Barton's Almond Kisses

Exhibit Opened! “Semi[te] Sweet: On Jews and Chocolate”


A tin of Barton’s Almond Kisses. A stretchy yellow pouch of Elite Gelt. Imagine the intersection of Jewish life and chocolate, and those are the markers that likely come to mind. Less likely, but no less pivotal is the liquid delicacy that Inquisition-era Sephardi Jews introduced to France. The exhibit “Semi[te] Sweet: On Jews and Chocolate” features tantalizing historical and contemporary archival materials, decorative arts and bibliographic materials that celebrate these contributions of Jews to the business of chocolate.

Bernard Museum Curator, Warren Klein, notes: “Highlights of the exhibited objects include: Albert Einstein’s childhood chocolate cup; business documents of Newport, Rhode Island chocolate trader, Aaron Lopez; and, a 19th century history of Bayonne, France, which identifies Sephardi Jews as the first chocolate makers in France.”

Chocolate migrated with Sephardi Jews in the early days of European contact with the New World food. As Spanish and Portuguese Jews sought refuge from the broad-reaching perils of the Inquisition, some packed with them new chocolate tastes, techniques, and opportunities, thereby supplying and extending chocolate to larger markets.

I was surprised, when researching my book, On the Chocolate Trail (2nd Edition, Jewish Lights, 2017), that Jews have had an appetite for chocolate, from generation to generation. These turn out to be stories of resilience and resourcefulness.This first-ever exhibition about Jews and chocolate is based on the best-selling book.

Later, twentieth century Jewish emigrants transferred their businesses for eating chocolate from one location to another. The background of Israel’s Elite Chocolate and the iconic chocolate company, Barton’s Bonbonniere, is also featured. Jews have had an appetite for chocolate from generation to generation.

The exhibit runs through February 25, 2018. Free admission; groups tours may be arranged by calling (212) 744-1400, ext. 313.
The Herbert & Eileen Bernard Museum of Judaica
Temple Emanu-El
One East 65th Street
New York, NY 10065
October 23, 2017 – February 25, 2018

Exhibit Souvenirs

Nazi Chocolate: Oy


The recent resurgence of public Nazi presence reminds me of some Nazi chocolate history. I discuss this more fully in my book.

European Jewish businesses, including a number of Jewish chocolate enterprises, were forced to shut down during World War II. Stephen Klein fled Vienna the day after the 1938 Nazi march into Austria known as the Anschluss.

In Vienna, Klein had owned one of the city’s largest commercial suppliers of chocolate. A Nazi competitor marched into Klein’s offices and seized ownership of Klein’s company the day after the Anschluss. To escape likely arrest, Klein hurriedly left his two children and pregnant wife behind, spending five months in Belgium before arriving in the United States. In New York, he started selling European chocolate from pushcarts, eventually developing what became the very popular Barton’s Bonbonniere.
Barton’s in turn assisted other World War II refugees seeking to immigrate to America. Memorabilia from the company will be displayed at the Herbert and Eileen Bernard Museum from October 20, 2017–February 25, 2018 at Temple Emanu-El, NYC the first ever exhibit about Jews and chocolate.

Nestle’s chocolate subsidiary, Maggi, employed thousands of war prisoners and Jewish slave laborers in its factory in Germany near the Swiss border. As recently as 1997, it refused to open its Nazi-era records. Nazis also used chocolate bars to lure Jews onto cattle car trains to concentration camps. They used chocolate to poison Allied officers. German saboteurs designed a chocolate-covered, sleek, steel bomb intended to explode seven seconds after breaking off a piece of the bar.

Perhaps it is not surprising then that a hideaway of former Nazis, Bariloche, Argentina, is known as the chocolate center of Argentina. One of the main streets is Mitre Avenue is known as the Avenue of Chocolate Dreams. Visitors learn more at Havanna Museo del Chocolate. Bariloche’s annual chocolate festival features an 8 meter high Easter egg. Germans settled there at the end of the 19th century. By the 1930s it already had the look of of an alpine town and came to be called “Little Switzerland.” By the 1990s attention centered on hidden Nazis, including SS Hauptsturmfürer Erich Priebke.

If these stories leave a bad taste in your mouth, as they do mine, I suggest that in addition to supporting organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, reach for some quality chocolate.

Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz speaks about chocolate and Jews around the world. Her book, On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao, (2nd Edition, Jewish Lights, 2017) makes a great gift, especially bundled with chocolate. She is co-curator of the exhibit, “On Jews and Chocolate,” October 20, 2017 – February 24, 2018 for Congregation Emanu-El of New York’s Herbert and Eileen Bernard Museum, NYC. (Free admission and group tours)

Simple chocolate babka-kokosh for summer


Chocolate kokosh, a simple version of babka, bakes quickly and tastes delicious. Unlike babka, it does not need time to rise.

Hungarian Jewish roots for kokosh would probably involve poppy seeds, as Gil Marks notes in his Encyclopedia of Jewish Food. Someone suggested to me just throwing some poppy seeds into the chocolate mix; let me know if that works for you.

Kokosh from the Freezer

Frimet Goldberger, aka The Babka Lady, reminisced about the easier and faster kokosh of her mother’s baking. It was “the cake my siblings and I would covertly nibble at from my mother’s hidden stash of delicacies in the basement freezer.” In her childhood, the kokosh was always chocolate. It was “perfect for dunking in cold milk,” she said in a phone conversation. Now she makes and ships her chocolate or cream cheese kokosh out of her own home kitchen.

A video of prepping chocolate kokosh at the babka haven, Oneg Heimishe Bakery may be found here. During the summer, they relocate to Monticello, NY, from Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Enjoy this easy to bake treat in your own summer or winter home.

Chocolate Kokosh (aka Simple Babka)

Ingredients:
DOUGH:
1 packet (2 ¼ teaspoons) instant dry yeast or active dry yeast
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
¼ cup warm water, about 110-115º
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
⅓ cup orange or lemon juice (optional lemon zest)
1 ½ sticks (6 oz.) butter, softened
3 cups packed all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
canola or vegetable oil, or butter for spreading
1 egg mixed with 1 teaspoon sugar, for brushing

FILLING:
1 stick butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 cup cocoa powder
2 ¼ cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch salt
3 egg whites
optional chocolate chips

Instructions:
DOUGH:
In the bowl of your mixer with paddle attachment, mix yeast with teaspoon of sugar. Pour warm water on top and let mixture foam for 5-10 minutes. Combine the dough ingredients and add yeast. Knead on medium speed for a couple of minutes. Or beat briefly and then knead by hand. If dough is too sticky, add a bit more flour.

FILLING:
In a medium bowl, mix cocoa powder with melted butter. Add in rest of filling ingredients and stir until combined and mostly smooth.
ASSEMBLY:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Flour the work surface and rolling pin. Divide dough into 2-4 balls, depending on number of logs desired. Roll out first piece of dough into rectangle about 1/8 inch thickness. Spread a light coating of oil or melted butter on top of dough. Then, spread a layer of chocolate filling over dough, leaving about an inch of dough bare on all the edges. Roll up dough from shorter side, flattening the dough slightly between each roll. Brush top of log generously with the beaten egg and sugar mix. Repeat process with rest of dough. Lay seam down onto the prepped pan and prick with fork along the top. Experiment with the layering; one calzone type roll works as well. Bake for about 30-35 minutes (depending on size of loaf) or until tops and bottoms are a deep golden brown. Depending on the oven, rotate the pan midway. Serve warm or room temperature.

Suggestion: The filling also could be baked into a delicious gluten free cookie. Drop teaspoonfuls onto prepared cookie pan and bake 8-10 minutes.

Quantity: 2-4  loaves

Modified from: Truffles and Trends and Food52

Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz lectures about chocolate and religions around the world. The second edition of her book, “On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao” is scheduled for fall of 2017. She co-curates an exhibit about “Jews on the Chocolate Trail” for Temple Emanu-El’s Herbert and Eileen Bernard Museum, New York City. It opens October 20, 2017 and continues through February 25, 2018. Free admission and tours.

Cross posted from the Jewish Week: Wine and Food

Hunting Jewish Chocolate Trail Objects


Courtesy of the Leo Baeck Institute

I am loving these Jewish chocolate objects as we research this fall’s Jews on the Chocolate Trail exhibit at the Herbert & Eileen Bernard Museum of Judaica – Temple Emanu-El, 
1 East 65th Street, New York, New York. This precious chocolate cup bears Albert Einstein’s image as a child. The set was fabricated for Albert and his sister Maya not long after her birth in the early 1880’s when the family lived in Munich. We could speculate about ties between hot chocolate drinking and genius.

This mid-century style ceiling lamp graced six of the Barton’s Bonbonniere chain stores designed by Victor Gruen. The shops were to be “toyshops for adults.” Attention to design permeated the stores as well as the packaging of this important Jewish company.

The history of Jews and chocolate builds on the Colonial period experience of Sephardim in the trade, manufacture, retail and consumption of chocolate in America. This advertisement highlights one of those, Rebecca Gomez and her chocolate manufactory. She was the only woman making chocolate at this period.

You are invited to engage your senses as you partake in an expedition into the Jewish stories of chocolate through decorative arts and historical documents at the exhibit which opens on October 20, 2017 and runs until February 24, 2018. The New World product of chocolate blazed a new world of commerce, appetite, and opportunity for Jewish refugees. Explore the surprising Jewish connections to chocolate, l’dor va dor, from generation to generation. Please feel free to be in touch if you know of other great items that connect Jews and chocolate.

Chocolate Covered Charoset Truffles: Passover


Charoset truffles

This treat combines chocolate with a Sephardi version of charoset, the Passover fruit concoction representing the building of granaries by the Hebrew slaves. Use this charoset recipe for your Seder and save the leftovers for your truffles. Or, make enough charoset to plan for these truffles as a Seder dessert. Either way, they are unusual and delicious.

By the way stories about the Sephardi role in spreading chocolate in the world as well as contemporary and historical recipes, may be found in On the Chocolate Trail (Jewish Lights).

Makes 24 truffles

3 pounds high-quality dark or bittersweet chocolate, preferably fair trade, broken into pieces
¼ cup pistachios
¼ cup pecans
1/8 cup almonds
1/8 cup pine nuts
½ tart apple
¼ navel orange, with rind
A few drops of sweet white wine
A few drops of honey
Pinch of fresh or ground ginger (or to taste)
Pinch of ground cinnamon (or to taste)

1) Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or waxed paper. Grind the nuts, apples and orange separately in a food processor. The nuts should be as close to a powder as possible without becoming “butter.”

2) Combine the nuts, apple, orange, wine, honey, ginger, and cinnamon in a bowl, mixing well. The charoset filling should have a smooth, thick texture.

3) Roll the charoset into one inch balls. Melt the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water; remove from the heat. Using two forks, dip the balls into the melted chocolate and place on the prepared baking sheet; refrigerate until the chocolate has set.

Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz speaks about chocolate and Jews around the world. Her book, “On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao,” was published in 2013 by Jewish Lights and is in its third printing. The book is used in adult study, classroom settings, book clubs and chocolate tastings. She is Co-Curator for the Temple Emanu-El Bernard Museum exhibit of “Jews on the Chocolate Trail” to be mounted in the fall of 2017.

This is cross posted from The Forward

Rabbi Diaries: Chocolate Drinking in Eighteenth Century


IMG_3712The diary of Rabbi Haim Yosef David Azulai (known as the HIDA who lived from 1724– 1806) may be the first document to identify the personal chocolate use of a rabbi. Azulai mentions chocolate at least ten times and reports widespread chocolate drinking among the Jews of Europe.

