Passover Desserts vs. Desserts for Passover

Mar 19, 2013   //   by Adina   //   Chef's Blog  //  No Comments

Years ago, I brought my (now) husband home to celebrate Passover with my relatives. While he had already met my immediate family, this was the first time he was going to be with the “whole mishpucha”. Needless to say, he was out to make a good impression. All was going great…. until dessert. My mother, being of the typical “we never have enough food” Jewish mother variety, had plenty of food and desserts. But she felt like she just needed that one more dessert, and had made a special, Kosher-for-Passover cake from the box. I warned Jesse not to touch it, that try as they might, the Jewish people had yet to perfect the “Passover Cake.” But, wanting to make that impression he took a nice healthy slice, after which he managed to choke out, “it’s not bad.” He would have gotten away scott-free had it not been for my brother. Mere seconds after Jesse uttered that the cake wasn’t bad, my brother, a bit “happy” after the requisite four glasses of wine, took a bite and shouted, “Ma, this sucks!” And he was right. Passover cakes, even the homemade ones, inevitably taste “funny” to terrible. It’s not anyone’s fault really. It’s just that when ingredients such as flour, baking powder/soda and yeast are replaced with potato starch and matzo meal along with more eggs and oil than normally consumed in a year, there is no way the food is going to taste very good let alone close to the original.

Over the years, I have made it my mission to try as many cookie, cake and brownie recipes that make the claim of being “fabulous” Passover desserts, from Bon Appetite Magazine to my Aunt Judy. I’ve tried the “flourless” chocolate cakes (that end up with an extremely heavy fudge-like consistency because even most flourless cakes have a bit of flour in them), the sponge cake (where even the addition of orange zest can’t mask the taste of matzo cake meal and potato starch), the brownies (where even the addition of egg whites whipped to frenzied peaks can’t make up for missing baking powder or soda). From cookies to brownies, I’ve tried them all and have come to the conclusion that they aren’t worth the bother. So now, when people ask me if I have a great Passover dessert recipe I respond no, but I DO have great dessert recipes that will work FOR Passover. I’ve decided to share a few with you below, so that you can add some fantastic flavor to your Passover dessert table. You’re welcome.

FROZEN STRAWBERRY MOUSSE*

Ingredients
• 1 quart fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 2 large egg whites
• 2 tablespoons lemon juice
• 3/4 cup sugar (in addition to the sugar above)
• Strawberries, for garnish

Directions
1. Puree strawberries and 3/4 cup sugar in blender or food processor.
2. Beat egg whites with lemon juice and gradually add additional 3/4 cup sugar until stiff peaks form.
3. Fold berry mixture into whites.
4. Beat at high speed for 10-15 minutes until mixture doubles in volume.
5. Pour into parfait glasses, jello mold (or graham cracker pie crust when it’s not Passover), cover and freeze for at least 24 hours.
6. Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving – garnish with berries, strawberry sauce and or whipped cream or cool whip.

*This makes a ton – you may even want to cut it in half.

CHOCOLATE BOWLS WITH WHITE CHOCOLATE STRAWBERRY MOUSSE

Bowls
• Balloons (I used water balloons because they are nice and small but you can use regular balloons just blown up part way)
• Semi sweet chocolate (or any kind of chocolate you prefer)
• Cooking spray.

Directions
1. Blow up the balloons, rinse them off and let them dry.
2. Line a baking sheet with wax paper or parchment paper.
3. Melt chocolate over a double boiler or carefully in the microwave. Pour into a small deep bowl and let it cool slightly.
4. Spray each balloon lightly with cooking spray.
5. Spoon small amounts of chocolate onto the baking sheet (equal to the number of bowls you plan on making). This will be your bowl base.

6. Take one of your prepared balloons and dip it in the chocolate. Dip it in enough so the chocolate makes a bowl shape around the balloon.

