Friday, April 22, 2011

Pesach 5771 / Earth Day 2011

Shalom everyone!

I hope all of you are enjoying the holiday week, wherever you may be (and whichever holiday(s) you might be observing!).

Did you know that the official color of the Pesach Festival is green?

It's true!

Pesach is observed in the month of Nisan -- the first month of the Hebrew calendar -- which is to say, at the advent of Spring. Symbols of spring abound on the Seder plate: the zeroa, or shankbone, commemorating the sacrifice of the spring lamb; the roasted egg, again commemorating an offering (the chagiga or Festival offering) but also representing new life; and most obviously, the karpas or green herb.

More thoughts here:

Monday, April 11, 2011

Pesach-palooza Dessert Recipes!

Shalom faithful gluttons for punishment! By which I mean, faithful readers and viewers of this blog.

I am pleased to lighten our study (if not our stomachs) this week by offering a blog post entirely on the theme of recipes for Passover. Specifically, I reprint here with my Dad's permission some of his most beloved Pesach dessert recipes. Bon Appetit, B'te'avon, and enjoy!

May your Passover observance be sweet and meaningful!

Rabbi Jonathan Blake

PASSOVER DESSERTS from Douglas Blake

These are some of the desserts which have gained “must make” status for Seder at the Blake’s house. They are elaborations on 3 basics of the standard Pesach dessert repertoire: sponge cake, flourless chocolate torte, and nut cake. The whole idea is to not let anyone know that they are “Pesachdik!” If the use of dairy products after a meat meal upsets anyone, substitute non-dairy (like margarine and creamer) but it won’t taste as good. The separate components of the recipes can be used in other desserts. Be creative!

It all begins with this classic, but mine actually has great taste and moistness because of the citrus juice and rind.
All eggs used are “large.” When separating eggs, do one at a time into a small dish so that one broken yolk won’t ruin a whole bowl of whites.

8 eggs - separated
Juice and rind of 1 orange and 1 lemon to make 1/2 cup
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup matzoh cake meal
1/4 cup potato starch
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350. Do NOT grease a tube pan
Beat the egg whites on high speed until foamy; gradually add 3/4 c. sugar while beating; stop when they are glossy and hold firm peaks. Set aside.
Beat the yolks with 3/4 c. sugar until they are pale and form a ribbon when lifting the beater. Grate the orange and lemon rind over the bowl so that the oils are captured, then juice the fruit. Add the dry ingredients (mixed together) alternately with the liquid to the yolks and sugar.
Add about a third of the beaten whites to the yolk batter and stir gently with a large rubber spatula to lighten the batter; then add that mixture back to the whites and fold the batter just until there are no white streaks (do not over stir or you will have “flat cake!”).
Pour batter into tube pan and bake at 350 for about 1 hr - check after 45 min; toothpick should come out clean when done.
Invert the pan to cool for at least 1 hr. Using a sharp thin knife, cut around the edges of the pan to release the cake, and do the same for the bottom. Flip the cake over onto a rack to cool throughly. Freezes beautifully.

Of course, a piece of sponge cake with fruit and whipped cream is not bad, but this English classic is a show-stopper and can feed a crowd. Select your prettiest bowl; you may need more than one sponge cake. Make the pastry cream 2 - 3 days in advance; the trifle can be assembled a day in advance; save the whipped cream and fruit topping for the morning of Seder.

Pastry cream (adapted from Julia Child)
1 cup sugar
5 egg yolks
1/2 c matzoh cake meal
2 c boiling milk
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp Grand Marnier or other brandy or rum

Beat the yolks and sugar until they are pale and form a ribbon. In a very thin stream, gradually pour on the boiling milk while beating (too fast and you’ll scramble the eggs!) Beat in the cake meal. Return the mixture to a saucepan and set over med-low heat; stir continuously until it comes to the boil and cook for 2 - 3 minutes more. Be careful not to let it scorch on the bottom of the pan.
Add the butter, vanilla, and GM off heat while stirring. If the cream has any lumps pass it through a fine mesh strainer. Refrigerate covered with a piece of plastic wrap on the surface.

For the trifle:
1 - 2 sponge cakes sliced in layers (3 - 4 each)
2 jars best quality raspberry preserves
2 large cans apricot halves (drained and sliced)
1/2 - 1 c dry sherry, port, or Madeira
1 c heavy cream, whipped until stiff
Assortment of the best berries and fruit, sliced with care (mango, kiwi, etc.)

Put slices of cake to cover the bottom of the bowl (“cut and paste to fit”)
Splash on a little booze.
Gently spread on a layer of jam; you want the jam to reach the sides of the bowl and show it’s color.
Another layer of cake; another splash of booze.
Spread on a layer of pastry cream, touching the sides.
Arrange cut pieces of apricot along the outside of the layer on the pastry cream, showing it’s color, then scatter more pieces on the middle of the layer.
Repeat, until you get to the top layer of cake, which should end at least 1 inch below the rim of the bowl. You want room for the next:
Spread the whipped cream on the top cake layer (gently so as not to mix in crumbs)
Decorate with concentric rings of berries and slices of fruit.
Chill and serve cold.

This basic flourless chocolate torte uses finely ground almonds instead of cake meal; there are many good recipes - I use Joan Nathan’s.