Selected to be a messenger from Israel to European Jewish communities due to his erudition, the HIDA, of Sephardi descent, was born and educated in Jerusalem . He published over 60 works of Jewish law and prayer, plus his travel diaries. Some consider him to be the greatest Sephardi scholar since Joseph Karo, author of the authoritative Jewish code known as the Shulchan Aruch. During his travels he drank chocolate, ate chocolate, and was gifted chocolate. On a very mountainous journey in a snow storm from Cuneo, Italy, to Nice, France, he confessed that he had become so ravenous that he “had some raw chocolate and I ate about a litre.” That was unusual then since chocolate was primarily a beverage and not produced as an edible. In Amsterdam the HIDA celebrated a bris with chocolate and sweets in 1777. After services in Montpellier, France, he drank chocolate with the synagogue’s main benefactor and other members. His hosts entertained him with chocolate in Italy, France and the Netherlands. Here are his chocolate diary entries:

5516/1755 25 Teveth from Nice to Cuneo.  Over snowy mountains, very hard trip…“ Mercifuly I had some raw chocolate and I ate but a litre…”

5534/1774, Iyar 20, just before Shavuot, Livorno, Italy. “And they brought me gifts: S. Leon, coffee and chocolate.”

5537/1776 Shevat 21, Trieste, Italy. Meeting with leaders of the council. “But the first and prime force in everything was S. Marco who sent me a large vessel full of coffee and chocolate … ”

5537/1776 Montpellier, France. Thursday. “I went to the synagogue established by the deceased Melinde and his widow supports the synagogue. They conduct themselves according to the rites of the Four Congregations [Carpentras, Avignon, Lisle and Cavaillon]. After prayers I drank chocolate with the said widow together with some of the Yehidim.”

5538/Heshvan 16 1778, France. “Later I went to drink chocolate with S. Samuel Astruc; then I went to dine at the home of … ”

5538/Kislev New Moon 1777, Sunday, Vayetse. “ … in the morning I drank chocolate at the home of S. Judah and Haim bar-Mordecai who are called by the name of Lange.” 

5538/Teveth 6 5538 1777, Monday. “I drank chocolate with Solomon Ravel.”

5538/1777-8 Teveth 27, Amsterdam. “The eve of Monday; we found in the village of Dragehave a Jewish householder living there with his family. On each holy Sabbath a minyan came there to pray and they had a Sefer Torah. We stayed there some three hours and they regaled us with chocolate and other delicacies.”

5538/1777-8 Amsterdam, Adar 27. “Thursday I went to visit some gentiles with S. ibn Dana: Britano, Pibelsman, Carlo Vernandi. They did me much honor, especially Pibelsman who gave me two pounds of home-made chocolate.”

5538/1777-8 Amsterdam Iyar 6. “Next morning, an hour before mid-day, I went to the circumcision [of the son of S. Moses ben Isaac Israel Soasso] where I found all the Parnessim, his friends. They made me stay for the meal which consisted of    and various sweetmeats. I did not wash hands for eating the bread but only ate some sweetmeats and chocolate.” 

The  European Jewish communities of the mid-eighteenth century enjoyed their chocolate, especially when entertaining a scholar and emissary from the Holy Land. Azulai was fortunate to have been sustained and warmed by that hospitable chocolate in his arduous travels and meetings. His hosts modeled a delicious welcome for rabbis.

Hida photo

Recipe: Salted S’mores Truffles


Ingredients:

1 pack graham crackers
1 cup of mini chocolate chips
1/2 tsp of salt
1 1/2 cups of marshmallow fluff
4 chocolate bars for melting
Sea salt to top with

Directions:

Empty crushed graham crackers into bowl. 

Add mini chocolate chips, marshmallow fluff, and salt. 

Mix well. 

Roll small hand-fulls into balls. 

Place the truffles onto wax paper and place in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Break the chocolate bars into small pieces and microwave in a non-metal bowl for 1 minute. 

Dip the truffles into the melted chocolate, making sure the whole truffle is covered.

Top the truffles with sea salt and cool. 

Enjoy!

Recipe from Buzzfeed Tasty.

Recipe: Chocolate and raspberry swirl cookies


Having been married for more than two decades, I realize many factors contribute to the longevity of my marriage. Perhaps the most important is how my husband and I blend.

People often ask how we’ve done it, as if there is a secret. But there really is no secret. Just like the pairing of raspberry and chocolate, my husband and I are together despite our differences. We know how to compromise and work together, which we actually do most of the time.

Love is not “never having to say you’re sorry.” Chocolate is temperamental, so if you add the wrong amount of moisture from, say, fresh raspberries, you will have something to apologize about. But you get another chance. As in longtime relationships, you learn and grow.

Better together than apart

I love offering up treats that focus the partnership of raspberries and dark chocolate because of the magical synergy that makes them better together than individually.

In the past, dark chocolate was relegated to the lowest shelves in grocery stores. Over the last two decades, though, it has become very au courant. I would like to say that the only reason I give myself permission to eat dark chocolate is because of possible health benefits. But in truth, I like the taste. I find its bitterness to be complex and appealing.

What makes dark chocolate dark?

Dark is only defined relative to all other chocolates. It’s darker in comparison with milk or sweet chocolate candy bars. It has a higher percentage of cocoa, less milk fat and less sugar. The higher the cocoa percentage, the deeper and more intense the chocolate flavor. My favorite for baking and cooking is around 72%.

When choosing your dark chocolate, like choosing a mate, there are two more issues to consider: Where it was born and where (and how) it was processed. Dark chocolate is often labeled with the place of origin, the cocoa percentages and where it was processed. Climate and soil give chocolate its inherent nature, and that’s part of its heritage. The style of preparation is also key. To many, Switzerland's chocolate production is the gold standard. In my book, it’s equaled or even bettered by Belgian chocolate.

Equal partners

Lest you think that chocolate is the alpha dog of this relationship, raspberries are an equal partner. They are more than just juicy and lovely to behold. They are rich in cancer-fighting compounds and vitamin C, and full of fiber. They taste sweet — with a uniquely tart undertone and a deep complexity. Just like chocolate. Raspberries aren’t mild-manned, singular sweetness, like the ever-affable strawberry or cherry. They are an assertive flavor in their own right.

Like any paramour partnership, each ingredient brings something unique and yet retains its distinctive character even as it blends with the other ingredients. Raspberries are juicy, but chocolate is silky. Both have a little sexy undertone that makes them interesting. Together they make a wondrous bite.

May they live happily ever after.

Chocolate and Raspberry Swirl Cookies

These charming swirl cookies, tucked, wrapped and snuggled like the spiral of a snail or a conch shell, are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The dough is oh-so-gently sweet, and the filling bursts with both the tartness of raspberry and a cacophony of rich chocolates. Like a good relationship, they contrast but support each other and together they create an enticing synergy. These cookies have one more touch of meaning: I developed them for my fantasy meal for Rashida Jones, an actress and writer I admire greatly. She is the co-author, co-producer and star of one of my favorite sad but sweetly tender and real films — “Celeste and Jesse Forever.” I wanted to make a cookie that hinted at the Jewish facet of her identity, so these cookies are a bit rugelach-ish. These are simply a joy to eat and fun to make.

Yield: About 28 to 30 cookies

Prep and baking time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Ingredients

1/2 cup (116 grams/4 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature

1 1/2 sticks (¾ cup/170 grams/6 ounces/12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup (54 grams) dark brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon (1.5 grams) salt

1 egg

1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste (see Notes)

1 3/4 cups (228 grams) unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

2/3 cup seedless raspberry jam

6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, very finely chopped

3 ounces milk chocolate, very finely chopped

1 large egg yolk

2 teaspoons water

1/4 cup brown turbinado sugar

1/2 teaspoon any large-crystal salt

Directions

1. Prepare the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or if you are using a hand-held mixer, in a large mixing bowl), combine the cream cheese and butter and mix until completely blended. Add the brown sugar and salt, and mix for 3 to 4 minutes, until light and fluffy.

2. Add the egg and mix well. Add the vanilla bean paste and mix well. Add the flour and mix just until fully combined. Prepare a large piece of plastic wrap and scrape the mixture onto it, wrap, shape into a rough square or rectangle and seal well. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until fully chilled.

3. Wet a work surface with a few drops of water or a swipe of a wet paper towel. Quickly place a large piece (11 x 14 inches or larger) of parchment paper on top. It should stick. Dust the parchment paper very lightly with flour. Roll a rolling pin in the flour to coat it lightly. Place half of the dough on the floured parchment and roll it into a 6-by-9-inch rectangle that is 1/8 to 1/16 inch thick.

4. Using a pastry brush, coat the rectangle with raspberry jam, leaving a 1/2-inch border bare around the edges. Sprinkle the chocolates over the raspberry jam, distributing the pieces evenly. Position the parchment and dough so that the short side of the parchment is in front of you. Using the parchment, lift the short side of the dough up and over the filling, covering it by about 1/2 inch. Continue rolling to make a cylinder, rolling as tightly as you can. Place the roll on a large piece of plastic wrap and wrap well. Repeat with the second piece of dough. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until fully chilled.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats and set aside.

6. Remove the rolled dough from the plastic wrap and, with a very sharp, long knife, cut it crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide slices. Place the cookies onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between the cookies.

7. Prepare an egg wash by beating the egg yolk and water gently in a small bowl. Using a pastry brush, liberally brush the egg wash over the cookies, making sure to cover both the dough and filling. Sprinkle with the sugar and salt and bake (both sheets at once) for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool completely on the baking sheets before removing them, as the raspberry jelly will be very hot. They will crisp as they cool off.

Notes:

1. Vanilla bean paste is a form of vanilla flavoring that is made from vanilla extract and vanilla bean powder (sometimes it’s what’s left over from producing the extract and sometimes fresh vanilla bean seeds), mixed with a binder such as sugar syrup, corn syrup or, in commercial preparations, xanthan gum. It has the consistency of a paste and an intense, distinctly vanilla flavor. It’s available in well-stocked markets and online, but if you can’t find it, use pure vanilla extract.

2. Turbinado sugar is a minimally processed, minimally refined sweetener made from cane sugar. Brown in color, it is often confused with brown sugar. Turbinado sugar, however, has a higher moisture content, which will make a difference in baking, so it’s best to use the sugar that is called for in the recipe unless you are skilled enough to reduce another liquid in the ingredient list. With its large crystals, it’s great for sugar toppings on cookies and other baked goods. Like demerara sugar, it is made by drying the juice of the sugar cane and then spinning it in a centrifuge to purify it. Store in a cool, dry place.

The Chocolate Girl creates kosher holiday treats


Driving past The Chocolate Girl, a small storefront shop in the multicultural Mid-City area of Pico Boulevard, one might assume it has an ethnic flavor of some sort, and it does. Located in a spot that previously housed a massage parlor only leads a passer-by to wonder what exotic wares the pink window-shaded location now holds.

The mystery was solved by a visit one morning, first by smell — the aroma of rich dark chocolate filling the air, then by sight, as a woman carefully poured the molten brown liquid into a mold shaped like a Chanukah menorah. The Chocolate Girl is a temperature-controlled chocolate factory and showroom, complete with a short, moving production line that during a recent visit was coating pretzels with chocolate, which a worker then hand-decorated with blue sprinkles as they moved along.

“I told them, this week everything has to be blue,” said Tziporah Avigayil Vojdany, the owner of The Chocolate Girl, who estimates that she produces 2,000 chocolate- and sprinkle-covered pretzels each day. On that morning, Vojdany also was supervising another candy-maker in the production of marbled chocolate menorahs (white and dark chocolate) that, like all of her creations, are certified kosher and pareve pas yisroel.