7. Remove from the chocolate and place the balloon gently on top of the chocolate waiting on the baking sheet.

8. Repeat until you are out of chocolate or have as many bowls as you need. Place baking sheet in refrigerator for 15-20 minutes
9. Remove from fridge and pop a small hole in the balloons with a pin. Gently peel the deflated balloon from the chocolate.

10. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Fill with filling of your choice: pudding, mousse, ice cream, berries etc.

STRAWBERRY WHITE CHOCOLATE MOUSSE
(note: this recipe made enough to fill 5 chocolate balloons bowls)

Ingredients
• 1 lb. strawberries
• 1 Tbsp lemon juice
• 8 ounces white chocolate finely, chopped
• 1 1/4 tsp unflavored gelatin
• 2 cups whipping cream, divided
• 2 Tbsp powdered sugar
• Extra strawberries for garnish

Directions
1. Clean and hull the remaining strawberries then cut them in half.
2. Place the prepare strawberries in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.
3. Using a fine sieve, press the puree through the sieve into a bowl. This is to remove the seeds. You want to have 3/4 a cup of puree. Once you have 3/4 cup puree, stir in the 1 Tbsp lemon juice. Set aside.
4. Place white chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds and stir. Microwave in 20 second intervals until melted and smooth. Set aside.
5. Place 1/4 cup cold water in a small bowl and sprinkle with gelatin. Let sit for 5 minutes.
6. In a small sauce pan, heat 1/4 cup of the cream with the powdered sugar to a simmer over medium heat. Add the gelatin and stir until dissolved.
7. Remove from the heat and add the melted chocolate. Stir until well blended. Then whisk in the 3/4 cup strawberry puree.
8. Whip remaining whip cream with a hand mixer. Add 1/3 of the whipped cream to the chocolate mixture and whisk together until smooth.
9. Next, add the chocolate mixture to the remaining whipped cream and lightly fold in using a silicone spatula. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE PUDDING


Ingredients
• 3 1/2 cups skim milk, divided
• 1 cup cocoa, dutch process
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch**
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 large egg, lightly beaten
• 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
• 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Directions
1. Combine 1 cup milk, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt in a large bowl; stir
well and set aside.

2. Cook 2 1/2 cups milk in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat to 180 degrees or until tiny bubbles appear around the edges (do not boil). Remove from heat; stir in sugar with a whisk until it dissolves. Add cocoa mixture to pan, stirring until blended. Bring to a boil over medium heat, cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

3. Combine egg and egg yolk in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Gradually add milk mixture to egg mixture, stirring constantly.

4. Return mixture to pan. Cook over medium heat until thick (about 2 minutes); stir constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in chocolate and vanilla. Stir until chocolate melts. Serve warm or chilled.

* For Passover, the Jewish tradition prohibits the eating of khametz, usually translated as “leaven” or “leavened bread.” Basically it refers to food prepared from five species of grain — wheat, barley, oats, spelt, and rye — that has been allowed to rise (Ieaven).

The Ashkenazic rabbis (probably around 10th or 11th Century AD) in Germany also prohibited what they called kitniot — basically, anything that was sold in grain-like form or might be confused with grain. Their prohibition included rice, millet, corn, and legumes. When in doubt, prohibit, on the grounds that it is better to be more strict in avoidance of foods than to be less strict and potentially violate the Biblical commandment not to eat leaven. Of course, corn (maize) was not known to Europe at the time, but when the New World crop made its appearance a few centuries later, it was quickly identified as kitniot and thus prohibited for Passover.

Sephardic Jews (from Spain and the Mediterranean areas) did not prohibit rice, millet, corn or legumes. They said there was no danger of confusing them with prohibited grains. So a cheesecake made for a Sephardic family might use cornstarch.

