NEW YORK (Jul. 7)
To express joy at Rosh Hashanah, people usually serve their finest food. Traditionally, the menu revolves around turkey, brisket and veal.
But people in kosher households can feel stress when they contemplate ending the meal with equal flourish. Without butter or cream, is it possible to create dazzling desserts?
In an attempt to have luscious cakes and meat dishes too, many kosher bakers substitute ingredients, often with disappointing results.
“The stuff never tastes right,” says caterer and recipe developer Lynn Kutner, disparaging the use of margarine and artificial creams. The author of “A Pocketful of Pies and Bountiful Bread,” she proves that pareve cakes can be sensational. Her secret: natural ingredients.
“I don’t believe in phony baloney,” says Kutner, claiming that the substitutions people pour into pareve cakes to fabricate dairy desserts contribute to the reputation that kosher baking is inferior, which it isn’t.
Kutner learned to cook from her Russian grandmother, who knew nothing about non-dairy creams or processed foods. She embraced kashrut with love, finding inspiration in its tenets.
“My grandmother was such a fabulous cook, in a way that this generation has lost,” says Kutner. “It would have been bizarre for her to use fake cream, because cream doesn’t belong with meat. It’s almost like trying to fool God.”
A teacher of Jewish cooking and baking at The New School’s Culinary Arts program in Manhattan, Kutner tells students that if a recipe calls for cream, save that dish for dairy meals. If a recipe calls for butter, don’t replace it with margarine, a fat made of refined vegetable oils processed to imitate the consistency of butter.
“The problem with cakes made from margarine and fake cream is that they taste dense and heavy,” says Kutner, laughing because she’s noticed how kids steer clear of them.
Instead of margarine, Kutner’s shortening of choice is sunflower oil. During her frequent travels to France, where patisseries are renowned, she discovered that the French favor sunflower oil in baking.
Lamenting that sunflower oil is expensive and sometimes hard to find in America, Kutner also recommends corn, vegetable or soybean oils instead. Peanut oil is fine, if people don’t mind its nutty taste.
Kutner discourages using canola oil in baking, because Canadian farmers fertilize canola with fishmeal, which imparts a fishy odor. She avoids cottonseed oil, too. Grown as a fiber crop, cotton is sprayed with pesticides that are not treated when the seeds are culled for food.
As a healthy alternative, she offers an apple cake that was an invention of her Grandma Fanny’s. Instead of worrying about what foods kashrut forbid, her grandmother focused on the world of possibilities it offered. She infused this cake with frozen orange juice concentrate.
“You sense such strong flavor, you think it’s loaded with butter,” says Kutner, who learned to invent recipes too.
Moistened by coffee instead of milk, her honey chiffon spice cake floats off the fork. Devilishly delicious, her chocolate-nut-spice torte is made from matzah meal and is perfect at Passover too. For bittersweet flavor, Kutner recommends Elite chocolate, a kosher-for-Passover product from Israel with a heavy cocoa butter content.
Her recipes require separating eggs and saving some of the sugar for beating into egg whites, which gives them stability.
“When you throw the entire amount of sugar into the yolks, they become heavy,” says Kutner, explaining why some pareve cakes rise poorly.
Reminiscing about helping her grandmother prepare for the High Holidays, Kutner recalls getting off the bus in Brooklyn a block from her house and smelling irresistible aroma from the oven.
Today when she teaches, Kutner always imparts her grandmother’s advice: “Never try to trick kashrut. A good kosher cake can compete with the best baking in the world.”
GRANDMA FANNY’S APPLE CAKE
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, sifted
3 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
3 extra large eggs, separated
1/2 cup orange juice concentrate
1/2 cup oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1 3/4 pounds apples (about 2-3).
1/3 cup sugar mixed with 2 tsp. cinnamon
1. Setting rack in middle position, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with vegetable shortening, placing it on a cookie sheet.
3. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt. Reserve.
4. Beat three quarters cup of sugar into yolks. Beat in juice, oil and vanilla. Reserve.
5. Peel, core and slice apples. Sprinkle with one tsp. of cinnamon sugar.
6. In a large bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Continue beating while adding one-quarter cup of sugar, until very stiff.
7. Stir flour mixture into juice mixture. Fold in one-quarter of the egg whites.
8. Turn this batter into remaining egg whites, folding quickly but gently.
9. Add one-third of batter to springform pan. Spread on one-third of apple slices. Sprinkle with one-third of cinnamon sugar. Continue layering.
10. Bake about 55-65 minutes. Lightly cover pan with foil after 30 minutes. Cool in pan.
HONEY CHIFFON SPICE CAKE
7 extra large eggs, separated
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup hot coffee
Three quarters cup packed dark brown sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Beat egg yolks with honey. Slowly beat in coffee, followed by brown sugar. Cool.
3. Mix flour, baking powder, soda, salt and spices.
4. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, beating until whites are very stiff.
5. Make a well in flour mixture. Pour in egg yolk mixture and oil. Blend with a whisk until smooth.
6. Fold in one quarter of egg whites. Then turn this batter over rest of the egg whites. Gently fold for 45-60 seconds.
7. Turn into an ungreased 10-inch angel cake pan. Place pan on a cookie sheet.
8. Bake at 325 degrees for 50 minutes. Turn heat to 350 degrees, baking 10 minutes more. Invert pan and hang on glass bottle to cool.
(Can be made a couple days ahead of serving)
5 ounces semisweet chocolate
1 1/4 cup walnuts
??? cup matzah meal
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. allspice
Dash of salt
2 large Maclntosh apples
2 Tbsp. apple juice
6 extra large eggs, separated into large bowls
1 1/4 cups sugar
Icing: 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, 1 Tbsp. oil and 4 Tbsp. strong coffee.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Set an ungreased 9-inch springform on a cookie sheet.
3. Grind chocolate in food processor with steel blade. Transfer to a bowl. Grind nuts, adding to chocolate.
4. Mix meal, spices and salt into chocolate mixture.
5. Peel and core apples, cutting into chunks. Process with apple juice until “grated.”
6. Add apples to egg yolks. Add one cup sugar, blending well. Reserve.
7. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining sugar, beating until very stiff.
8. Stir chocolate mixture into apple mixture.
9. Fold in one quarter of the whites. Turn this batter into egg whites, folding quickly but gently (45-60 seconds).
10. Turn batter into springform, baking 45-60 minutes, until cake feels springy.
11. Cool completely on rack. Cover pan and refrigerate until serving day.
12. Run sharp knife around edge of cake. Remove ring.
13. For icing: In double boiler, melt chocolate with oil. Beat in coffee. (Chocolate looks thin, but keep beating until it comes back.) Pour over cake, letting it drip down the sides. Refrigerate to harden chocolate, but serve at room temperature.