Located nearly three miles from the apex of Pico-Robertson’s other kosher businesses, Vojdany, formerly of Brooklyn, had first rented a space in the Hancock Park area, and then moved her growing wholesale business to its new location in February of this year. 

In addition to the menorah, which takes two hands to hold and comes with removable chocolate dreidels instead of actual candles, Vojdany’s repertoire also includes chocolate novelties for other Jewish holidays, including masks on a stick, clowns and chocolate-dipped hamantashen for Purim, and a chocolate shofar for Rosh Hashanah. She makes lollipops decorated with “Happy Chanukah,” too.

“I also make chocolate tefillin” (an edible but not wearable treat, unless you get it on your clothes) that is hand-molded, with the Hebrew letter shin, “piped on,” said the chocolatier, who describes herself as Orthodox. 

Vojdany is a graduate of Brooklyn College with a bachelor’s degree in art, and she has been known to dip marshmallows in white chocolate and then hang strings from the packaging to make the confection look like tzitzit.

Made with high-end Belgian chocolate and without any dairy products, Vojdany’s chocolates can be purchased at various kosher locations throughout L.A., including Western Kosher, La Brea Kosher Market and Ariel Glatt Kosher Market, as well as at Munchies. Vojdany also sells retail online, and she has found a market niche in custom orders for britot milah and baby-namings, weddings and b’nai mitzvahs.

Looking to satisfy tastes for chocolate beyond the Jewish market, as well as within, she recently took orders for chocolate turkeys for Thanksgiving, and she also produces some items for Christmas and Halloween, as well as for Valentine’s Day, always maintaining kosher hechshers from both Star-K and Rabbi Avner Katz.

The factory’s neighbors on Pico Boulevard have been “very welcoming,” Vojdany said, and she “doesn’t want to disappoint them,” so she occasionally sells from the showroom. One neighbor has dropped in repeatedly to buy her chocolate frogs, and others have rung her bell for Valentine’s Day hearts and roses. 

“Valentine’s Day this year fell on a Shabbat. We can’t be open on a Saturday, so we worked up until about an hour before Shabbos, locked up and ran home,” she said.

Vojdany previously ran a retail chocolate shop in the hip and gentrified neighborhood of Park Slope in Brooklyn, and she trained with Michael Rogak, a third-generation chocolatier at JoMart Chocolates in Brooklyn, which has been in business since 1946. “He is my chocolate mentor,” said Vojdany, who still calls him for advice.

Vojdany was divorced and a single mother of two girls when she opened The Chocolate Girl in Brooklyn, in 2007, but she had to close her shop not long after because of the recession. She took a year off, then reopened in a new location in New York that was wholesale only, and along the way, reconnected with a previous wholesale customer, Yehuda Vojdany, owner of Munchies, the popular candy emporium and ice cream parlor in the Pico-Robertson area of L.A. The rest is a “sweet story” as she says, as the two have since married.

Vojdany said her “kids have grown up in chocolate.” Recently, her 14-year-old daughter entered a contest at her school “to make a menorah out of interesting materials, and she chose to do candy and chocolate, the best of both worlds,” Vojdany said. Her kids also come to the factory from time to time to make their own chocolate-covered pretzels, she added.

For her son’s upfsherin, the ceremony for a Jewish boy’s first haircut, at 3 years old, Vojdany made an entire alphabet of chocolate and mounted the letters on a mirror with his name on it. “After his haircut, all the kids got to pull off a letter, making Torah sweet,” she said.

Is there a difference between L.A. and Brooklyn when it comes to taste in chocolate?

“People like different things here in California,” Vojdany said. “Chocolate-covered orange peels are more popular here than in New York.” Vojdany also found peanut butter s’mores a hard sell here, but she thinks she has California “hooked” on a fluffernutter s’more variation filled with peanut butter and marshmallow fluff. She also sells kosher pareve chocolate chips, which, since Trader Joe’s stopped selling them in 2012, had been hard to find.

“Kosher is really just a perk to the chocolate that I’m making. It really doesn’t define my chocolate,” Vojdany said.

“When people think kosher [chocolate], they think low quality; they think ‘cheap.’ And that’s really just a stereotype,” Vojdany said, noting that some kosher chocolate “tastes really waxy.”

“When people say, ‘Oh, it’s kosher. Oh, it’s pareve. Oh, it must be horrible,’ I say, ‘Taste it!’ When they do, they are surprised,” she said. “I like to think that we are breaking that mold.”

For information on ordering Vojdany’s products, visit The Chocolate Girl.

Raspberry swirl chocolate torte with pecan crust


Passover desserts can really be the worst. Canned macaroons. Dry cake. And while I know many people who love it, super rich flourless chocolate cake is just not my thing. I don’t enjoy how dense it is, even if i love chocolate. And I do love chocolate.

Instead of the traditional, flourless chocolate cake, I wanted to create a chocolate dessert that was a bit lighter, while still remaining rich and chocolaty. The raspberry jam adds a slight tang to the torte, and pecan crust lends a nice crunch. I literally could not stop eating this, and so I gave it to my neighbors to eat instead. Suckers.

Note: After you bake the pecan crust it might look a little funny, like it didn’t work – almost a little too bubbly. I was also worried when I made it, but it is totally fine. I would also recommend topping your torte with fresh raspberries and even a few sprigs of mint for an extra beautiful presentation.

Raspberry swirl chocolate torte with pecan crust

Ingredients

For the crust:

  • ¼ cup margarine or butter
  • ½ cup pecans
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • For the filling:
  • 8 oz dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ½ cup margarine or butter (1 stick)
  • 1 tsp instant espresso
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup strawberry or raspberry jam
  • Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

 

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

To make the crust: melt the ¼ cup margarine or butter in the microwave at 20 second intervals.

Place the pecans, salt and sugar in a food processor fitted with blade attachment and pulse until you have course looking crumbs. Add melted margarine/butter and pulse 1-2 more times.

Press mixture into an 8 or 9 inch springform pan. Bake 7-8 minutes. The crust may look a little funny, bubbly or like it is ruined. But this is totally fine. Set aside.

To make the filling: Place the chocolate chips and margarine in medium saucepan over low heat until smooth. Whisk in cocoa and espresso. Cool 10 minutes.

Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar in large bowl on high speed until thick, about 6 minutes. Fold in chocolate mixture slowly. Then fold in raspberry jam, but don’t mix too much. Pour batter into prepared crust.

Bake torte until dry and cracked on top and tester inserted into center comes out with some moist batter attached, about 35-40 minutes. Cool in pan on rack 1 hour (center will fall).

Using an offset spatula or butter knife, carefully separate torte from sides of pan. Remove outer ring of springform pan.

Dust with powdered sugar if desired or serve with fresh raspberries and mint on top.

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When Israeli brashness goes too far


Israelis don’t exactly have a reputation of being polite. But even in a country known for its rudeness, some things cross the line.

Yesterday an argument over duty-free chocolate prompted nationwide soul-searching on local manners — or lack thereof.

A video making the rounds on Israeli social media shows a woman — followed by her family members — screaming at a flight attendant on Israir Airlines for not selling her chocolate. The passengers hurl insults and swear words at the flight attendant — calling him a “piece of trash,” an “a**hole” and a “son of a whore,” and saying “I couldn’t give a f**k about you.”

One relative chases the flight attendant down the aisle. Another asks, “What, is she an Arab? Sell her chocolate!”

The family issued a half-apology, and the airline isn’t taking any further action. But the video has led Israelis to take a hard look at the country’s famously brusque attitude.

“Let’s do some soul searching and think if we talk to people in this language on a day-to-day basis,” Bat-Chen Hollander wrote Monday in Israel Hayom. “Even if you never acted this way, it’s likely that you’ve seen it with your own eyes and ignored it. A shame.”

The criticism has also come from other corners. Ynet called the passenger “the ugliest Israeli there is.” Israeli news site Walla called the exchange “an embarrassment in the air.”

But American-Israeli Seth Frantzman, who moved here in 2004, posted on Facebook that the incident is part of a “brutish” trend in Israel. “Too much of the country behaves like this on a regular basis and sees nothing wrong with it,” he wrote Sunday.

And because it is, after all, election season, center-left Zionist Union Chairwoman Tzipi Livni tried to score political points off the video.

“The film of the ugly incident in the plane is igniting a correct conversation,” she wrote on Facebook Monday. “Documenting and publishing ugly incidents in the halls of government is called transparency. That’s what I advanced as justice minister.”

But no matter what the video teaches us, one thing we call all agree on is that it’s not Chocolate Bar.

Jewish groups launch fair trade network


A new partnership has launched to enable the purchase of kosher “fair trade” coffee, tea and chocolate while supporting Jewish communal efforts on human trafficking and worker justice.

The Jewish Fair Trade Partnership allows individuals and Jewish institutions like synagogues to purchase fair trade products at wholesale prices while supporting Equal Exchange, Fair Trade Judaica and T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights.

Fair trade products are designed to help farmers, primarily in developing countries, stay on their land, support their families, plan for the future and care for the environment. A portion of the proceeds from sales will support T’ruah and Fair Trade Judaica’s work promoting the end of modern-day slavery and protecting workers’ rights.

“Jewish law goes to great length to protect low-wage workers, whom our tradition knows are vulnerable to exploitation,” said Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of T’ruah, in a news release issued jointly by the partner organizations. “Through this project, our sacred spaces will reflect the values of our tradition.”

A network of 1,800 rabbis and cantors, T’ruah (formerly Rabbis for Human Rights-North America) focuses on human rights issues globally and describes itself as the “leading Jewish organization working to end modern-day slavery.”

Founded in 2007, California-based Fair Trade Judaica works to create a “Jewish-based ethical consumer model” and sells a variety of Judaica products meeting specific standards assuring fair and livable wages, no child labor, and healthy and safe working conditions.

Since 1998, the Equal Exchange Interfaith Program has involved more than 10,000 religious institutions in purchasing fair trade products. Current partners include Lutheran World Relief, United Methodist Committee on Relief, Catholic Relief Services, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.

The Jewish Fair Trade Project includes Equal Exchange kosher-certified coffee, tea and chocolate products. Most of the products are listed as kosher for Passover.

Passover: The season of freedom and chocolate


Passover’s causes have always included freedom, peoplehood and monotheism, and Passover’s chocolate layers new concerns onto these age-old themes. 

In the mid-20th century, Bartons Candy bundled kosher-for-Passover treats such as chocolate matzah, matzah balls, and Almond Kisses with educational materials about Jewish life and religion. While the family-owned Bartons company no longer exists, Almond Kisses may still be found. In the Bartons Haggadah issued in 1944, the Orthodox company founder and president, Stephen Klein, explained: “The personnel and management of Bartons Candy Corp. send you greetings at this Passover season. This haggadah is part of Bartons’ program of presenting useful and informative literature for each Jewish holiday — placed in every box of Bartons’ confections.” For Klein and his company, chocolate furthered the cause of Judaism.

More recently, Sarah Gross explained to me that her Brooklyn-based company, Rescue Chocolate, donates 100 percent of its net profits to animal rescue organizations. In previous years, her company has produced “Don’t Pass Over Me” bark, a Passover-inspired chocolate matzah bark that used the holiday as an opportunity to support rescued animals. Through her Jewish education in Sunday school and for her bat mitzvah, Gross learned the basics of kosher laws. That, along with becoming a vegan at age 14, focused her attention on what she was eating and on animals as living beings. Using chocolate to further her pet crusade, Gross features a Passover treat, Don’t Passover Me Cashew Clusters, available on the Rescue Chocolate Web site.