Why it’s important to cook with your kids

Feb 7, 2013   //   by Adina   //   Chef's Blog  //  5 Comments

I know, I know. In today’s insanely busy world filled with overlapping baseball, soccer and karate practices, dance and gymnastics classes and play rehearsals, it’s a miracle if you sit down and eat with your families more than once a week, let alone actually get homemade meals on the table. So finding time to cook WITH your kids seems to be asking a bit much, right? Yet more and more experts say that the benefits of cooking with your kids are enormous.

When kids cook it, they are more apt to try it.
Let’s face it, kids can be stubborn. Place a plate of something outside the list of “five dinners I know they’ll eat” in front of them and somehow, without even tasting it, they know they aren’t going to like it. Take that same meal, have them prepare it, and see how willing they are to try it. Case in point: we bought my son a cook book for Chanukah this year and now he’s cooking, and tasting things he never would have had I just laid them on the table.

Follow the Directions!
How many times have your kids sat down to do their homework and almost instantly yelled to you, “I don’t get this!” My first instinct (and usually the correct one) is to ask if they have read the entire page, set of directions or problem all the way through. How can you make chicken parmesan without having the right cheese in the house? Why is your lemon filling melting on to your crust? Maybe because step five clearly stated to let your crust completely cool. Cooking forces kids to think clearly, be organized and follow the directions.

Reading/Vocabulary
My daughter has always been a reader. My son, he’d rather be doing anything but. I once had a teacher tell me that she didn’t care what the children read, the sports page, cereal box, or book as long as they were reading something every day. Why not a cookbook? Not only are your children reading a recipe, but most likely they are learning all sorts of useful vocabulary words. Let’s face it, your child is just as likely, if not more to use the words dice, sauté and simmer later on in life as they are yearn, liberate and bondage (yes, that was a fifth grade vocabulary word).

Math Skills
Weights, liquid measures, dry measures, basic counting, fractions, addition, multiplication, and division. It’s all there. Let’s face it, I know when I was a kid it was much more important to figure out just how many cookies you will get to eat if the recipe makes four dozen and you need to share them equally among your four family members, rather than how many days it takes to get from New York to California if the train is going 90 MPH. Who takes a train across the country anyway?

Science
Remember the science experiment where you made a volcano that erupted all over your house with just baking soda and vinegar? Kids love that, parents, not so much. You can teach the same lessons with baking. What happens if you leave the baking powder out of your muffins? Put too much baking soda in your cookies? It’s a lot less messy and you get to eat the results if you do it right.

Geography
What kid doesn’t love taco night? And while 10-15 years ago it wasn’t so easy to get a hold of red curry paste, or grape leaves or lemon grass, now most of these “exotic” ingredients are available right in the international aisle of the supermarket. Find out what region or country your kids are learning about in school and create a dinner around it. Nothing makes me happier than when my kids choose a sushi, Thai or Mexican restaurant over one of the endless pub-like restaurants that seem to be everywhere.

Art & Creativity
As one who tends to be a bit of a perfectionist in the kitchen (ok, maybe more than a bit) this was the hardest lesson for me to learn when cooking with my kids. So what if they are piling more sprinkles, candy and frosting on to the cupcake than there is cake and it’s leaning a bit? To them, it’s a work of art good enough to eat. Same goes for any meal. We eat with our eyes. Restaurants know this – which is why they take great care to place that one little melting pat of butter on top of your potato, or drizzle your plate with just a bit of extra sauce or add that one piece of mint on top of your dessert, just to create some color. One of the first times my kids made my husband and I breakfast, it was not just cinnamon toast on a plate. It came “plated” with a smiley face garnish of orange wedges and mini-marshmallows – and I was never more proud.

In the end, cooking should be fun. Because the more fun kids have, the more time they will want to spend doing it – and maybe if you get lucky, one day soon you’ll be able to take a night off while they cook dinner. I do!

