By Tina Wasserman
It’s almost Father’s Day and either you’ll be eating out because Dad has spent the day on the golf/tennis/pickleball court or the grill will be fired up to eat good burgers, etc., at home. Either way, it’s time to pamper the guy that, among many activities, sat through all those T-ball games with the sun in his face while the little ones swung at the ball endlessly in hopes of making contact. So why save chocolate for Valentine’s Day when the guy you love can enjoy it?
By the way, the chocolate industry owes a great deal to the Jews who escaped the Spanish Inquisition and settled in South America; the Caribbean; Bayonne, France; and Amsterdam. Benjamin de Acosta de Andrade, in the mid-1600s, developed a method to process cocoa beans so that they could be transported easily for later use. With the help of many Jewish sea merchants, the cocoa, along with sugar grown in the Caribbean, was transported to merchants in the Northeast and then on to Bayonne and to Amsterdam, where the Dutch East India Company transported the products throughout Europe. Bayonne was known as the pastry capital of France and many Jewish Portuguese immigrants escaped to that town and developed their reputation as chocolatiers and merchants to the proletariat, not just to the rich and powerful.
Enjoy these delicacies either as part of your meze plate or for dessert. All can be prepared in advance with little, or no, last-minute preparation so you will have time to dote on Dad.
Chocolate Cinnamon Spread with Olive Oil
Not sweet, spread on soft breads and lightly sprinkled with flaky salt, this spread adds an additional dimension to your tray of cheese or meats or dips. Enjoy!
4-ounce bar semisweet chocolate (Lindt or Ghirardelli), chopped into ½-inch pieces
½ cup mild but fruity extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
¼ cup cocoa powder, unsweetened
¼ to ½ teaspoon cinnamon, to taste
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Homemade Laffa bread, Ciabatta or French bread slices
Maldon flaky salt for garnish, optional
1. Whisk chocolate pieces and olive oil in a 1-quart saucepan over low heat until the chocolate has melted and mixture is well combined.
2. Add the confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon and vanilla and whisk rapidly until the mixture is very smooth and thoroughly combined. The addition of the vanilla might thicken the spread slightly but make sure mixture is smooth.
3. Pour into a clean 8-ounce jar and partially cover with the lid. Let spread sit at room temperature until it thickens into a spreadable consistency. Cover jar tightly and keep on your pantry shelf.
4. To serve, spread some onto a wedge of bread of choice and lightly sprinkle with some flaky salt.
Serve for breakfast with a hot cup of coffee and some fresh fruit or as part of a meze plate.
Yield: Approximately 8-12 ounces
• Use a good-quality chocolate as suggested so that it has a smooth, but not too firm, consistency at room temperature.
• If you don’t like a prominent olive oil flavor, vegetable oil or a mild nut oil may be used.
• I’ve added a very subtle amount of cinnamon to bring out the chocolate flavor. Experiment. Try adding some chipotle powder or chili powder instead. Just don’t add too much. These additions should add subtlety to the chocolate flavor.
• Because there are no dairy products used, this mixture can be used in many dishes and can also be stored in the pantry. (Note that some chocolates do contain dairy ingredients; read the ingredient panel.) Refrigerated, this mixture is very stiff like a ganache.
Rum Raisin Cake
A rich, but not heavy, chocolate cake that goes great with a dollop of ice cream, whipped cream or fresh fruit…or ALL at once! See Tidbits for some variations.
1½ cups dark raisins
1 cup rum, divided use
6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (64% or higher)
¾ cup water
2 tablespoons Turkish coffee powder or Medaglia D’Or instant espresso powder
½ cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
21/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon regular salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
Confectioners’ sugar for garnish
1. Combine the raisins with ½ cup of the rum and let soak at room temperature for a few hours or overnight.
2. When ready to make cake, spray a 10-cup Bundt pan (or two 8-inch loaf pans) generously with nonstick spray. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
3. In microwave, melt chocolate for 30 seconds or on the melt chocolate setting. Stir with a rubber spatula, return to the microwave for 15-30 seconds more and stir again. Repeat until chocolate is melted but not dried out. Let cool.