1 stick unsalted butter
8 ozs imported bittersweet chocolate
5 large eggs, separated
3/4 c sugar
1 c finely ground almonds

Preheat oven to 350
Line the bottom and sides of a 9” springform pan with parchment paper cut to fit. (Spray the pan with PAM, place the parchment, spray again.)
Melt the butter and chocolate on a double boiler; cool
Beat the egg yolks with 1/2 c sugar until pale yellow and the ribbon forms.
Mix the cooled butter and chocolate with the yolks and sugar; add the nuts
Beat the egg whites with 1/4 c sugar until stiff but not dry; fold gently into the chocolate mixture.
Pour into the springform pan and bake for 45 - 50 min; a toothpick should be moist but not wet with batter. Don’t overbake.
Cool for a few minutes; carefully release the pan and remove the parchment; place on a plate upside down (the bottom is now the top).
You can serve it just like this with a little whipped cream, or get fancy like this:


1 large can unsweetened bing cherries, drained and rinsed and dried
1 tube marzipan (potato starch for dusting, or finely granulated sugar)
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate
6 oz butter
3/4 c heavy cream

Prepare the torte batter as above and place into the springform pan.
In concentric circles, starting from the outer rim, gently push each cherry into the batter about halfway, so that some of the cherry remains above the surface.
Bake as above, cool, release from the pan
Freezes beautifully at this stage, wrapped tightly. Leave the bottom parchment on.
Defrost for 24 hrs; invert onto a cake plate; place scraps of waxed paper around the edge of the plate just under the torte to catch the ganache when it drips.
Using waxed paper, trace the bottom of the 9” pan with a pencil. This is the size of the marzipan layer. Turn the waxed paper over (you still can see the line). Dust the paper with potato starch or sugar. Soften the roll of marzipan with your hands (yes, it’s sticky!) and roll it out to 1/8” thick on the waxed paper, trace around the circle with the tip of a knife, and remove the scraps (save them). Now carefully flip the paper over the torte and peel it off, leaving a perfect disc of marzipan on top.

Melt the chocolate, heavy cream, and butter on a double boiler, whip until smooth, cool a little until pourable but not hot.
Pour the ganache over the top; use an icing spatula for smoothing the top and sides. You won’t need all the ganache to do the job. (See below for what to do with the remainder.) When set, remove the waxed paper scraps and tidy up the edge of the plate.
Using the scraps of marzipan already rolled out, with a sharp knife cut out little triangles about 1” on a side. Place one triangle, turned, on top of another to make a Jewish Star, press it together gently and decorate the top rim of the torte with stars.
Refrigerate if not using it that day; serve at room temperature.

Ganache Truffles
Refrigerate unused ganache; gently warm on a double boiler; then cool until soft but solid.
Use a small melon baller to scoop ganache and roll quickly into balls.
Roll in any of these:
Cinnamon and sugar
Finely ground nuts
Coconut shreds
Instant coffee or espresso granules
Sugar mixed with a tiny bit of chili powder or cayenne pepper

Ganache dipped fruits
Soften ganache on a double boiler; dip what you like (strawberries, melon, pineapple), dry on a rack set over a cookie sheet to catch the drips, nosh on the fruit and candy as you work!

This cake is from Frances R. AvRutick in her book “The Complete Passover Cookbook” which is a great source of inspiration.

Line the bottom of a 9” springform pan with parchment, but do not grease the sides.
Preheat oven to 325.

6 eggs, separated
1 c sugar, divided
1/2 lemon, juice and rind
4 oz finely ground nuts (I use hazelnuts because of family allergies, but walnuts or others work, too)
2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp instant coffee or espresso
1/4 c grated semisweet chocolate
2 tsp potato starch
1/2 c cake meal

Beat the egg whites with 1/2 c sugar until stiff and glossy.
Beat the egg yolks with 1/2 c sugar until light and the ribbon forms. Add the lemon juice and rind.
Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Into the yolk mixture alternatively fold in the dry ingredients and the beaten whites; mix only to combine and no white streaks are left.
Pour into springform pan and bake for 1 hr, cool throughly, run a sharp knife around the sides and release the pan. Delicious served this way, or.....

This is my version of a favorite dessert, Tira-Mi-Su, as served for Pesach.

Mascarpone Cream
8 oz mascarpone, softened
1 pt heavy cream, whipped stiff
2 egg yolks
1/2 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
juice and rind of 1/2 lemon

Beat together mascarpone, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla.
Add the lemon juice and rind
Fold in the whipped cream

1 cup strong coffee
Generous splash of rum, Frangelico, or favorite liqueur.
Unsweetened cocoa powder

Re-assemble the springform pan. When the cake is throughly cooled, using a thin serrated knife slice it into 3 layers. Flip the top layer over (using spatulas, plates, wire racks, whatever!) and place it into the 9” springform pan bottom.
Splash on a little of the coffee-liqueur.
With a rubber spatula, spread a layer of mascarpone cream. Go all the way to the edge of the pan.
Dust with a little cocoa powder.
Place the middle layer and repeat.
Invert the last layer so the smooth side is up and place into the pan. Press down gently, splash on the coffee-liqueur, smooth on the mascarpone, and just a few grains of cocoa powder on top.
Freeze well-wrapped. Unmold before service; garnish with a circle of beautiful raspberries along the edge.
Serve semi-frozen

Sunday, April 3, 2011



Donate URGENTLY needed supplies (NEW ONLY PLEASE and STICK TO THIS LIST): Diapers, Liquid Formula, First Aid Supplies, Flashlights, Tarps, Portable Radios, Batteries, Waterproof Ponchos, Toilet Paper, Toothbrushes, Toothpaste, Soap, Tampons, Sanitary Pads

At Westchester Reform Temple - COLLECTION UNTIL April 11.

Call Donna Divon at 914.761.5100, re. volunteering.