This year, a number of new campaigns responded to the issue of fair trade chocolates. Until recently, no kosher-for-Passover chocolate was certified to be fair trade, made without child slavery, which was a particularly sad irony at Pesach. Finally, there is one that is both ethically and ritually approved, developed by Rabbi Aaron Alexander, associate dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at American Jewish University in Los Angeles. A recent collaboration among Fair Trade Judaica, T’ruah and Equal Exchange Chocolate has created a fundraising program partnership for synagogues and organizations that makes Equal Exchange’s fair trade and kosher chocolate available. 

The Virtual Fair Trade Chocolate at Seder campaign encourages placing some cocoa beans on the Passover seder plate to prompt further awareness of child slavery in the chocolate industry, especially in West Africa. Photos of cocoa beans, a cocoa tree or purchasing a tax-deductible “virtual” fair trade chocolate bar would also help keep in mind the importance of kosher-for-Passover chocolate companies seeking fair trade certification.

I wrote “A Haggadah for a Chocolate Seder” (free download can be found on my Web site at jews-onthechocolatetrail.org), which provdes an entry point to awareness about the issues of slavery, worker’s rights, poverty, economic justice and fair trade in the chocolate business. In it, chocolate becomes the medium for uncovering themes of ethical kashrut, worker equity and food justice, while spotlighting Passover’s underlying messages of freedom, dignity and fairness. The haggadah recognizes those who labor, often in great poverty, to grow and harvest cacao, including thousands of children and adolescents who work in bondage on the cocoa farms of Ivory Coast and Ghana. To highlight these issues, you can select passages from the haggadah to add to your seder celebration or run a full chocolate seder.

Each of these chocolate causes builds on a long tradition of Passover values and Jewish ideals. As we slather chocolate onto our matzah this Pesach, may our chocolate causes and choices advance freedom. 

Chocolate Matzah Brickle

This easy-to-prepare concoction works for Passover or for whenever. We enjoyed combining roasted almonds, candied orange peel, cocoa nibs and candied ginger for added zest.

2 pounds dark chocolate, chips or broken
into pieces 

1⁄4 cup vegetable oil

1⁄2 to 1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract

1 box matzah sheets, broken into quarters

1 cup chopped nuts

1 cup chopped dried fruits

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or waxed paper. Melt the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Once melted, thin the chocolate with the vegetable oil; stir in the vanilla or almond extract. Coat the matzah, nuts and dried fruits with the chocolate and spread onto the prepared baking sheet.

Place the sheet in the refrigerator for at least 1⁄2 hour to cool. 

Once cool and hardened, remove from the pan and break into bite-size bits. Store in a closed container.

Makes 10 servings. 

Chocolate freedoms of Chanukah and Thanksgiving


The freedom food of chocolate should star in desserts for Chanukah and Thanksgiving. Puritans seeking asylum in North America and Jews hiding from the Inquisition in New Spain (Mexico) had their first encounters with chocolate in the 17th century. Chocolate paves the religious freedom trail.

A group of Pilgrims traveled to what became Plymouth via Amsterdam and stayed near that city’s biggest chocolate houses. They called chocolate “the devil’s food.” Later, a chocolate cake became popular in Amsterdam; local bakers named it “devil’s food” — what some say became our Devil’s Food Cake. For these Puritan freedom seekers, there was no domestic chocolate imbibing and certainly no ecclesiastical use for chocolate. That devil’s chocolate indulged the senses and distracted from worship.

Themselves suspected of being devils, Crypto-Jews living in New Spain hid Jewish observance from the inquisitors. For them, drinking the popular, local chocolate drink melted them into the local customs of their Catholic neighbors. Chocolate seeped deep into Jewish customs and celebratory meals for holidays and lifecycle events. Indeed, these Mexican Crypto-Jews used chocolate for Shabbat Kiddush because wine was scarce in New Spain. For hidden Jews attempting to follow Jewish dietary laws, the pareve nature of the xocolata, prepared without milk, lent itself to the separation of milk and meat. The chocolate could be enjoyed either with a milk meal or a meat meal. I imagine it being sipped on each night of Chanukah, maybe alongside churros (doughnuts) for dipping. 

Jews used chocolate in meals of consolation. Holding vigil for the dying Doña Blanca Méndez de Rivera, her daughters and granddaughters spent a day in reflection and prayer, fortified by a special meal of chocolate and pickled fish. The proceedings of the trial of Gabriel de Granada report his testimony about the period of mourning for his father, Manuel de Granada:

“Gabriel sent to her the hard boiled eggs and chocolate which was eaten by the said widow and her children. During the six days preceding the said seventh … sent chocolate one day of the said six.”

At funerals, the Váez family ate chocolate, raisins, almonds, salad and homemade bread.

Chocolate appeared on Yom Kippur menus in the 1640s. This may have been the most frequently observed of the holy days, so much so that many secret Jews even risked writing down the exact date. The theme of atonement resonated for them, as they felt themselves constantly sinning through their public profession of Catholicism. Gaspar Váez broke his Yom Kippur fast with chocolate, eggs, salad, pies, fish and olives. Isabel de Rivera testified that on Yom Kippur, Doña Juana, who was married to the wealthy Simón Váez Sevilla, sent “thick chocolate and sweet things made in her house.” Gabriel de Granada and his family washed down their pre-fast meal with chocolate, having dined on fish, eggs and vegetables. Others reported that they preceded the Day of Atonement with fruit and chocolate and that they broke the fast with chocolate and similar treats. Beatriz Enríquez, at the age of 22, testified that when her husband left for long business trips, she took advantage of her sadness to hide her abstinence from chocolate and food on día grande (big day), or Yom Kippur:

“From the window she pretended to be crying over the absence of her husband and with this suffering she was able to hide from her negras [Negro servants] the fact that she ate nothing and did not drink chocolate that day.”

In order not to eat on Jewish fast days, Amaro Díaz Martaraña and her husband would stage a falling-out with each other in the morning. When chocolate was brought to them, they would pretend to be offended, spill it on the servants, then reconcile in the evening. To offer chocolate at times when it was proscribed and to receive a refusal in response was to communicate through a coded language. These Jews developed such subterfuges to avoid being outed for drinking chocolate on Catholic fast days (which Catholicism permits) or not drinking chocolate on Jewish fast days (not permitted by Judaism).

Other fasts were also framed with meals that included chocolate. Attempting a fast, 15-year-old Símón de León confessed to the Mexican Inquisition that he ran away from home because he had broken a fast that his father had ordered him to keep by eating chocolate. When he could not bear the hunger any longer, he asked his sister Antonia for some chocolate. Juan de León and his Mexican Converso friends preceded their fasts with chocolate and broke the fasts with chocolate.

Even once Jews were arrested by the Inquisition, chocolate continued to be part of their experience during the capture and in jail. Muleteers hired to transport suspected Crypto-Jews to trial drank chocolate and listed it as a reimbursable expense. The muleteers who captured Rodrigo Serrano in Veracruz purchased chocolate at each night’s campsite to be prepared for the next morning’s breakfast chocolate. Chocolate both jeopardized the lives of Jews in New Spain and percolated through their ritual observances. 

Lift a cup of chocolate to the complex diversities and freedoms of our Chanukah and Thanksgiving legacies and enjoy these cookies, which feature two New World foods: Chocolate from Central America and peanut butter from North America.

PEANUT BUTTER
CHANUKAH GELT COOKIES 

1 cup peanut butter (crunchy or smooth)

1 cup sugar

1 egg

Approximately 36 dark or milk chocolate
Chanukah gelt coins

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Beat the peanut butter, sugar and egg together. Shape mixture into rounds the size of the gelt, flattening the tops. Bake on buttered cookie sheets for about 12 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly, then gently press one piece of gelt onto each cookie. Cool completely.

Makes about 36 cookies. 

 

Jewish Journal blogger Deborah R. Prinz’s books, “On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao,” (Jewish Lights) and “On the Chocolate Trail,” contain many delicious recipes; Prinz also blogs at The Huffington Post and The Jew and the Carrot. Lesson plans for teaching about Chanukah and chocolate and other bonus materials may be found at her website Jews-OnTheChocolateTrail.org

Chocolate shakes up the seder ritual


Rabbi Adam Schaffer, who's been leading chocolate seders since he edited a chocolate seder haggadah in 1996, acknowledges that “people often do feel ill” from all the chocolate.

Still, Schaffer, the religious school director at Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills, Calif., says he was motivated to “experiment outside the box and engage college students who were not in the usual Hillel track,” and found that the chocolate seder took things to a “fun level, helping make connections for people, re-contextualizing the seder.”

In the last couple of decades, college campus groups and synagogue youth groups have concocted the seders that replace the ritual foods with chocolate. There is green-colored chocolate for the karpas/lettuce; chocolate-covered nuts for the charoset mix of nuts, apples and wine representing mortar used in building for the Pharoah; a chocolate egg for the roasted egg symbolizing the Passover sacrifice; a very dark 90 percent to 100 percent chocolate for the bitter herbs or maror. You get the idea.

A chocolate-soaked seder may help sugar-hyped participants absorb the ritual’s teachings about freedom. An alternative to wallowing in the gooey substitutes for the usual ritual foods, as entertaining as that might be, could use chocolate to name the issues of slavery, economic justice and fair trade in the chocolate business and to elevate the profound themes of Passover.

My chocolate haggadah amplifies awareness about ethical quandaries around chocolate, and challenges participants to consider labor justice and spotlight Passover’s underlying messages of freedom, dignity and fairness.

In “A Socially Responsible Haggadah for a Chocolate Seder,” chocolate becomes the medium for uncovering teachings about ethical kashrut, worker equity and food sustainability to celebrate those who toil, often in great poverty, to grow and harvest cacao, including children and young adults — some of them in bondage in the Ivory Coast and Ghana’s cocoa plantations. The haggadah hopes for a harvesting of the fruits of productive, meaningful and safe labors.

The custom of three matzahs — the chocolate haggadah version uses chocolate-covered — recalls our tikkun olam, our ongoing struggle to perfect the world, as we consider responsibility for the contrast between the limited resources of most cacao growers and the wealthy consumers of chocolate. When we cover our matzah with chocolate, we recall that not only are we descended from slaves in Egypt, we recall child slaves on cocoa plantations of our time.

As we prepare to celebrate Passover this year, may we feel assured that we have helped advance the messianic era through our tantalizing array of chocolate choices, not just chocolate matzah.


Rabbi Deborah Prinz is the author of “A Socially Responsible Haggadah for a Chocolate Seder,” which may be found at her blog, www.jews-onthechocolatetrail.org. Her latest book is “On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao” [Jewish Lights.]

Not feeling the candy hearts and kitsch? How to turn around 50 shades of abysmal gray


It’s that time of year … chocolates, flowers, jewelry. Sappy advertisements and red and pink store displays. There are reminders everywhere. It’s Valentine’s Day.

Sure, it’s a bit commercial (understatement) but it’s all good. We know that. It’s beautiful to celebrate love.

But what about if you don't have a special someone or even your favorite chocolate already lined up for a great Thursday night? (Or perhaps you have a loving companion but you've somehow lost yourself in the relationship.) Whatever the reason, this day, with its cards and balloons, candy hearts and kitsch, is turning your mood fifty shades of a rather abysmal gray. Instead of bringing you a great sense of joy and intimacy, this so-called celebration feels more about absence or loss. And over the course of a day that seems to have somehow overlooked your very own precious self, you find yourself thinking, “I don’t have a valentine.”

To which we respond, what do you mean you don’t have a valentine?

Of course you have a valentine.