4. In a 2-cup Pyrex dish, heat ¾ cup water in a microwave for 2 minutes or until boiling. Add the coffee and cocoa and whisk until smooth.
5. Drain raisins, reserving raisins and soaking liquid separately. Add remaining ½ cup rum and any liquid from the raisins to the coffee/cocoa mixture and whisk to combine. Cool.
6. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
7. Using an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat butter until soft and fluffy. Add sugar and beat again until light and creamy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Beat in the melted chocolate, scraping down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula to combine evenly.
8. On low speed, beat in 1/3 of the cocoa/rum mixture. When liquid is absorbed, beat in 1/3 of the flour mix. Repeat twice, ending with rum mixture.
9. Sprinkle ¼ of the raisins into the prepared pan. Spoon a layer of batter over top; repeat layering raisins and batter, ending with batter. Smooth top.
10. Bake cake until a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean and the cake begins to shrink away from the sides of the pan, about 1 hour for Bundt pan (loaf pans will take less time; start checking them after 50 minutes).
11. Transfer cake to a rack to cool. Unmold after 20 minutes. Let cool completely before serving, sprinkling generously with confectioners’ sugar if you like.
Makes 2 loaf cakes or 1 large Bundt cake, serves 16 to 20
• Bourbon will also taste great in this cake, or you can substitute orange juice for an alcohol-free cake. Whatever liquid you use, the flavors will mellow and enhance the flavor of the cake if made a day before eating.
• I used raisins but diced figs or prunes would also be a great addition especially after marinating in the alcohol or juice.
• Want to make this a “triple” chocolate cake? Add 1 cup of chocolate chips to the fruit layering or just eliminate the fruit and add 1½ cups chocolate chips to the batter or in between layers.
Challah Babka Bread Pudding
One year I had lots of leftover challahs and decided to create a bread pudding that would have all the delicious components of babka without having to make a new batch of yeast dough. Here is the result and it is loved by all and easy for a young child to help you prepare as a present for Daddy. Enjoy!
1 1-pound raisin challah, preferably a few days old
8 ounces Israeli chocolate spread (Crème Chocolate or Nutella or the homemade chocolate spread)
1 stick unsalted butter or margarine plus additional for greasing pan
¼ cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2½ cups 2% or whole milk (oat milk or creamy soy milk may be used)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter or pareve margarine at room temperature or slightly softened in the microwave
½ cup flour
½ cup sugar
1. Butter a 2-quart oval or rectangular baking dish. Set aside.
2. Slice the challah into ½-inch slices.
3. Spread the chocolate filling over each slice of bread and arrange in the casserole to fit evenly.
4. Melt the butter in a 2-quart bowl in the microwave. Add the sugar to the melted butter and stir to dissolve.
5. Add the eggs and the remaining ingredients to the bowl and whisk to combine well.
6. Carefully pour the egg/milk mixture over the bread slices. Gently press down on the bread slices to submerge them under the custard. Place a plate or bowl on top of the casserole to weight the challah down. Let sit for 30 minutes while you make the topping.
7. To make the topping, place the butter, flour and sugar in a 1-quart mixing bowl and squeeze the mixture together using your hands, and then fingertips, to evenly combine all ingredients and make a crumble. Spread on top of casserole and then bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 45 minutes or until golden. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Serves 8-12 people
• The best knife for slicing bread is a serrated knife. If young children are helping you make this dish, then it is best for an adult to slice the bread in advance. Serrated edges leave scars if cut so I don’t advise using them with children.
• A curved edged spatula/spreader is best for spreading the chocolate over the challah slices.
• Although whisky sauces are often poured over bread puddings, stirred ice cream can be a very easy substitute for Crème Anglaise. Serving as is, is great as well!