Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sweet Seder: Chocolate Passover Torte

Growing up very Southern and very Catholic, my only experience of Passover was the biblical story told every year during "Passover Sunday" mass--fleeing Egypt, no time for the bread to rise, forty years in the desert.  Now that my circles are wider, and I have some Jewish friends, I've had the privilege of a much broader experience of Passover. 

This was especially true when, a few years ago, my friends Elizabeth and Dennis invited me to Passover Seder.  I learned a lot, I ate a lot, and (thanks in part to the chocolate torte I brought) I've been fortunate enough to be invited back.  Mazel tov!

So, baking for Passover is tricky.  First, there's the no flour rule.  No wheat flour, no rice flour, no corn starch, no nothing of the kind.  Second, since the meal is often one that is meat-based, there's the no dairy rule.  Fortunately, my good friends at Epicurious.com were not deterred...

Passover Chocolate Torte with Raspberry Sauce

8 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted kosher-for-Passover pareve (non-dairy) margarine
8 large egg yolks
1 cup plus 1/3 cup sugar
5 large egg whites
Paper doily
Fresh raspberries (optional)
Raspberry Sauce

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line bottom of 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides with parchment paper. Stir chocolate and margarine in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until melted and smooth. Remove from heat. Cool until lukewarm.

Using electric mixer, beat yolks and 3/4 cup sugar in large bowl until pale and very thick, about 4 minutes. Add chocolate mixture in 2 additions and beat until well blended. Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in another large bowl until foamy. Gradually add 1/4 cup sugar and beat until whites are stiff but not dry. Fold 1/3 of whites into chocolate mixture. Fold in remaining whites in 2 additions. Transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake torte until crust forms on top and tester inserted into center comes out with some moist batter and some moist crumbs still attached, about 55 minutes (top may crack). Run small sharp knife around torte to loosen. Cool in pan on rack (torte will fall and crack). Remove pan sides. Invert torte onto platter. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome and store at room temperature.)

Grind 1/3 cup sugar in blender until fine powder forms. Place doily atop torte. Sift ground sugar over doily; gently remove doily. Garnish torte with raspberries, if desired. Serve with Raspberry Sauce.

Raspberry Sauce
2 12-ounce packages frozen unsweetened raspberries, thawed, with juices
1 cup sugar

Purée raspberries with juices and sugar in processor until smooth. Transfer mixture to strainer set over bowl; press on solids to extract as much liquid as possible; discard solids in strainer. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Literate Baker notes:  You can save yourself a bowl, a beater, and a whole lot of trouble by whipping the egg yolks and whites with the full cup of sugar until thick and pale yellow.  You'll still get a really nice rise.  Also, the ground sugar is a pretty decent substitute for confectioner's sugar, but I like the crackly top and don't think it's necessary.

In addition to being Passover-friendly, this recipe is a great choice if you need a gluten and/or dairy-free dessert.  It is reminiscent of chocolate souffle and always a crowd pleaser.  I mean, it's no matzoh ball soup, but it will definitely...

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Hey... Granola Is Baked!

A couple of weeks ago, I had a baking day with my friend, Lorna.  Although there was snow on the ground, our thoughts were of spring.  We played with berries and with rhubarb; the resulting cake and pie were lovely and bright.  We also dabbled in granola.

I know it isn't hard, but I've never made it.  Lorna, my uber awesome, uber healthy friend, has made it lots of times.  I brought the wheat germ and got jiggy with it.  (Yes, I'm sure that Will Smith never intended that phrase to be applied to wheat germ.  He's not here, though, is he?)

So, according to Lorna's recipe from the More With Less cookbook, here's what you do:

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Combine in large mixing bowl:
2 c. whole wheat flour
6 c. rolled oats
1 c. coconut
1 c. wheat germ

Blend together separately:
1/2 c. water
1 c. oil
1 c. honey
2 t. vanilla
1 T salt

Add blended liquids to dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Spread out on 2
greased cookie sheets and bake 1 hour, or until dry and golden.  Store in
covered containers.  Makes 2.5-3 quarts.


The beauty of granola is that you can add any combination of things you like and things you have around.  I got pumpkin seeds because I don't think they appear in enough things; there were walnuts in my freezer.  Lorna had a plethora of dried cranberries; I had currants left over from my Irish soda bread adventure.  I also managed to use up some fairly crystallized basil honey and the dregs of a honey bear.  You only need to remember exactly what you did if you want to make it exactly the same the next time.  And who wants to do that?

In theory, I eat it 1/4 cup at a time with yogurt.  In reality, I eat it by the handful every time I walk through the kitchen.  Or have a bored moment at my desk.  (My share of the batch still managed to fill two containers.)

That said, there are worse things to eat by the handful.  You should give it a try; it's the whole-grain way to...

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Light & Lazy: A New Take on Cheesecake

I've mentioned before that I love cheese.  I love cheese almost as much as I love chocolate.  Almost.  Incorporating cheese into dessert is like the best of both worlds.

Cheesecake is perhaps the quintessential example of what happens when cheese goes sweet.  Cheesecake is also the quintessential uber fattening dessert.  Brick after brick of cream cheese, eggs, sugar, butter--it's serious business.  It's also hard to justify making one for no good reason.  So what is a cheese-loving girl to do?

Well, it isn't technically baking, but the Literate Baker has a super fast, super easy dish that's a whole lot lighter than the original.  I'll call is a cream cheese fluff.  Yeah.  Fluff.

8 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 8-ounce tub light whipped topping

Beat the cream cheese and sugar until light and smooth.  Add the extracts and beat some more.  Add about 1 cup of the whipped topping and stir to combine.  Fold in the remaining remaining topping.

The concoction could be spread in a graham crack crust.  Or eaten with a spoon.  Or, you could do what I do--serve it like a dip with some graham crackers and fruit.

So, it isn't healthy, but it sort of looks it, no?  It's relatively light.  It delivers that tangy delightfullness that one looks for in any cream cheese treat.  It can also be made in about four minutes.  Can't beat that for a quick and easy way to...

Keep it sweet.
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