Walk right into the bathroom. Grab a hold of the sink and look up. Yours will be right there waiting, looking you straight in the punim.

Even if you feel very alone at times, you always have a valentine. It’s you.

That’s right. No matter who is or isn’t in your life, you are your own ultimate bashert.

And naturally, you’re fabulous. How lucky you are to have you for a valentine.

Because when you’re very your own valentine, you can celebrate any way you want.

How romantic it would be to buy yourself one perfect red rose. Not a whole bouquet. Just one perfectly closed bud representing your love for yourself. Take this vulnerable darling home and place it in a vase. All it needs is just a little bit of water.

Over the course of a few hours, watch your flower bloom as a symbol of you opening up to the undying expression of your own self love, showing yourself the greatest kindness, compassion and understanding, no matter what life brings.

Choose a song that opens your heart, and helps you dream a little dream, and dance with yourself. That’s right, ignite your own boogie fever. Don’t worry what it looks like. There are no rules here. You don’t even have to watch.

Yes, it's scary to be vulnerable. Even to yourself. But it’s also easy to be your own best valentine, the kind that promises extreme self care, extreme self empathy, extreme self respect. Because when you truly love yourself, every day is Valentine’s Day.

So when you're ready, grab a pen and some paper, or maybe even some broken crayons, and make yourself a good old fashioned valentine. That’s right, make some vows to yourself, to be true to yourself, and be your most authentic self. If you find yourself suddenly tongue tied, feel free to borrow these “Marriage Vows to Me” taken straight from the pages of my book, Hot Mamalah.

It’s true, Valentine’s Day is a celebration of sweethearts. Of relationships. Of your chocolate tooth. We're not denying that. But that doesn't mean it can't also be about celebrating the sweetness of your own life and the most intimate relationship you always have, the one with yourself. Isn't it about time you commit to love, honor and cherish?

Now go on. Get real with yourself and bring a little romance to your game. Valentine’s Day with yourself is EVERY day, forevermore.

That certainly sounds like a great romance to me.

Marriage Vows to Me © Lisa Alcalay Klug, 2012, Hot Mamalah: The Ultimate Guide for Every Woman of the Tribe

Mazal tov, now you’re a hot mamalah!

How do you know you're a hot mamalah?

Because you don't have to work hard to be hot. You just have to be you. Your most authentic self is the hottest thing of all.

How can you be sure you’re a hot mamalah?

Because a hot mamalah loves and respects herself.

How can you be positively certain you’re a hot mamalah?

Because a real mamalah is her own best valentine, today and every day.

And when you wake up the morning after, how do you remember you're a hot mamalah?

You. Just. Do.

Happy Valentine’s Day, You!

Rabbi shares her love of chocolate


To say that Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz likes chocolate would be a gross — or rather, delicious — understatement. 

For seven years, she’s traveled around the world and written about the delicacy, culminating in October with the publication of “On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao.”

This Valentine’s Day — not a Jewish holy day, to be sure, but one many celebrate with loved ones — the book is as close to edible knowledge as one can get (though, surely, a box of chocolates makes a nice gift, as well).

For Prinz, who lives in New York City but grew up in Los Angeles, the story began in 2006 when she kicked off a blog called, “Jews on the Chocolate Trail.” She had always loved chocolate, and when she traveled the world, she made sure to stop and try the local take on it. Her research included going to different regions and diving into history books. 

She turned her pursuits into the book, which goes into detail about how chocolate relates to Jewish culture and religion. It also covers the relationship that other groups — Catholics, Quakers, Protestants, the Mayans and the Aztecs — have had with chocolate. In “On the Chocolate Trail,” Prinz said that her Nancy Drew-esque “choco-dar — my internal, serendipitous radar for chocolate discoveries and experiences” led her to “uncover the stories of Jews, religions, and chocolate.” 

For example, did you know that a bishop in Mexico was once poisoned because he banned local women from drinking chocolate during Mass services? Or that chocolate gelt for Chanukah might be derived from St. Nicholas traditions?

Mainly, though, Prinz said she wanted to shed light on the connection between Jews and chocolate. 

“I wrote the book because it seemed like the story called out to me. It’s been ignored for a long time,” she said. “There was so much there that would excite, inform and tantalize people. It was a story that had to be told.”

Prinz is director of program and member services and director of the joint commission on rabbinic mentoring at the Reform movement’s Central Conference of American Rabbis. She’s been a rabbi for more than 30 years and served as the senior rabbi at Temple Adat Shalom in Poway, Calif., for nearly 20 of them. 

During journeys to countries like Spain, Italy, England, Israel, Switzerland, Belgium and Egypt, Prinz tasted and wrote about all sorts of regional chocolates. 

“Every place was fascinating,” she said. 

Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz

The history of Jews and chocolate dates back hundreds of years. According to the book, Jews on Christopher Columbus’ voyages are believed to have been some of the first Europeans to view cacao, the basis for chocolate. 

After exile from Spain in 1492 and Portugal in 1496, Jews continued to participate in international business and worked with cacao, opening up workshops where they made chocolate in various cities across Europe. The first coffeehouse in England was run by a Converso Jew who served hot chocolate there. 

In France, Jews had a strong influence in the chocolate industry as well. During the 1600s, they introduced the product through a port in Bayonne. Due to anti-Semitism and discrimination, however, Jews could not sell chocolate on Sundays or Christian feast days, and they had to leave the town every evening at sunset. Still, Prinz wrote that when she spent time in Bayonne, she visited chocolate museums that confirmed the importance of the Jewish traders.

Europe isn’t the only place where Jews and chocolate became intertwined. Prinz delves into the American Colonial period, and another part is titled “Israelis: Meshuga for Chocolate.”

Although much of the book is about Judaism and chocolate, Prinz said that the food is not celebrated enough in Jewish culture. 

“While there are chocolate customs for Chanukah and Passover, we could really throw in a lot more chocolate,” she said. Could you imagine chocolate-covered apples for Simchat Torah or chocolate-covered challah? We could go so much further with it.”

Not surprisingly, people love to ask Prinz what chocolate is her favorite. She said she has many — depending on which day you ask her. One that stood out during her travels and received mention in her book was bicerin, a special chocolate drink from Turin, in northern Italy. She wrote that she and her husband, Rabbi Mark Hurvitz, drank the layered drink made of hot chocolate, coffee and cream while feasting on torta di nocciole con cioccolata calda, a warm chocolate soup poured over hazelnut cake. 

“It was amazing to be able to drink bicerin [where it comes from],” she said. “That was definitely a highlight.”

Prinz said that those who exchange chocolates on Feb. 14 should be responsible and consider fair-trade items. 

“I hope that when people celebrate Valentine’s Day with chocolate to express love for their partners, they also think about supporting people in the industry and farmers who often don’t even taste the product they produce. They’re very, very poor,” she said. “We have to be mindful of the children and the slaves who labor to produce chocolates in some countries.” 

Despite the downside of producing chocolate, Prinz said that she enjoys just how much the upcoming holiday incorporates one of her most beloved subjects. 

“I love the fact that there’s a restaurant called City Bakery in New York City that offers a different hot chocolate flavor for the month of February to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Any excuse for chocolate is terrific.”

Trader Joe’s comes up against some tough cookies


Trader Joe’s got slammed last week by a combination of hysteria and hoarding by kosher bakers when word leaked out that its semisweet chocolate chips were going from pareve to dairy.

“It’s just really sad,” said Shana Fishman, a Beverlywood mother of four who stocked up on 20 bags of chocolate chips at the Trader Joe’s in West Hollywood last week. “It means that I’ll have to use bitter chocolate chips in my cookies, and it means that I’ll have to pay more for my chocolate chips.”

Trader Joe’s semisweet chocolate chips were widely valued as the best, most affordable non-dairy chocolate chips on the market. Until now they have borne an “OK pareve” designation, essential for kosher consumers who do not eat meat and dairy products in the same meal. But the supplier for Trader Joe’s has changed its production procedure, and the chips will now be designated as dairy by Brooklyn-based OK-Kosher Certification.

“We are meeting with Trader Joe’s and encouraging them to go back to the old protocol and get those chips back to pareve,” Rabbi Chaim Fogelman, director of public relations at the OK, said on May 21. “So far, there is no movement in that area, but we are working on it.”

Trader Joe’s released a statement last week defending its chocolate chips.

“The ingredients used in our semisweet chocolate chips have not changed, there are no dairy ingredients in the item, and the chips are made on equipment dedicated to non-dairy chocolate,” a company statement said.

But the chips are bagged on machinery that also bags milk chocolate chips, and the supplier recently switched from a wet to a dry cleaning regimen on the bagging machine. “These changes … triggered the need for an FDA regulated, dairy-related allergen statement, and this in turn brought about a change in the Kosher certification for our item — going from ‘Kosher Parve’ to ‘Kosher Dairy,’ ” the statement read.

An officer at OK Kosher Certification said supervising rabbis can no longer guarantee that no errant milk chocolate chips are included in the semisweet bags.

“Currently, the monitoring of the level of separation between pareve and dairy is no longer sufficient to meet the requirements of OK Pareve,” a statement released by the OK read.

As the news leaked out through mournful Facebook posts, kosher bakers — along with vegans and the lactose intolerant — flooded Trader Joe’s with an unprecedented barrage of calls and e-mails. A petition created on change.org had 4,100 signatures as of the middle of this week.

Trader Joe’s locations reported that consumers were buying 20, 80, even 170 bags at a time.

While many so-called “haimish” brands – Jewish companies that make only kosher foods — produce pareve chocolate chips, those chips are generally waxy and flavorless. The silky, rich Trader Joe’s morsels melt to perfect consistency in cookies and taste like actual chocolate. They are good enough to almost make up for the fact that kosher bakers have to forgo real butter in cookies they serve after a Shabbat lunch of grilled chicken, roasted vegetables and quinoa salad.

Chocolate manufacturing requires cocoa butter and cocoa, but those are expensive ingredients when not purchased in massive volumes. Small kosher brands know their consumers aren’t willing to pay what it would cost to produce premium chocolate chips, said Rabbi Eliezer Eidlitz, director of the Kosher Information Bureau.

“They often can’t even legally call it chocolate. It’s ‘chocolate flavored,’ ” Eidlitz said.

Whole Foods carries Enjoy Life chocolate chips that are kosher pareve. They run $4.99 a bag, while the Trader Joe’s chips are $2.29 a bag. Kosher brands range between $2 and $4.

Some consumers were hoping the Trader Joe’s chips would be designated as the less restrictive DE, which stands for dairy equipment, signifying that the chips were manufactured on equipment also used for dairy.

But OK said the chips have to be considered actually dairy because milk chocolate chips could end up in the bags. Eidlitz said because the chips are complete units that do not fully dissolve into the other ingredients, the “one-sixtieth rule” that can be used to nullify trace amounts of dairy does not apply.

But Eidlitz is holding out hope. In 2006, Duncan Hines cake mixes went dairy, and consumer blowback brought the pareve label back. Same with Stella D’oro cookies, which in 2003 nixed a plan to switch to dairy after a kosher outcry.

A spokesman at the OK said the story is not over.

“We are working to rectify this issue with the manufacturer, and hopefully we will have good news soon,” the OK officer said.

On May 17, Trader Joe’s issued the following glimmer of hope: “We are evaluating our options and although we cannot guarantee a specific outcome at this time, we realize that for some of our customers this is an important issue.”

New boycott called over Israeli chocolate bars


The leaders of Israel’s cottage cheese boycott are calling for a new boycott over the high price of chocolate bars.

