There is absolutely no reason why kosher food and desserts have to be anything less than what everyone else is eating. Share with me your baking and cooking sucesses, challenges, and disasters. I will share my recipes, shabbat and holiday menu planning and my love of food.

Showing posts with label chocolate. Show all posts
Showing posts with label chocolate. Show all posts

Thursday, January 17, 2013

My Life as an Air Traffic Controller

One day last year I was sitting in my kitchen at 5:00 pm checking email while dinner was cooking.  The house was quiet and I had a disconcerting realization: no one needed me. Each of my four children was in their own “cave,” doing homework (I hoped), while simultaneously surfing YouTube (unfortunately) and video chatting with friends (perhaps about homework?). 

My job had shifted from being the pilot who transported everyone everywhere, from being asked to fulfill every need, to just making sure everyone was busy doing what he or she was supposed to be doing. My job description had shifted from flying the planes to directing them. I had become an air-traffic controller.  I had to make sure the planes were clean, fueled, de-iced and fully stocked.  I supplied the flight plan while they just had to periodically call in their location and status.  Sometimes the planes would fly off for a few hours, sometimes for days and then for weeks in the summer, when they are parked in Camp Ramah’s hangar in Palmer, Massachusetts. There the planes get a tune up socially, athletically and Judaically. 

I soon learned the best way to bring in the planes: homemade desserts.  When the planes are at the airport in their separate hangars, nothing brings the pilots into the control tower faster than chocolate desserts, such as the Chocolate, Zucchini and Walnut Muffins below. The pilots sit around the tower and discuss each version of the muffins. Are they sweet enough? Do they need more or less walnuts? Their input has always been valuable. They also discuss their trips, where they are going next, whether they found a better route they want to share or give support to a fellow pilot who got a little lost on their last flight.  Sometimes they even want to paint their planes a new color and I assist with that too. 

When they are properly fueled, the planes go off again. As my daughter prepares to go to college next year, I accept that it is time for her to direct her plane to a new airport. She is ready. She has gone through the pilot training program and graduated with honors. 

Soon the planes are ready to fly off again. They submit new flight plans for approval. I fill out the paperwork and I stand in the control tower and watch the jets go off on their separate ways, marveling at how independent they are. Off they go, until the next batch of muffins.

Chocolate, Zucchini and Walnut Muffins
makes 18 muffins

These muffins are healthy enough for breakfast. They have whole grain flour, a vegetable and protein from the walnuts. You really do not even have to tell anyone that there is zucchini inside as they will never know; the zucchini strands melt into the batter when baked and just add moistness to the muffins.

1 1/3 cups white whole-wheat flour
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup dark unsweetened cocoa
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup orange juice (no pulp)
1/3 cup canola oil
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/3 cup boiling water
¾ cup shredded zucchini (from about 6 ounces zucchini), unpeeled, shredded on the small holes of a box grater
1 ½ cups walnut halves, chopped into ½ inch pieces, and ¼ cup chopped walnuts separated out to sprinkle on top

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Place paper cups in muffin tins for 17 muffins. 

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the orange juice, oil, vanilla, eggs, and boiling water and first stir with a silicone spatula (so water does not splatter) and then use the mixer to mix for one minute, until everything is thoroughly combined, scraping down the bowl as needed.  Add the shredded zucchini and mix in well to distribute.  Add the walnuts and mix in. 

Use a 1/3 cup measuring cup to scoop up batter and divide among the 18 cups, filling no more than ¾ full. Bake for 30 - 33 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan and then turn muffins out onto a rack to cool to room temperature.  Store covered at room temperature for up to 5 days or freeze for up to three months.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Hot Dogs and Soufflé

I ate my last hot dog at the Kosher stand at Yankee Stadium in 2009.  Hot dogs and I have a strained relationship.  While growing up in New York, my favorite was slathered with creamy cole slaw and mustard.  As an adult, my love for them is unrequited.  They abuse my stomach, yet I hope they will return my affection one day.  The back story: three years ago I ate myself sick in Paris doing research for The Kosher Baker and since then, I have to live a life without tomato sauce, orange juice, red meat and hot dogs. 

While in Los Angeles in February, my Kosher blogger buddies all directed me to Jeff's Gourmet Sausage.  Armed with Rolaids, I ordered the smoked chicken/apple sausage.  It may have been a girlie choice, but it came covered with manly fried onions and dark mustard.  I couldn't resist the sweet potato fries which were perfection.  The sausage was light yet flavorful and  confirmed Jeff's worth the stomachache.  I was actually ok, so maybe a hot dog and I can go out on a date every once in a while.

