It was a rainy Sunday afternoon and Eric Raab had a bris to get to. He breathlessly ran into Moishe’s Bake Shop at the corner of Second Avenue and East Seventh Street for a gift for his brother’s new grandson.
A minute later, he ran out with a box of hamantaschen, the triangular, fruit-filled pastries.
Moishe’s is an “institution,” Raab said before hopping into his car with a package of mixed-flavored hamantaschen, “an unexpected kosher bakery in the East Village, which is a neighborhood of bars, Russian baths and Ukrainian churches ringing their bells.”
The cash-only bakery, which has operated in Manhattan since 1969 and at its current location since 1974, churns out hamantaschen year-round. But the treat is especially associated with the two-day Jewish holiday of Purim, which this year starts Wednesday.
The festival commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people in ancient Persia from a massacre plotted by Haman and is celebrated by dressing up in costumes and reading the book of Esther, which recounts the story of the holiday. The cookies resemble Haman’s three-cornered hat.
Celebrants also give donations to those in need, send gifts of food and join friends and family for a festive holiday feast that typically feature hamantaschen, “a tradition for a couple of thousand years,” bakery owner Moishe Perl said.
Perl, who jokes with his customers like a Catskills comic, is closed-lipped about the exact formula for Moishe’s Purim treats.
“The recipe, I won’t tell you,” he said with great conviction.
Pressed for more, he added, “We make a mix and we fill it and we play around with it. It becomes a hamantash.”
The bakery’s large, palm-sized hamantaschen, which sell for $3.50 each, come filled with either raspberry, apricot, chocolate or poppy butter. Smaller hamantaschen, which are just a tad larger than bite-sized, can also be purchased for $15 a pound.
“We use ingredients from your heart,” Perl added as passers-by peered into the store’s front window, licking their lips at the collection of pastries.
They’re made with “peace and love and tradition,” said Perl, who always recites the special hamantaschen blessing before taking a bite of the fresh baked goods.