The calls came earlier this week after an Israeli living in the United States posted a photo on Facebook of a receipt from a New Jersey supermarket showing that the popular Israeli chocolate bar Pesek Zman is being sold for one-third of its cost in Israel. Other chocolate bars manufactured by the Elite company also are being sold at similarly low prices abroad, according to reports.

Elite is owned by the Israeli conglomerate the Strauss Group, which was hit hard by the boycott of cottage cheese and other dairy products this summer as part of the social justice protests and eventually dropped its prices.

Boycott organizers have called for a month-long boycott of Strauss-Elite chocolate bars to begin on March 1, just before the chocolate-intensive Purim holiday begins on the evening of March 7.

Strauss said in a statement that it cannot control the price that retailers place on their products, and said it believed that the prices were lower in Jewish communities in the United States in advance of Purim. It also named supermarkets in Israel that sell its chocolate at cut-rate prices.

Grown-up gelt


All around the Jewish world, Chanukah is chocolate season. But that doesn’t have to mean you’re stuck with the waxy chocolate coins known as gelt. In fact, a new wave of boutique chocolate makers in Israel are redefining this beloved indulgence in Israel. Many of their skillfully crafted products are already available in the United States. One taste and it’s clear: Gelt has grown up.

Holy Cacao

This new guard of chocolatiers, contributing a reported $5.3 million to Israel’s domestic $40 million market, are savvy business owners and gourmands. Among them, only one — Joe Zander — imports whole cacao beans, working with the raw material from start to finish. This New Jersey native resides about 40 minutes outside of Jerusalem, in the Southern Chevron Hills, and like his comrades in chocolate, he is the definitive Israeli chocolatier: independent and artisan. Zander maintains his own piece of land in Peru, where he cultivates organic beans. Akin to the layered flavors of wine, his 72 percent Peruvian chocolate reveals delicious, complex, fruity hints of berries. His Dominican is darker, richer, more coffeelike. His 56 percent contains imperceptible ground hazelnuts that lighten and sweeten each bite.

Zander’s Holy Cacao label features sketches of the machinery used to make chocolate from bean to bar: a roaster, mill, conche and winnower. Seasonally, Zander makes truffles in a wide variety of flavors. Currently, he markets his wares online and through in-person individual sales in Israel, with plans to export on the horizon. holycacaochocolate.com.

Sweet N’Karem

Less than an hour’s drive from Zander’s base of operations, Sima Amsalem handcrafts chocolate in a pastoral setting within Jerusalem. Ein Karem is an ancient neighborhood resembling a Tuscan village. Amsalem’s brand, Sweet N’Karem, is a tasty homage to this beautiful setting. This self-professed chocolate addict leads a small but critical team of three women chocolatiers. Together, they produce about 40 kilograms of dark, milk and white chocolate pralines, truffles and bars each month in a former Crusader building with thick stone walls and arches. In addition to high-cacao content pieces, there are liqueur infusions and other fresh ingredients, including marzipan, whole nuts and dried fruit. Everything is packaged with the whimsical logo: a truffle fairy resting on a massive chocolate pod. The self-educated Amsalem also leads workshops for groups of 10 to 20 people seeking to learn how to make chocolates at home. Visitors also personalize Sweet N’Karem products for bar mitzvahs, weddings, corporate events and more. Minutes away, the Chocolate House retail shop at 2 Mevo HaShaar offers coffee, ice cream, gifts and more. 2eat.co.il/sweetnkarem.

Chocoholique

Chocolate that goes down easy is the sole aim of Chocoholique, a cottage industry that began when former chef Marc Gottlieb tasted an inferior homemade version of chocolate liqueur. Inspired to make his own libation, this 2006 immigrant from Cedarhurst, N.Y., showed off his creation to his friend and neighbor, Shimona Gotlieb. It was so delicious that, soon after, the pair launched Chocoholique. In two and half years, “Gottlieb & Gotlieb” have introduced eight pareve, mehadrin flavors. Top seller Peanut Butter is a boozy Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. Intense Chocolate is made with 60 percent cacao content. And in all flavors, the alcohol level is kept low, just 7 percent, to ensure the alcohol’s astringency doesn’t interfere with the enjoyment of the chocolate. Other than acknowledging that it is sourced from various bars, the pair keeps their provenance confidential. Keep your eyes peeled for imports — Chocoholique plans to launch in the United States at Kosherfest 2012. chocoholique.com.

Galita’s Chocolate Farm

Galit Alpert founded her namesake Galita’s Chocolate Farm in 1999 with methods she acquired during three years’ training in Belgium. Consumed by chocolate’s flavor and texture, Alpert set up shop in a beautiful stone building that once housed the historic Kibbutz Degania Bet’s first cow shed 85 years ago. The Galita chocolateria boasts an extensive line of products, family-friendly guided tours, a coffee and homemade ice cream bar and chocolate-making workshops for all ages. Nestled amid banana groves and green lawns near the shores of the Sea of Galilee, Galita’s embodies Alpert’s nine reasons to love chocolate: for health, soul, energy, childhood memories, relaxation, joy, desire, love and for yourself — as outlined on her charming (Hebrew-language) Web site, galita.co.il.

De Karina Artisan Gourmet Chocolates Handmade Mountain Chocolate

Tucked away in a small “chocolate house” in the Golan Heights town of Ein Zivan, De Karina Artisan Gourmet Chocolates surprises the palate with a hint of South American flavor. Named for its founder, Argentine immigrant Karina Cheplinski, this third-generation chocolatier incorporates subtle tastes and contrasting flavors, carrying on the tradition of her grandfather, an emigrant from Europe. Her factory features a coffee shop, guided tours, tastings and workshops on tempering, making truffles and other mouth-watering adventures in chocolate-making. Advance reservations required. de-karina.co.il.

Roy Chocolate

When Roy Gershon grew tired of working in technology management positions, he turned his zeal to creating Roy Chocolate. He operates a factory, a flagship store in Tel Aviv and another in Ramat Gan’s Ayalon Mall. Greshon also supplies franchises in Rishon L’Zion, Afula, Cinema City, Haifa and Jerusalem with more than 100 flavors of pralines, truffles and intense liqueurs in innovative bottles. There are also fun gifts galore: chocolate hearts on cinnamon sticks ready to melt into hot chocolate, LoveCakes filled with ganache, gorgeous French macaroons, cupcakes topped with chantilly cream, chocolate lollipops with romantic sayings and much more in pareve, dairy, and lactose- and sugar-free varieties. Each week, Gershon also conducts several workshops around Israel. roychocolate.co.il.

Ornat

In Gush Tel Mond, in the Lev HaSharon industrial area near Netanya, Ornat considers itself the grandparent of Israel’s handmade chocolates. Established in 1987 by the La’or and Ronat families in the tradition of Dutch chocolate making, it ships pralines around the world, personalizing them for special events and corporate clients. The Ornat company operates a visitors center. Guests ages 6 and older are welcome for tours and chocolate-making workshops. cho.co.il.

Max Brenner

Though once handcrafted, Max Brenner’s “Chocolate by the Bald Man,” was acquired in 2001 by Strauss Group, which, in 2004, also merged with Elite, Israel’s leading mass-market brand. The bald man is a composite creation of founders Max Fichtman and Oded Brenner. Visit their Willy Wonka-inspired Chocolate Bar in Jerusalem’s Mamilla Mall and other locations around the world for signature products such as high-impact “cigarette packs” containing almost equally addictive wafer-thin bars and chocolate-covered caramelized pecans in colorful, reusable gift tins simply labeled “Nuts.” Of course, there are also pralines in a wide variety of flavors, including sea salt, as well as truffles and scrumptious creamy/crunchy “Feuilletine Fingers.” Innovative menu items include chocolate pizza topped with milk and white chocolate (and optional banana slices, melted marshmallows and whipped cream), a speckled “Cookieshake” of Oreos, carmelized pecans and white-chocolate creme, a “cappuccino of milk chocolate” and the not-to-be-missed, pudding-like Italian hot dark chocolate. Worth every calorie. maxbrenner.com, max-brenner.co.il.

Israel boycott supporters arrested for violating bail


Four pro-Palestinian supporters of an Israel boycott were arrested in Melbourne for breaching bail conditions following a protest outside a Max Brenner chocolate shop.

A spokesperson for the Victoria Police confirmed that the four proponents of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign who appeared Tuesday in Melbourne’s Magistrate’s Court were among the 19 activists arrested July 1 outside the Israeli chocolatier in downtown Melbourne.

Police say they were among more than 300 protesters who marched July 29 on the Max Brenner store, thereby breaching their bail conditions. More than 10 of the 19 activists arrested July 1 had been ordered by the courts not to come within 50 meters—slightly more than 50 yards—of the chocolate shop.

Omar Hassan, who was among the 19 activists arrested July 1, said the four were released on bail, with three paying a surety of $2,000 and one ordered to pay an extra $8,000 by next Wednesday.

“It’s definitely an attempt to silence these protesters,” Hassan said.

The protesters are scheduled to reappear in court on Sept. 5.

The arrests come as the Victorian Liberal government asked Australia’s competition watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, to investigate whether the boycotters had broken Australian law.

Israel’s Melting Pot Is on The Stove, in the Oven


Just want the recipe? Click here.

As the melting pot of the Jewish people, Israel has produced a melting pot of Jewish and world cuisines. Through historical narratives, vibrant illustrations of local eateries and practical recipes, Janna Gur’s recent “The Book of New Israeli Food” (Schocken, 2008) captures the story of Israeli food coming into its own as the fusion of Ashkenazi and Sephardi, the exile and Zion, the old and the new.

“For me it wasn’t just a cookbook, but a very personal project to try and convey something about Israel through the food,” Gur said in a telephone interview from her office in Tel Aviv, where she serves as editor-in-chief of Israel’s leading gastronomic magazine, Al HaShulchan. “I tried not to give recipes but insight into lives of people, places, atmosphere, even mentality.”

The term “new Israeli food” also may sound like a tautology. At 60, Israel is a relatively new country. But the inventiveness and wanderlust of well-known Israeli chefs who make appearances in the cookbook, have led to imaginative upgrades of Israeli and Jewish classics.

“It’s ‘new’ because it’s the result of what we’ve seen now,” Gur continued. “Restaurants are experiencing an amazing food renaissance in the past few decades. In restaurants you see things that weren’t around before — a kind of fusion between Palestinian cooking and Jewish ethnic cooking, with something from California, New York and the Far East.”

Gur’s recipes, some basic, some more involved, should soothe any Israel lover nostalgic for the nation’s cafes, bistros, Mizrahi family diners and falafel joints. They cover a cross section of Israeli society, including the simple Arabic salad, fish falafel, couscous soup, Iraqi kubbe, traditional chopped liver and green matzah ball soup.

Gur forays into the historical development of Israel’s food industries — olive oil, fishing, bread, coffee, cheese and wine — making the book read like a coffee table book at times, yet establishing it as an authoritative guide to contemporary Israeli cuisine.

Flourless Chocolateand Pistachio Cake

by Barry Sayag, Tatti Boulangerie, Givatayim

(from “The Book of New Israeli Food”)

Ingredients (for 1 loaf pan)

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 cups pistachio nuts, coarsely ground

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

3/4 cup almonds, finely ground

3/4 cup chocolate chips

2 egg whites

1 1/2 tablespoon melted butter

Preheat oven to 310 F.

Beat the eggs and the egg yolks in a mixer with 3 ounces of the sugar to a thick and fluffy cream.

Add the pistachio nuts, almonds, cocoa powder and chocolate chips and mix to a smooth batter.

Beat the 2 egg whites with the remaining sugar to form soft peaks, then fold in the nut and egg mixture. Stir in the melted butter.

