Say It With Chocolate

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The Pesach dishes are now put away and when the holiday ended, it all seemed to happen so fast, I almost wonder if I dreampt the whole thing?

Weeks and weeks of preparing went by in a blur. The seders were over in a blink and the remaining days were a timeless mix of the wonderful roller coaster of family being together and friends dropping by, with just the right amount of delicious foods, singing and stories holding it all together. I am always astounded by the delicate balance between how much food I prepare (lots) and what’s left at the end (none). Nobody went hungry, I assure you, but the cupboard was officially bare.

One of the primary kitchen values I was taught, especially at Pesach, is that nothing is thrown out. “Everything I have I need and everything I need I have.” Even cardboard and plastic containers are reused to store little delectable treasures.

I think it is the simplicity of this approach that makes such an impact. The family has long since discovered that the matza farfel cardboard drums become cookie jars and those unassuming boxes that held the shmura matzas have been rededicated in the service of delicious.

Everyone learns not to take anything for granted and to experience the rewards of investigation.

One of the simplest and most enjoyed treats of Pesach were the chocolate ‘Chariot Wheels’ (aka chocolate bark) that have become our simcha signature.

I took a 10.5 ounce bar of Shmerling’s Menage bittersweet chocolate and melted it very slowly. The bar was broken into chunks and put in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water and left, undisturbed, for 20 minutes or so. Once melted, I poured it into a round aluminum foil pan (no greasing or paper liner, nothing) over which coarsely chopped, toasted almonds and craisins were scattered. I let it sit on the counter to firm and then put it in the fridge for an hour to move its hardening along, but once solid, popped it out of the container and put it in a napkin lined box for storage.

This was a simple way to celebrate joy and its always nice to share a little something sweet from our kitchens to mark a happy occasion. Especially on Pesach. It’s not like we can run out to the store for anything fancy and this is where the resourcefulness of the Pesach mindset benefits. I hope it lasts.

To My Kosher Kitchen’s dear readership: Thank you for your comments on the What’s Cooking article from My Kosher Kitchen that appeared in this years COR Passover Guide. There were many creative suggestions and good questions generated. One in particular was Heather’s idea to save the orange syrup from her own Pesach Candied Orange Peels and use it in her hot drinks (like the Sweetened Tea Essence) or as a syrup for Sponge Cake. Great idea, Heather!

Please continue to send in your helpful tips and suggestions so that we all may learn.

We’re changing the world, one recipe at a time,
Nancy Weisbrod, Director of Culinary Education, Kashruth Council of Canada

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My Mother’s Russian Cake

Well, as my dear mother used to say, ‘the best laid plans of mice and men aft gang aglay’. (No, that isn’t Yiddish. I think it may be Welsh which is unusual because my Mom was Canadian born of Polish parents. But she was well read and I recall many of her sayings and quotes and find them coming out of my mouth even before I am aware of it.) I had hoped to get this recipe out to you last week, but found myself unable. Just as well, you’ve probably got more than enough on your plate and need another recipe like you need a ‘loch in kopf’ (that is Yiddish for a hole in the head).

Although you may not have enough time to work this special dessert into your pre Pesach cooking plans-which I’m sure are pretty much underway, try and practice this delicious gateaux a few times through the upcoming year. When next Pesach roles around, you will be able to make it with confidence.

Wishing you a kosher, joyful and healthy Pesach,

Nancy Weisbrod, Director of Culinary Education, Kashruth Council of Canada

PS Although this recipe is adapted from one by Kitty Morse and Danielle Mamane, my own Mother used to make one very similar.

