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Brooklyn bakery cranks out hundreds of thousands of hamantaschen for Purim

By Julia Gergely, New York Jewish Week via JTA

In Borough Park, Brooklyn, a massive bakery thinks it has found the secret ingredient to baking hundreds of thousands of hamantaschen every Purim season.

Purim is the only time of year Strauss Bakery makes haman-taschen in mass quantities. (Julia Gergely)

Purim is the only time of year Strauss Bakery makes haman-
taschen in mass quantities. (Julia Gergely)

“Love,” Tzvi Goldstein, the owner of Strauss Bakery, told the New York Jewish Week. “Putting your heart into the ingredients and making sure of each one.”

If you’re looking for something more practical, however, the real secret is that Strauss bakers start with square cutouts of dough instead of the more common circles. That apparently makes it easier and faster to cut and fold the triangle-shaped cookies eaten on the holiday, which this year falls on the evening of March 23.

“Because Purim is a type of holiday where we don’t actually have to close, we’re busy with parties. So it’s extra stress and extra busy,” said Goldstein, who runs the bakery with his brother-in-law Eli Berman.

At their 10,000-square-foot factory, dozens of workers are mixing ingredients for the dough and fillings — the kosher bakery prides itself on its unconventional flavors like s’mores, Oreo, apple crumble and passionfruit — pressing out the shapes for the cookies and piping out the fillings before folding the triangles and putting them in the oven.

In addition to baking cookies for catering, corporate events and celebrations, the bakery supplies cookies to wholesale clients and Tri-State area supermarkets.

It also bakes and sells cookies for Masbia, donating the proceeds to the kosher soup kitchen and food bank’s “Hamantaschen for Hunger” campaign.

Purim is just one of the busy periods of the year: The bakery also reaches max capacity during Chanukah and the High Holidays, as well as wedding and graduation season in May and June.

In addition to hamantaschen, Strauss makes a kosher version of just about every Jewish baked good one can think of — around the factory, there are tantalizing trays of black and white cookies, rainbow cookies, babka, challah and rugelach, as well as more traditional American desserts like chocolate chip cookies and Rice Krispie treats, all delivered to clients around the US.

Opened in 1960, the bakery was owned by the Strauss family, who were Hungarian immigrants. The bakery was a small storefront on 13th Avenue, a main thoroughfare in Borough Park, and most of the focus was selling products in the store as opposed to wholesale and catering, Goldstein said.

With his parents’ help, he and Berman bought the bakery from its original owners in 1987.

Goldstein was just 16; the Strausses were looking to retire and pass their bakery to “young blood,” Goldstein said.

In high school at the time, Goldstein worked on Thursday afternoons, weekends and holidays, as the Strauss’ original staff continued to operate day-to-day business at the bakery the first few years.

He began working at the bakery full-time after graduating, and took college classes at night.

“When we bought the bakery, everything was in a tiny little black recipe book written in Hungarian,” Goldstein said. “Part of the deal of buying the business was that they sat down with us and translated everything.”

Over the last 37 years, Goldstein and Berman have worked to expand the bakery, moving production to the current factory around 1999.

They still maintain a storefront on 13th Avenue, but most of the business comes from wholesale clients and the catering business.

Goldstein’s proudest achievement has been expanding the cake decorating, making dozens of custom cakes for weddings, birthdays, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and other celebrations on any given day.

“People come to us with the craziest things that they want for parties — 20-tier wedding cakes and cakes shaped like roller skates, and just crazy requests,” he said.

His other favorite part of the job is working with clients to pull off seemingly impossible baking projects, like a world-record-attempting 35-foot long challah they made for a Shabbat awareness project in January and a 50-pound hamantasch baked to promote “Hamantaschen for Hunger.”

“We enjoy projects like that a lot,” said Goldstein.

On the day of the Jewish Week’s visit, the bakery was finishing an order of “a few thousand” custom, logo-ed cookies for AIPAC’s Congressional Summit in Washington, DC, as well as bread, muffins and other pastries for breakfast and lunch sessions and meetings.

It’s just six weeks until Passover, Goldstein tells himself, when the bakery shuts down for a full week — and he can finally take a vacation.

With apologies to Strauss, the IJN’s go-to hamantaschen recipe is made from a circle not a square. But it works for us every time! Then again, we believe that a bit of stickiness is part of the Purim charm!


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