Pour the batter into a well-greased pan and bake for about 40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out dry with a few crumbs adhering. Serve at room temperature.

Janna Gur will be visiting Los Angeles in April as part of her American book tour. Watch for details in an upcoming Calendar.

 

RECIPE: Flourless Chocolate and Pistachio Cake


For the full article, click here.

Flourless Chocolateand Pistachio Cake

by Barry Sayag, Tatti Boulangerie, Givatayim

(from “The Book of New Israeli Food”)

Ingredients (for 1 loaf pan)

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 cups pistachio nuts, coarsely ground

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

3/4 cup almonds, finely ground

3/4 cup chocolate chips

2 egg whites

1 1/2 tablespoon melted butter

Preheat oven to 310 F.

Beat the eggs and the egg yolks in a mixer with 3 ounces of the sugar to a thick and fluffy cream.

Add the pistachio nuts, almonds, cocoa powder and chocolate chips and mix to a smooth batter.

Beat the 2 egg whites with the remaining sugar to form soft peaks, then fold in the nut and egg mixture. Stir in the melted butter.

Pour the batter into a well-greased pan and bake for about 40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out dry with a few crumbs adhering. Serve at room temperature.

 

Spirit and Chocolate Top Temple Emanuel Installation


There was chocolate and music last week when Sue Brucker was installed as president of Temple Emanuel’s board of directors at Shabbat Unplugged. Amid the singing and Shabbat rituals, Brucker was applauded for her talents as a leader, and her commitment and dedication to getting any job, no matter the task, accomplished.

The services were filled with those who enjoy the upbeat Shabbat melodies of singing and celebration Temple Emanuel has become famous for. Known as a “go-to person,” Brucker is always the first to achieve any goal, take on any task and commit to any cause. Brucker, along with her mother-in-law Rita Brucker, will be honored at the Women of Sheba Achievement luncheon later this month and is the immediate past president for the Beverly Hills High School PTSA. She also received the Humanitarian of the Year from Amie Karen Cancer Society. Her husband Barry is on the Beverly Hills City Council and was the former president of the Beverly Hills School Board.

Big Fun in Big Apple

Leaving Los Angeles and spending a month at Yeshiva University (YU) in New York this summer was a fun and rewarding experience for five Yeshiva University High School of Los Angeles (YULA) students. The teens met and mingled with other Orthodox students in New York City, taking in the sights and enjoying the Big Apple. The five students, Michael Bank and Jesse Katz of Los Angeles, Marlon Schwarcz of Beverly Hills, Joel Shuchatowitz of Tarzana, and Netanel Zilberstein of Encino stayed in dormitories on YU’s Wilf Campus in Washington Heights.

Students spent mornings studying Jewish topics, and in the afternoons chose between “The World of Finance and Investment,” a practical experience establishing and analyzing a portfolio of investments and working with traders, financial planners and entrepreneurs; “Explorations in Genetics and Molecular Biology,” a laboratory experience introducing students to the theory and techniques of molecular biology; and political science/pre-law, which exposed students to politics and law through the lens of current issues and by taking trips and hearing from speakers around New York City.

The YULA students toured the area attractions, including a Broadway show; the Museum of Natural History; Six Flags Great Adventure; a Mets game; a double-decker bus tour; a visit to the World Trade Center site; and a tour of YU’s campuses.

“It was great to have an opportunity to feel the YU experience,” said Zilberstein, the first of his siblings to go to college.

He said spending the month at YU took some of the mystery out of the college experience: “You get to feel like you are a college student, taking real college classes.”

Students also spent several days in the Washington, D.C. area, visiting the Capitol building, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Spy Museum and spending Shabbat in Silver Spring, Md.

“Many of the students are interested in YU, but want to see more than they would if they just came for a tour,” explained Aliza Stareshefsky, program director.
For more information about next year’s program, e-mail summer@yu.edu.

Rabbi on Board

The Olympia Medical Center recently added Rabbi Karen L. Fox to its board of governors. The group is comprised of 15 community leaders and business executives, and recommends and implements hospital policy, promotes patient safety and performance improvement while helping provide quality patient care.
“We are honored to have someone with Rabbi Fox’s prominence join our board of governors,” board chairman Dr. Sharam Ravan said. “I know that she will be an asset to Olympia Medical Center as we grow to meet the needs of the community.”

Fox, who has served at Wilshire Boulevard Temple for nearly 20 years, graduated from UCLA in 1973. She earned a master’s degree in Hebrew letters from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York and received her ordaination there in 1978. She earned a master’s degree in counseling psychology as well as a doctorate of divinity from Pepperdine University, and is a licensed marriage and family psychotherapist. She published a user-friendly guide to Jewish holidays title “Seasons for Celebration” and has authored numerous articles about women’s experiences and Jewish thought.

Kids Raise the ‘Roof’

The Children’s Civic Light Opera (CCLO), one of the Los Angeles area’s original and longest-established performing arts programs for youth, ages 7-17, celebrated its 19th year with a stellar production of “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Parents and friends shepped naches as 40 talented and dedicated kids rehearsed for eight weeks to present the Broadway-style production complete, with professional sets, costumes, sound, lighting and a live orchestra. Their show was a treat for theater-goers who sat awed by the kid’s spirited performances.

“‘Fiddler’ is a rare and beautiful gift,” CCLO’s founder and artistic director Diane Feldman Turen said. “It is an incredibly powerful piece of theater overflowing with an abundance of learning opportunities on multiple levels. Its universal themes allow us to address and examine the opposing forces that drive our lives and it’s wonderful that our ensemble can apply what they’re learning on the stage and off.”

Mommy, Me & Cheesecake Makes 3


OK, mom, so what part of eating that cheesecake is making you feel guilty?

If you fear that little bubbela is annoying the other customers in the bakery, your worries are over.

The Essential Chocolate Collection, a Culver City bakery, is for parents who want an alternative to dragging their babies to Starbucks for an afternoon pick-me-up amid unsympathetic non-parents. Here, moms can indulge while their babies can crawl and play — or make a fuss. It’s OK because Fridays from 1-3 p.m., in the bakery’s annex, are reserved for just this crowd.

“It’s nice to have a latte and not have someone glaring at you,” says event organizer Lara Sanders Fordis, who has an 11-month-old son. Her sister, shop owner Melissa Sanders, has added incentive to be welcoming: newcomers may get hooked on the goodies.

The free get-together (you do pay for drinks and dessert) is called Coffee, Mommy & Me, but it’s not really a Mommy & Me class. Still, the organizers do schedule “programs.” The recent schedule has included “Funtime with Nanny C,” a “Free Organic Baby Food Tasting” and “Mommy Chair Massages.” The Passover event on April 14 is pretty much all about food — featuring chocolate macaroons, chocolate-dipped fruit and other treats. (The ingredients are kosher, but not certified kosher for Passover.)

Participating moms said they appreciated a chance to get out of the house and relax. And it’s safe for baby: There are no sharp edges — especially on the chocolate.

The Essential Chocolate Collection, 10868 Washington Blvd., Culver City. For information on Coffee, Mommy & Me, call (310) 287-0699.

 

Cartoon Riots Spark Sweet Backlash


In the wake of a Danish newspaper’s decision to publish cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad, Danish flags and embassies are beset by violent protesters in heavily Muslim countries. But a chocolate store in the windmill-filled, Danish American tourist village of Solvang has enjoyed a small spike in its mail-order business.

And it’s not just because of Valentine’s Day, though that always helps, said chocolatemaker Bent Pedersen.

“One comment was that they were buying in support of Denmark,” said Pedersen, who owns Ingeborg’s World Famous Danish Chocolates, which does a brisk business online from its Copenhagen Drive store.

Pedersen said that since anti-Danish rioting began, several people have called in long-distance orders and mentioned their desire to “buy Danish.” Consumers in heavily Muslim countries, in contrast, are boycotting Danish products, reportedly costing Danish business up to $1 million a day. In response, European and American free-speech supporters have been advocating a less well-known “Buy Danish” campaign.

Local law enforcement has, in recent days, become more focused on Solvang, which lies about 4 miles west of Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch, in case it should become a target. The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department issued an advisory about the rioting overseas to deputies on patrol.

“We’re on a heightened state of awareness, but we’re not on tactical alert,” said sheriff’s Lt. Phil Willis, Solvang station commander.

The only possible local targeting of Danish interests appears to be online. Before the anti-cartoon protests began, Denmark’s L.A. consulate, along with Danish embassies and consulates worldwide, received thousands of e-mails about the cartoons, overloading the Danish Foreign Ministry’s Internet systems.

“They were of just a magnitude that did create some problems in our e-mails,” said a diplomat at Denmark’s embassy in Washington, D.C. “We got several thousand of them. They were not hostile necessarily. Some of them, the ones that we could identify as being from the U.S., were sort of 50/50.”

A Northridge-based Danish American newspaper has no plans to reprint the cartoons that originally were published last fall. “We don’t need all that controversy,” said Gert Madsen, editor-in-chief of the national weekly Bien.

Pedersen in Solvang appreciated the handful of pro-Danish chocolate orders, which ran about $50 each, but thought it odd to get phone requests all the way from Maryland.

“It still was strange,” Pedersen said of one of the Danish chocolate lovers. “I don’t know how he found us.”

 

Sweet Indulgence at Chocolate Spa


The Spa at the Hotel Hershey in Hershey, Pa., is every chocolate lover’s fantasy. With bowls of silver-wrapped kisses (certified kosher) seemingly everywhere, and hot cocoa waiting by the fire, it may be the world’s only spa that actually encourages guests to consume the stuff between treatments.

For the truly addicted, a menu of chocolate-themed services fulfill hedonistic dreams of being wrapped in melted chocolate, soaking in a tub of frothy chocolate ambrosia, playing in a chocolate mud bath and much more.

The town, dubbed “the Sweetest Place on Earth,” was built around the eponymous chocolate factory, producers of certified kosher chocolate. The spa, which was designed by the award-winning TAG Galyean and in size from its original 17,000-square-feet in 2004, overlooks beautiful gardens and reflecting pools.

On a recent visit, I warmed up with the Chocolate Fondue Wrap (an hour for $105). Spa-goers are metaphorically “dipped” in a heavenly sauce, then wrapped up to rest like a chocolate bar.

I wasn’t really smothered with melted chocolate but the experience came surprisingly close. In fact, the “fondue” spread on my skin smelled so good, I asked if I could taste it. My friendly female spa attendant warned me off. And a good thing, too. The fondue combines warmed dark Moor mud — rich in organic minerals offering therapeutic benefits for muscles, joints and skin — with the spa’s proprietary scent, the “Essence of Cocoa.” Together, the ingredients simulate the look, feel and aroma of melted milk chocolate.

Great spa treatments resemble a kind of gracefully choreographed performance, and this was no exception. When I entered the treatment room in my cushy spa robe, my attendant explained she would leave while I undressed and draped myself discretely. She quickly returned to exfoliate my skin with a dry body brush to promote circulation, then applied the chocolate mud from neck to toe and wrapped me in a lightweight thermal space blanket — just like the silver wrapper of a Hershey’s bar. She left me to “bake” in the light of chocolate-scented candles and the sound of soothing recorded classical music.

She washed off the “chocolate” with a soothing, multiheaded Vichy Shower, which conveniently swung over the treatment table.

As an encore, she applied a layer of the spa’s cocoa body moisturizer. That left me inhaling the faint smell of chocolate the rest of the day. Armed with the Hershey spa logo skin brush as a souvenir, my skin felt remarkably soft and my muscles and mind relaxed.