Have you spent time cooking with your kids? Have they started eating new and different foods because they were the chef? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Sources:
http://www.webmd.com/diet/guide/cooking-with-children
http://www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_view.aspx?ArticleID=541

K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple Sinners

May 14, 2011   //   by Adina   //   Chef's Blog  //  No Comments

A few years back we had a friend come stay with us for the first time. While setting up the guest room I thought it would be a nice touch to put a few individually wrapped cookies and a bottle of water in the little basket on the nightstand. I decided to go with one of my more unique cookies, the White Chocolate Cherry Chunk, as they tend to make a good first impression and that was what I was going for. When the weekend was over and I was putting the room back together I couldn’t help but smile when I noticed that all of the cookies had been eaten. It wasn’t until months later that my friend confessed that while he did enjoy the cookies, he almost hadn’t eaten them. He was a cookie purist, and in his opinion, there was nothing like the delicious simplicity of a really good chocolate chip cookie.

He’s right. Who among us can resist a warm, buttery chocolate chip cookie right out of the oven? With a cold glass of milk, there may be nothing more satisfying or comforting. Which is why today, we should all give thanks to Ruth Wakefield.

Ruth Graves Wakefield, together with her husband, established the Toll House Inn in 1930. Ruth, a dietitian, prepared the recipes for the meals served to the guests at the Inn and became quite famous with the locals for her desserts. One of her favorite recipes was for Butter Drop Do cookies, a recipe that called for the use of baker’s chocolate. One day Ruth found herself without baker’s chocolate and decided to substitute a semi-sweet chocolate bar (a gift from Andrew Nestle from Nestle Chocolate Company) which she cut up into bits. However, unlike the baker’s chocolate, the chopped up chocolate bar did not melt completely, the small pieces only softened.

As the Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe became popular, sales of the Nestlé’s semi-sweet chocolate bar increased. Andrew Nestle and Ruth Wakefield struck a deal. Nestle would print the Toll House Cookie recipe on its packaging and Ruth Wakefield would have a lifetime supply of Nestle chocolate.

Today, when customers call and ask my opinion as to what kind of cookies they should order, whether for a gift or a platter, I make it a point of suggesting some of our more unique flavors, but always advise that they include at least a dozen of our Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies. That way, even the purists are happy.

How Many Free Throws Can You Bake?

Jan 18, 2011   //   by Adina   //   Chef's Blog  //  1 Comment

December, as you can imagine, is considered “Busy Season” at Sweet Little Sin.  As soon as Thanksgiving is over, I am instantly thrown into a situation of organized panic knowing that I am pretty much going to be baking nonstop for a month (this on top of Chanukah shopping, getting out holiday cards and every other year preparing for our annual New Year’s Day blow-out open house).  I say organized panic because every year I make my poor family crazy thinking that I am never going to be able to get it all done, and yet, somehow, over the years I have figured out a system that manages to get every last cookie, cake and brownie baked, packaged and out right on time (if I could only apply that system to the rest of my life I would be golden!).

This year the panic began to creep up on me as we drove to New York City for Thanksgiving and an email came in for an order from a new corporate gift client that kept growing with every mile driven.  By the time we reached NYC (four hours later) I was in full fledged panic mode, wishing I had brought my laptop to start the organization process,  as I realized that I had already reached my limit for baking and I was going to have to cut off all orders for a few weeks. 

Needless to say, about an hour after stepping back into our house after the Thanksgiving weekend, I was already having my husband doing the ingredient math (c’mon, those who really know me know that I couldn’t possibly trust myself to do the math!) on the 120 dozen cookies, 26 dozen brownies and nine dozen S’mores Bars that had to be baked, packaged shipped and delivered by December 20.  And that was just the first batch of orders!