My Mother’s Russian Cake

Meringue
6 egg whites
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups superfine sugar (grind the sugar in a food processor)

Ganache
1 ¼ cups ground hazelnuts, toasted
3 Tablespoons superfine sugar
7 ounces semisweet chocolate, broken into pieces
1 teaspoon instant coffee dissolved in ¼ cup water
3 cups pareve whipping cream
Preheat oven to 300. Grease 3 x 8” molds. Cut 3 rounds of parchment paper to line the bottom of each.
To prepare the meringue, in a large bowl beat the egg whites with the salt. Slowly add the sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Divide the egg whites among the three molds and smooth the tops with a spatula. Place in the oven and decrease the heat to 275. Bake until the meringues are dry, about 1 hour, and let them dry further in the turned-off oven overnight.
Blend the hazelnuts and 1 Tablespoon of the remaining sugar.
Melt the chocolate, coffee and remaining 2 Tablespoons sugar in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Let it cool slightly. Whip the cream. Gently fold in the melted chocolate and half of the ground nuts.
To assemble the cake, peel the paper from the bottom of the meringue. Set one round on a serving platter. With a spatula, spread 1/3 of the ganache over the top. Cover with a second round and repeat. Top with the third round and spread with the remaining ganache, spreading it over and around the sides of the cake. Pat the remaining nuts around the side of the cake and refrigerate.

Kosher consumers unite!

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I was doing my regular Monday morning grocery run when I bumped into a friend in the aisle. We started to schmooze and she said she was meaning to email me about something that was on her mind. I immediately thought this is something important, so I put away the grocery list and paid attention.

She shared that it really bothered her that PC chocolate chips now have a dairy designation. I agreed. (Personally, since our resident chocolate chip cookie baker has moved out, it hasn’t bothered me that much, but that’s another story.) She said that she got in touch with someone ‘in the know’ and was told they are the very same chocolate chips, but the production process has changed. They are now being made very close to a similar dairy product and there is concern (rightly so) over confusion.

She told me that amongst her friends, this product is really missed. Most of the baking done is for Shabbos, and most families make meat on Shabbos. The chips are of a very high quality, affordable and accessible and were a staple in everyone’s pantry and now there is only a bare spot on the shelf where the chips used to be.

Does the company know what’s up? Can they see the cloud hanging over the baking aisle? Now, if I was the President in President’s Choice, I would be looking at sales, often. I wonder if sales have been affected since PC chips have come under a dairy designation? Remembering the many supermarket conversations I heard last spring cited the cleverness of those who thought to stockpile. In the parking lot, people shared, “they’re still on the shelves at such and such a location. Hurry.” In fact, I gave my last supersize bag to a dear young Rebbetzin who, herself, lives for chocolate. I ranked that amongst my greatest acts of chesed last year.

I spoke to a colleague at COR and he said he had a meeting with the higher ups of the company that make the chips and tried to convey the level of frustration that kosher consumers are experiencing. He told them that families are ‘occupying the streets, emptying out their pantries and setting garbage cans on fire’. Ok, maybe what he was referring to wasn’t a sign of civil unrest, but only preparing for Pesach and burning the chometz, but he was trying to make a point.

The point is, we miss our pareve decadent chocolate chips.

Why not let’s see what we can do about this?

Companies respond to consumer pressure, so let’s make our voices heard.

Send an email to customerservice@loblaws.ca and say something like;

“I am a frustrated Loblaw’s kosher customer. Ever since President Choice’s decadent chocolate chips were no longer designated pareve, my baking is not the same. Please do what has to be done to restore the pareve status of this product.
Sincerely,
Ms. Kosher Consumer

Why not? What can we loose? And maybe we’re taking the first step to get our pareve chocolate chips back. Because, as any kosher consumer knows, the only place meat and milk mix is in the Chocolate Chip Moose spotted above.

While we’re waiting on the world to change, I give you my mother’s Toll House Chocolate Chip recipe. Her granddaughter’s innovation of balling the dough with a small spring-loaded ice cream scoop and then freezing them before baking results in a dream of a moist, chewy cookie.

Toll House Cookies
1/3 cup margarine
1/3 cup shortening (Crisco)
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup oatmeal flakes
½ cup chopped walnuts
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cream margarine, shortening and brown sugar until smooth and creamy. Add egg.
Sift flour, baking powder and salt together and beat in to the creamed mixture.
Fold in oatmeal, nuts and chocolate chips.
Form into cookies as described above and bake on parchment lined baking sheets for 9 minutes.

Shabbat shalom,

Nancy Weisbrod, Director of Culinary Education, Kashruth Council of Canada