If eating at Jeff's was like the joy of Toy Story 3, then La Seine was like Inception with lingering questions about how dishes were prepared.  The place is hip with edgy decor.  The cuisine is French/Asian fusion and fascinating: the chef makes cheese from cashews for a pasta and marries sushi with chimichuri.  The Bordeaux braised short ribs were the winning entree.  For dessert I had chocolate souffle with coffee sauce.  The meal confirmed my belief that Kosher food can be as creative and delicious as any other food.

As I do not cook on Shabbat, I baked these souffles prior and served them to my guests BEFORE dinner, to enjoy them warm and gooey.  We had a second dessert course later and learned that the cooled souffles were just as tasty.  It is imperative that if baking parve (dairy-free), use the best quality chocolate you can find such as Aprose, Schmerling or Camille Bloch.  This recipe makes 6, but 14 of us grabbed spoons and shared.  Finally, if you have time, bake one souffle at 18 minutes and see how it comes out; then adjust the time for the rest depending on how gooey or dry you like it.

Chocolate Souffles            makes 6
1 tablespoon butter or margarine for greasing
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
5 large eggs, separated, whites at room temperature for at least 2 hours
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into small pieces

If baking immediately, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Rub the butter or margarine around the sides and bottoms of 6 small ramekins.  Add the tablespoon sugar to one, turn to coat and then tap out excess into the next ramekin.  Repeat until all coated, using more sugar if needed.  Place on a cookie sheet and refrigerate.

In a medium bowl, place the egg yolks and 2 tablespoons of the 1/2 cup of sugar.  Mix vigorously with a hand whisk.  Melt the chocolate either in a double boiler or in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave: heat for one minute and mix well, another 45 seconds and mix well and then 30 seconds and mix well, each time stirring the unmelted pieces into the melted parts.  Add the chocolate to the egg yolk mixture and whisk.  

Beat the egg whites on high speed until thick.  Turn the mixer speed to low, add the remaining sugar, about a tablespoon at a time, and when all added, turn the speed up to high for 30 seconds or until whites are shiny and stiff.  Mix into the chocolate mixture in four parts, mixing a little slower each time until all the whites are mixed in.  Divide among the ramekins.  If baking later, cover with plastic and refrigerate until baking.  Bake for 18 minutes.  Dust with confectioner's sugar and serve.

Friday, January 21, 2011


I learned how to do nothing for seven hours a day. I didn’t think I had it in me. When I was on bed rest before my twins were born, I decided that doing nothing was entirely overrated, after aspiring for boredom for a decade. This past December, my family, known for shlepping vacations where we sightsee and fly/drive from place to place every two days (Argentina last year), decided to try a resort vacation in St. Lucia.

The one day I was persuaded to abandon my perch at the beach, we went on a boat with three other families to Soufriere, hot springs and a cocoa plantation. The otherwise boring explanation of traditional cocoa bean processing caught our attention when a man in bare feet climbed into a large urn with the fermented and dried beans to polish them with his feet. My three sons jumped at the chance to have their turns, never boys to pass up chocolate or a silly experience.

While on the boat, two of the moms were embarrassed to tell me that they were baking brownies from a mix that night in their villa. The next day, I learned of their "success."  They had completely burned the top while the interior remained batter, apparently some confusion over oven temperature. They decided to turn the brownies over out of the pan so the burnt part was on the bottom and the goo was on top. They announced to their families they were serving chocolate molten cake. They were proud of their delicious creation. I was impressed by the clever marketing.

After landing stateside, we went to our friend’s house in Westhampton, New York for Shabbat. To continue the chocolate theme from St. Lucia, I baked a double batch of these chocolate cookies and we ate them non-stop for two days. We all secretly hoped that no feet had touched the cocoa.

Cracked-Top Chocolate Cookies                            Makes 6 to 7 dozen

These cookies can be baked two ways: with or without a coating of confectioners’ sugar. I like to bake half the dough one way and half the other as I like the way the two kinds look on a platter.

2/3 cup canola or vegetable oil

2 cups sugar

1 cup parve unsweetened cocoa

4 large eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, for coating cookies (optional)

In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar, and cocoa. Add the eggs, one at a time, and whisk well after each addition. Add the vanilla and whisk again. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and mix well with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula.  Place the dough in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Line three baking sheets with parchment, or bake in batches. Use a tablespoon to scoop up the dough and roll into balls about 1 inch in diameter. If you’d like to coat the cookies in confectioners’ sugar, place the confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl. Roll the cookie balls in the confectioners’ sugar until they are heavily coated with sugar. Place the cookie dough balls on the prepared baking sheets about 1½ inches apart. Place the sheets in the freezer for at least 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Bake for 12 to 16 minutes, depending on how chewy or crunchy you like your cookies. The cookies will spread and crack on top when they are almost done. Slice the parchment onto cooling racks and let cool.