On December 24, while making yet another batch of S’mores, I found myself talking to a good customer who had come to pick up his order (of four dozen Lemon Drops and a dozen rugulach).  In a good natured yet marketing-savvy kind of way, he suggested I “figure out exactly how many cookies, brownies, rugulach and S’mores Bars I made and, if I lined them all up, just how long would the line be?”  (I recall relaying this suggestion to one of my oldest and dearest friends over a glass of wine a week or so later and watching her reaction of utter hysterical laughter at the thought of me wrapping my Emerson College brain around that math.)  Regardless, it was an interesting idea and I swiftly put my trusty husband and his mathematical brain to work on it.  Below is what “we” figured out:

Based on the size of each cookie, brownie and bar, and the number baked, “we” estimate that the sinfully delicious treat line would run approximately 420 feet.

In terms that most of Sweet Little Sin’s local fans can relate to:

  • More than three times the Adam Vinatieri Snow Bowl field goal
  • One homerun hit over The Green Monster and onto Landsdowne St.
  • 30 perfectly shot Ray Allen free throws

That’s a LOT of dessert!   Thanks to all of those whose orders were a part of our most successful December yet!

Resolve to SIN more in 2011

Jan 3, 2011   //   by Adina   //   Chef's Blog  //  No Comments

It’s a new year and we’re hoping to make 2011 the most sinfully delicious one yet!  To start things off right, we’re giving away a tin of one dozen cookies (choose your favorite from our cookie page). It only takes two steps to enter:

  1. Become a fan of our Facebook page (hey, if you’re already a fan you get to skip right to the next step!)
  2. Between Monday, January 3 and Friday, January, 7 post on our Facebook wall “I resolve to SIN more in 2011.”  (One entry per person please!)

The winner will be randomly selected from all entrants on Friday, January 7 at 6pm/ET.  Cookies will either be delivered or shipped to you depending on where you live.

Good luck, and thanks for being a fan of SWEET LITTLE SIN.  Happy New Year!

Not Your Mother’s Cookie Swap

Dec 6, 2010   //   by Adina   //   Chef's Blog  //  1 Comment

‘Tis the season for the holiday cookie swap.  For some, a small break from the stressful holiday season.  A chance to get together with friends, grab a drink, some snacks, swap holiday mall horror stories, gift ideas and, of course, cookies.  If you have never been to one, here’s the basic concept:  Each guest bakes dozens of their favorite cookie, takes them to the party where they then trade their cookies for a sampling of everyone else’s.  The result being that everyone goes home with an assortment of new cookies.  Pretty simple, right? 

Apparently not.  The other day, a friend of mine sent me a Time Magazine article entitled Cookie Swaps: The Elaborate Rules of  a Sweet Tradition.  In a 21st Century cookie swap, guests are being sent their invitations along with lists of what cookies are and are not allowed, being told what is and isn’t “acceptable” should you burn your cookies and not have time to bake dozens more, and are being judged by other guests on how much “love & effort” they seem to be putting into their cookies.  This doesn’t seem to be very stress-free to me – and I bake for a living.

Last year, my friend Robin was invited to a cookie swap like one described in the Time article.  If you know Robin, you know two things: 1) she would be the first to admit she is not a domestic diva, but, 2) she is usually game to try anything.  Thankfully Robin has a way with the written word and she wrote about her hilarious experience in a post entitled, Thinking Outside The Tin, as part of her Drawing In blog.

Over the years I have been invited to my share of cookie swaps.  I usually graciously turn down the invitations, not because I don’t love a good cookie, or that I don’t want to share, but usually it’s around the time I am madly baking thousands of cookie for holiday orders.  However, two years ago my friend Siobhan who writes a fantastic food blog called Foodfixe wrote to tell me she was going to try a virtual cookie swap called the The 12 Days of Christmas Cookies and asked if I would mind contributing a cookie (or holiday dessert) and a story.  Over those 12 days, I collected some great recipes from her other contributors and didn’t have to bake a thing! So when she came back to me this year and asked if I would share another of my favorite holiday desserts, I jumped at the chance.  In the six days since it started, I have printed all six recipes and I can’t wait until I have the time to bake some of them for my own enjoyment! 

Whether you choose to participate in a virtual or traditional cookie swap, enjoy your time spent in the kitchen.  Baking should be fun.  After all, you’re making dessert!

