10 Questions for Reisman’s Bakery
By M. Lowinger
Let’s play a game. I’ll tell you a word and you tell me what that word brings to mind. Ready? Here goes.
“Purim!” For most people reading this column, the word “Purim” brought up images of hamantashen. And when you’re talking about hamantashen the hamantash that come to mind is inevitably Reisman’s ubiquitous three-cornered nosh. In a world filled with self-proclaimed foodies and Instagram chefs, the classic and timeless Reisman’s hamantash is still universally accepted as the best of the bunch.
This week, we caught up with Esther from Reisman’s who was able to give us a very small glimpse into the company that churns out hundreds of thousands of hamantashen a year around the globe.
Esther, we all know the name but not much about who the Reismans are.
Our bakery was started by two brothers, Avrum and Berel Reisman, both Holocaust survivors. Avrum was the baker and Berel was the salesman. They opened in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, in 1962.
There were lots of bakeries in Brooklyn during the late-1900s. What was special about Reisman’s?
Avrum and Berel were innovative and creative. They were the first to come up with the idea of selling packaged baked goods in groceries and supermarkets. Now everyone does it, of course. But back then you bought your rugelach in a bakery and your milk in a grocery. Their first really big break was when Waldbaum’s starting selling their products. Then other supermarkets followed.
Purim is here and with it comes our yearly hamantashen-noshing trance. Do you sell the hamantashen all year-round?
Yes we do. In our community, hamantashen sell primarily during the Purim season. But in the general market, they are sold all year-round. Only the name is changed. We call them Fruit Tarts!
Well, what’s in a name anyway, as long as it has a sweet filling and soft, flaky dough. Has the recipe changed over the years?
Not really, but we’ve added some new filling flavors. Years ago, it was all about prune or poppy seed. Now we offer raspberry, apricot, chocolate, mango, and pomegranate.
Which flavors are the most popular?
Raspberry and apricot, for sure. And chocolate is a close runner up.
How many hamantashen do you bake?
The weeks before Purim, Reisman’s Bakery bakes a whopping 124,000 hamantashen per day – and they’re all pinched by hand.
Reisman’s hamantashen are everywhere. Where’s the furthest you ever shipped them?
All over North America, including Hawaii and Canada. We send them to Lubavitch shluchim, shuls, temples, and organizations throughout the country. We’ve also sent them to Jewish soldiers on army bases and prisoners through the Aleph Institute. Hamantashen have a long shelf life, so the orders start coming in well before Adar.
Wow! That’s a lot of hamantashen! What are some unusual requests that have been made?
People constantly ask us to make different flavors or colors to match their Purim theme. We’ve been asked to do coffee flavor and purple jam, to name just two. Much as we’d like to, we can’t really accommodate everyone’s requests.
So far, just today, I’ve eaten a whole box of hamantashen. Tell me, how many calories are in a Reisman’s hamantasch?
Each one is about 100 calories.
A hundred calories doesn’t sound too bad, although a whole box of them, on the other hand… Hamantashen aside, what’s your most popular product?
The Brownie Bar, no question about it. People can’t get enough of them. And there’s an interesting story behind it. The Reisman brothers once went to a bakery show and saw a machine that manufactures knishes. They decided to buy it and experimented with chocolate instead! After months of trial and error, the Brownie Bar was born!
I now have added respect for knishes, as it is through them that the Brownie Bar was born.