Meanwhile, my friend Helen indulged in the Chocolate Bean Polish, another signature chocolate service. This 30-minute treatment ($60) also begins with a scrub — a loofah brush that served as Helen’s souvenir. Next, it combines the gentle exfoliation of cocoa bean husks and walnut shells. And it, too, finishes up with a softening application of cocoa body moisturizer.

The spa offers an array of other chocolate-themed treatments and packages. The Chocolate Dipped Strawberry exfoliates the skin with strawberry seeds and pumice. The Hershey Peppermint Patty incorporates an invigorating peppermint exfoliating scrub. Either treatment is followed by the Chocolate Fondue Wrap. Each combination lasts 90 minutes for $165.

Other favorites include the Herbal Meadow & Sea Scrub, which softens and exfoliates skin using crushed herbs, meadow flowers, sea salt and oils (30 minutes, $60) and the Cocoa Massage (50 minutes, $95; 80 minutes, $150).

Prior to our treatments, Helen and I rested in a lounge overlooking beautiful gardens and a reflecting pool. We also took time out in the scented aromatherapy room, complete with chaise lounges, fruit and mineral water. Later in the day, we were the only participants in what became a private Hatha yoga class on the picturesque, indoor pool deck. We also dined on a kosher fish-in-foil lunch at the luxurious spa restaurant and worked out in the state-of-the-art gym.

To re-create a chocolate spa experience at home, the spa also shares its recipe for the Whipped Cocoa Bath treatment:

Exfoliate with a loofah or skin brush. Then add 1/8 cup Hershey’s Unsweetened Cocoa Powder and 1/3 cup instant nonfat dry milk to your bath while it fills up. Add one teaspoon of the spa’s signature Whipped Cocoa Bath. If you have a whirlpool tub, turn on the jets and enjoy your soak. After your bath, slather on cocoa, milk and honey or peppermint moisturizer.

The Spa at The Hotel Hershey is located at 100 Hotel Road, Hershey, Pa. For information, call (800) 437-7439 or visit

Winning the Great Sponge Cake Battle


 

It’s that time again. With Pesach here, it’s time for my annual wrestling match with my nemesis, the dreaded sponge cake.

Aunt Estelle was famous for her mile-high sponge cakes. Years ago she sent me her recipe, outlining every step in exquisite detail. Yet every time I try it, mine comes up short.

It seems so simple. Whipped egg whites, trapping tiny air bubbles, expand to six or seven times their volume, creating an ethereal confection. But when I try it, the only thing that gets whipped is me — to a frazzle. This year I’m determined to reach new heights, but I need a little help from my friends. (And as they say, it’s not what you know, but who you know.)

“What am I doing wrong?” I asked Marcy Goldman, author of “The Best of Betterbaking.com” (Ten Speed Press, 2002).

“Are you using a strong, stationary mixer?” she asked.

Check.

“Are you using the size eggs called for in the recipe?” Goldman said.

Check again.

“Separate your eggs when they are cold, but whip the whites at room temperature,” she said. “And make sure your eggs are fresh. Stale whites will not whip up well.”
Hmm, maybe saving money on those five-dozen egg packs that languish forever in the fridge isn’t such a hot idea.

I asked Rose Levy Beranbaum, author of “The Cake Bible” (William Morrow, 1988), why sponge cake recipes always warn you to beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry.

“When egg whites are overbeaten,” she explained, “they start to lose their moisture, airiness and smoothness and break down when folded into other ingredients. And egg whites will never beat to stiff peaks if they come into contact with any grease, either from the bowl, beater or even a bit of broken egg yolk.”

Except on Passover, Beranbaum recommends adding 1/8 teaspoon of cream of tartar for every egg white when they start to get frothy. But, alas, kosher-for-Passover cream of tartar is hard to find and not all that effective.

“Use salt instead,” advised Joan Kekst, author of “Passover Cookery” (Five Star Publications, 2001). “Add 1/8 teaspoon of salt to every four egg whites after 60 seconds of beating, when the whites are foamy and starting to softly peak. Adding salt first delays foaming, and if you add it after beating, it won’t incorporate. And use an absolutely clean, round-bottomed metal bowl, preferably copper.”

Note to self: buy copper bowl!

“Once you start beating the whites, do not stop,” she added. “They won’t mound properly if interrupted.”

Kekst also cautioned against using egg substitutes.

“These are whites with preservatives and color,” she said. “Pure egg whites are usually available for Passover and will work fine for cakes. I’ve even used them for meringue cookies.” When folding in the beaten whites, combine one-quarter into the base mixture first to lighten it and then fold in the remaining whites in three additions.

“Folding should take two to three minutes or the egg whites will deflate,” Kekst said.

“Don’t grease the pan,” said Elinor Klivans, author of “Fearless Baking: Over 100 Recipes That Anyone Can Make” (Simon & Schuster, 2001). “These cakes must climb slowly up the pan as they bake and stay put.”

But perhaps the best advice she gave me was to take your time when baking. Multi-tasking is a great idea in the office, but a bad idea in the kitchen.

“Whenever I try to hurry,” she said, “I find that I have made some sort of major mistake. That is when I see the cup of sugar on the counter that I forgot to put in my cake. Check to see that you have all of your ingredients on hand before you begin. And, most important, have a good time!”

Will my sponge cake reach new heights this Pesach? Oh, well, it’s only a cake. If life gives you lemons, make lemonade. If your sponge cake sinks, do as I do. Cut it in half and frost it!

Aunt Estelle’s Mile-High Sponge Cake

9 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar, sifted
Freshly grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
Freshly grated zest and juice of 1 orange
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon extract
1 tablespoon orange extract
1 heaping cup (packed) Passover potato starch

Preheat the oven to 325 F.
With an electric mixer at medium-high speed, beat the yolks, very gradually adding 1 cup of the sugar until the mixture is very thick and very light yellow, making sure the sugar is completely dissolved. This may take 15 minutes or more. Beat in the lemon and orange juices, lemon and orange zests and extracts. Reduce the speed to low and very gradually add the potato starch until blended. Set aside.
With clean, dry bowl and beaters, beat egg whites at medium-high speed until frothy, about 30 seconds. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff, about 90 seconds more. Mix 1/4 of the beaten egg whites into the yolk mixture to lighten it. Carefully fold in the remaining beaten egg whites in 3 additions.
Transfer the batter to an ungreased 10-inch tube pan with a removable bottom. Sprinkle the top with a little sugar if you want a crust on top. (Eliminate this step if you prefer a soft top.) Bake until the cake springs back when lightly touched, about 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Strawberry Filling
1 pint fresh strawberries, rinsed and dried
1 pint Passover nondairy whipping cream

When cake has completely cooled, split in half horizontally. Whip nondairy topping according to the package directions and spread on the bottom layer. Distribute strawberries on top of the whipped topping, leaving some for garnish around the plate. Cover with top half of cake.

Chocolate Frosting
1 cup Passover semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup Passover non-dairy whipping cream
1 tablespoon margarine
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
Combine the chips, whipping cream and margarine in a 2-cup measuring cup or bowl. Heat in microwave on high power one to two minutes, stirring once until smooth and chocolate is melted. Frost top with chocolate and drizzle some down sides of cake. Sprinkle with toasted almonds. Let stand until chocolate is set.

 

Yeladim


 

Say It Again

How many times can you say “Passover” during the seder? For instance: “Pass over the salt.” “Please pass over a soup spoon.” Keep count and decide what the winner gets for a prize!

White Chocolate Almond Matzah

1 cup butter

1 cup sugar

4 to 6 square matzahs

1 (12 ounces) bag of white chocolate chips

1 cup crushed almonds

Preheat oven to 400? F . Line a cookie sheet with foil. Lay matzah on it in a single layer. Melt 1 cup butter and 1 cup sugar in saucepan. Pour and spread over matzah. Bake at 400? F. for five minutes (have an adult help you). Remove from oven and pour a 12-ounce bag of white chocolate chips over matzah and spread it around evenly. Return to oven for 30-60 seconds to melt the chips, then remove. Spread chocolate evenly over matzah with a knife. Sprinkle crushed almonds over the whole thing. Refrigerate overnight and then break it into pieces and enjoy! Makes 4 square matzahs.

 

Move Over Frosty, Here Comes Fran


Fran Drescher doesn’t remember receiving Chanukah presents as a child.

"With the Dreschers, [Chanukah] was all about the food," laughed the actress who is best known for her role in TV’s "The Nanny," which aired from 1993-99. "Nothing was as important as the chocolate dreidels and chocolate coins."

Besides seeking out her share of Chanukah gelt, the Queens, N.Y., native remembers going to her grandmother’s house on the first night of Chanukah for an annual holiday feast. This year, Drescher is inviting audiences to celebrate the Festival of Lights with some music, a few stories and, yes, a little nosh, as she hosts "A Chanukah Celebration," a new holiday special airing on PBS stations around the country throughout the month of December.

The one-hour show includes Chanukah musical performances from popular recording artist — and Friday Night Live staple Craig Taubman — as well as folk legend Theodore Bikel; a holiday dessert how-to from chef, author and television host Jeff Nathan of "New Jewish Cuisine"; decorating tips from Journal singles columnist Teresa Strasser; a contemporary telling of the "Eight Lights of Chanukah" by public television host Rabbi Irwin Kula; and some holiday fun with the puppets from the Parents’ Choice Award-winning "Alef…Bet…Blast-off!"

"There were so many Christmas specials in the public television pipeline and zero Chanukah specials," said Jay Sanderson, the CEO of Jewish Television Network (JTN), the Sherman Oaks-based production company that produced this and other Jewish programs for PBS.

"We’re in the business of producing television that promotes Jewish life and heritage and makes people feel more comfortable and relate to being Jewish," Sanderson said. "If there’s a need, we’re the ones to fulfill it."

When they needed a host for "A Chanukah Celebration," Sanderson knew just who to call on.

"It’s clearly a family special and Fran was the perfect hostess for that," he said. "She’s attractive, she’s funny and she’s got that quirky laugh and that quirky voice."

In between segments about hosting your own Chanukah bash, making a holiday dessert that leaves latkes in the dust and tapping your feet to a few new Chanukah tunes, as well as some classics, Drescher occasionally chimes in with her slightly nasal, yet always charming, New York accent to recall her own Chanukah memories. For instance, the actress remembers illuminating the light bulbs in an old electric menorah, as her family preferred not to use real candles for the holiday.

Drescher embraces her tendency to attract Jewish-related roles and is proud of her roots.

"I actually made a point of making sure that the character I played on ‘The Nanny’ was Jewish," she told The Journal. "[Other people] thought maybe she should be Italian because they thought more people could relate to that and I’m like, no, I don’t think so. She’s Jewish."

Just as diverse audiences across the country came to embrace Drescher’s ethnic character on "The Nanny," Sanderson has found that many non-Jews appreciate and watch Jewish programming — and he anticipates that "A Chanukah Celebration" will be no exception.

I’m hoping that people will have a positive feeling about Chanukah and what it means and that this special brings a little light to Jews and non-Jews around the county," he said.

Meanwhile, Drescher is already planning a Chanukah celebration of her own.

"This year I’m going to host a Chanukah dinner," she said. "I don’t whether we’re actually going to do Chanukah presents, but there will definitely be chocolate coins."

"A Chanukah Celebration" will air on PBS stations around Southern California on the following dates and times:

KOCE in Huntington Beach on Thurs., Dec. 18 at 8 p.m. KVCR in San Bernardino on Thurs., Dec. 18 at 10 p.m. KCET in Los Angeles on Saturday, Dec. 20 at 9 p.m. KLCS in Los Angeles on Saturday, Dec. 20 at 5 p.m. and Sun., Dec. 21 at 10 a.m.

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