A Sweet Chanukah Tradition

Dec 1, 2010   //   by Adina   //   Chef's Blog  //  No Comments

The turkey leftovers are barely eaten and Chanukah is already here.  Thank goodness for internet shopping and overnight shipping because who has time for a stroll through the mall?

While latkes are the snack most commonly associated with Chanukah, this year I am also going to try frying up sufganiyot (jelly filled donuts), which is the Chanukah treat more commonly consumed in Israel. Wish me luck!

For those of you who want to serve some of these sweet treats for your Chanukah party, Martha Stewart has a good recipe

Happy Chanukah!

Martha Stewart's Hanukkah Sufganiyot

NYC On 5000 Calories A Day

Nov 29, 2010   //   by Adina   //   Chef's Blog  //  No Comments

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving is my all time favorite holiday, being that it’s all about food, family and friends – and this year was no exception. We traveled to NYC where we spent Thanksgiving morning watching the parade march right by us from the second floor apartment of our good friend Susan while munching on H&H Bagels (bagels so good my son begs our friends and family from NY to bring him a dozen each time they come visit), and smoked salmon and whitefish from Zabars. Food is so much a part of our trips to NY and though some of my friends may be surprised to hear this, not all of my favorites are fancy, foodie-type places. Two blocks from my father-in-law’s apartment is Mariella Pizza (on 8th btwn 56/57th), one of mine and my husband’s all time favorites. Although Oprah may have recently discovered it, we’ve been eating their pizza with slices so large and drippy they just beg to be folded over for over 15 years! We also introduced our kids to the “Burger Joint” inside the Parker Meridian Hotel. Hidden behind a red curtain in the lobby and noted only by a small neon sign in the shape of a burger, this tiny little spot is the definition of a “joint” and great for burgers, fries and shakes. And while NY is famous for its giant cheesecakes, my new favorite dessert addiction is the Salted Pistachio Caramel soft serve ice cream at The Milk Bar.

Of course, there are those who don’t live near Sweet Little Sin who feel the same way about getting their hands on some of our goodies. And my friend Reese was no exception. So after a quick hug, two dozen Lemon Drop cookies were immediately handed over. And while he really wanted to eat them the entire train ride back to Queens, he was kind enough to save some to share with his sister that evening, who loved them enough to write about them and Sweet Little Sin on her blog http://myjackandsalma.blogspot.com/2010/11/so-sweet.html.

If you have a favorite place to grab something specific in NYC I’d love to hear about it…we’re always looking for something great to try on our next trip!

Is this thing on?

Nov 22, 2010   //   by Adina   //   Chef's Blog  //  No Comments

Hello?  Is this thing on?  Testing… testing.

Welcome to the brand new Sweet Little Sin website.  It’s been a labor of love over the last few months putting this together.

I know what you’re thinking: how does this affect ME (and by ‘me,’ I mean ‘you’)?  Well, I’m glad you asked.

There are a number of reasons for you to love the new site: 
– Each product page has bigger pictures for you to drool over (apparently scratch ‘n sniff technology has yet to make it to the web).
– We will be offering regular website promotions and discounts (like 10% off catering tray orders of three dozen or more cookies).
– The homepage will always highlight the latest addition to the Sweet Little Sin product line so you know we’re not just goofing off.
– There’s a contact form now for simple questions (but ordering is still done by phone.  I would miss hearing your voice!).

Also, I’ll be writing this blog (or at least that’s what the plan is, with good intentions).  On a regular basis, I’ll be sharing stories from the Sweet Little Sin kitchen, links to relevant articles and generally keeping you informed and entertained.  In return, I expect you to keep me entertained with your comments.

Lastly, for the complete Sweet Little Sin experience, ‘Like’ us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Of course for the REALLY complete experience, give us a call and place your order now.

I hope you enjoy the new site.  Let me know what you think!

Best,
Adina