the refrigerator. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown on top. Let cool 10 minutes before serving. Run a knife around the inside of the pan. Invert a platter over the baking dish and carefully flip the pan over onto it. There will be a lovely fruit pattern on top. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar, cut into portions, and serve immediately.