I thought the conversation went rather well. "What would you like to dress up as this year, lovey?" I asked my daughter a whole week before Purim. I was being proactive. I hoped she'd answer almost anything but a princess. We've done that every year since she could assert her opinion. She's seven, that makes it four years straight. "I have an idea! Maybe a cupcake? Or Minnie Mouse?" she answered. "Ohh, good ones." I replied more eagerly than I felt. When it comes to costumes, I let my children pick out whatever they wish, more or less. I can dream up themes and grand plans, but logistically it usually doesn't work, at least not if I want calm and happy to reign. So when I sent my daughter off with Saba to buy her costume, I was hoping she'd fancy something other than the puffy, frilly dresses that could not get more impossibly girly. And guess what she came home with? A bubble gum pink gown laced with silver stars, dotted with tacky polyester bows throughout the waist, sheer bell sleeves, and a tiered ball skirt that sways and billows around her if she twirls fast enough. The excitement was spilling out of her eyes every time she looked at her dress and I mustered every bit of enthusiasm to share in her joy. Then came my other daughter who unexpectedly became the archetypical younger sister and picked a matching dress, except hers had puffy sleeves and pink velvet. They both tried on their crowns every day and fell asleep starring at their gowns. With a full heart, I added pearls and a feathered fan to their ensemble. Both in pink, of course. My son, on the other hand, was determined to be a police man, and so it took all of five minutes to pick out his costume. I even let him don a toy gun, which surprised and thrilled him all the same. But a few hours before the day he picked a plastic sword to replace it. Just imagine a civil servant running after people with a blade in the air and an unrestrained growl. It was as amusing as it sounds. As for the baby, we found some striped PJs jumpled in his closet, fastened some plastic handcuffs on his left hand and called him the cutest prisoner. I got a picture with most of them looking and no one crying, that's success. It was our first year celebrating Purim in Jerusalem and it was everything we hoped for. We felt the palpable celebratory ambience as we walked around delivering our Mishloach Manot. We oohed and aahed at the creative costumes all the children, and there are many, walked around in. There was blasting music streaming from different apartments, thumping and reverberating throughout the city streets. And we mostly enjoyed being together, surrounded by more candy than I care, inviting neighbors in to exchange smiles and good wishes. I should note, before you think I've romanticized my holiday, that there were a few tantrums, some sibling brawls, and streams of tears, but nothing I didn't expect. I've learned that perfect is unlikely, despite my sincerest hope for such a loaded day to just flow. It never does. Instead I anticipate the hiccups and let them pass naturally. Choosing joy is the only way I can stay calm and present. And that's what made my Purim just as it was supposed to be. My kind of perfect.
As for the food gifts, I wasn't sure how many packages to make. I hoped I had enough to avoid the nervous and often awkward exchange that comes from an unanticipated neighbor showing up with full hands. Thankfully, it worked out even though there were some surprises, but it somehow always does, don't you find? You probably want to know what I packed in those boxes. Nestled next to wine and halva, there was some homemade brittle and dark chocolate truffles. As simple as I like to keep things, I believe a homemade treat is the surest way to strengthen any friendship. So I played around with a brittle recipe that's uncomplicated and foolproof. It does use corn syrup, though I wonder how fundamental it is. That alone made me doubt the recipe would make it to the blog but after making a pistachio, hazelnut, salted peanuts, and a pretzel and chocolate variation, I concocted this roasted sesame and halva combination and this platform is the only way I could scream to the world that they must make it. Shredded halva is a favorite candy of mine, maybe because it feels like grown up cotton candy. And the roasted sesame add depth and a touch of savory against the sweet caramel. There's a sprinkling of flaky salt, because I believe that to be standard in every sweet. If you're wary of making your own brittle, you should just know that I've had my fair share of failed candy making attempts. I've glared at a pot of burnt caramel and shattered hopes. This is different. You don't need a candy thermometer and it comes together in a few ingredients. I've also made it enough times to attest to its ease. Every friend that enjoyed this homemade treat swooned at its deliciousness. I don't take credit, it's what happens when sugar and butter unite.
Sesame Halva Brittle
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup sesame seeds
2 cups sugar
100g or 1 stick butter
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Heat a skillet over medium heat and pour the olive oil. Add the sesame seeds and stir to coat in oil. Cook until they've fully roasted, stirring often so they don't burn. Transfer to a plate to cool.
Prepare a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, butter and corn syrup. With a spoon gently stir the mixture as it comes to a boil over medium high heat. Let it boil until the sugar has caramelized and turned a deep amber color and there's a slightly burnt aroma. It should take about 10-12 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda, being careful as it will bubble a bit. Stir in the sesame seeds and immediately pour onto the parchment paper, spreading it as thin as possible with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle shredded halva and flaky salt and allow to cool. With your hands, break it up and transfer to an airtight container. It also freezes really well.