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A Purim Treat That’s Fit for a Queen

Move over, hamantaschen. Queen Esther’s toast is going to turn everything you thought you knew about Purim upside down.

Joan Nathan
March 07, 2017
Photo: Cole Smothers
Photo: Cole Smothers
Photo: Cole Smothers
Photo: 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.

A recipe for Purim fritters appears in Jennie June’s Cookbook of 1866, and it was copied as Queen Esther’s toast in the National Cookery Book 10 years later, celebrating the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. It was made from the inside of a stale roll or loaf of bread, with the crust removed, soaked in eggs and milk; it was then fried in butter and served with cinnamon, a sugar syrup, honey, or “hundreds and thousands”—essentially, jimmies or sprinkles.

I have converted these fritters into a challah french toast with caramel and bananas. Baked until golden and piping hot, the toast can be either eaten in the pan or flipped so the bananas and the cooked caramel form a beautiful crust on top. The dish is delicious at Purim and throughout the year. And yes, you can eat this for brunch and still follow up with your favorite kind of hamantaschen at dinner.

The Recipe

Queen Esther's Toast

Queen Esther’s Toast

Joan Nathan is Tablet Magazine’s food columnist and the author of 10 cookbooks including King Solomon’s Table: a Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World.