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Chocolate Saves the Seder

Goodness prevails.

March 28, 2001|MARCY GOLDMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The typical Passover Seder meal is a minefield of familial politics. Jackie Mason could base a stand-up routine on it: "I want the soup but no chicken in it; matzo balls but soft, not hard, ones; tzimmes but no prunes; brisket but just a little and just a thin slice; some potato kugel but not touching the brisket gravy; salad with the light dressing in a separate container; and I want fish but after the soup and before the meat. And I want it on the side!"

This is a Big Meal, an important meal and one wherein it is not unusual to feature a couple of different examples of a similar dish from several different contributors. Choose one dish over another, express a preference at this one's brisket ('so moist and not fatty!') and you stand to gain or lose a relative. No one keeps a written record, but count on it-people remember who ate what. Passover begins at sundown April 7.

Real stand-offs occur when there are two of the same thing but done differently-like a traditional kugel and a tofu one, or gefilte fish from a kosher deli and a hopeful, from-scratch edition, undertaken when someone (usually plucky and 30-something), in a bold and whimsical pre-Passover moment, takes a chance and tries his hand at gefilte fish and fresh horseradish. This settled, the dispute continues to the chicken soup and matzo ball issue. And so it goes.

Until dessert. For dessert, it is not so much "who brought, who bought?'-it's a matter of what is good. And what is always good, always welcome, especially at Passover, is chocolate.

The happy news for those who swoon at chocolate in its many guises on any occasion is that it is an exceptionally good choice at Passover. Richly flavored, pure in taste, chocolate-based Passover cakes, squares and confections deliver a good hit of dessert pleasure, bringing sweet but unmistakable closure to the Seder meal. Fresh fruit is refreshing, but no matter what people tell you about being "so full," they still want a great, traditional dessert.

While we tend to be tolerant of Passover desserts because of the difficult criteria they must meet (no leavenings, usually no butter or other dairy products, no liquid vanilla or other alcohol-based extracts and, most of all, no wheat flour), everyone raves when you hit pay dirt with an exceptional creation. "Are you sure it's a Passover cake?" is the highest accolade a Passover dessert can elicit.

The easiest way to achieve this is to give in to the inevitable chocolate conclusion. Chocolate does Passover better than any other ingredient, so showcase it-in brownies, truffles, tortes and cakes, and an outstanding, luscious chocolate buttercream roll. No excuses need be served with these treats-they are welcome on any table, at any time of year.

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Plate in cake photo from Joan Chase showroom at the L.A. Mart. Plate in biscotti photo from Iris Intrigue Boutique, South Pasadena.

Goldman runs the Baker Boulanger Web site, http://www.betterbaking.com.

Chocolate Genoise and Butter Cream Roll

Active Work Time: 40 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour 45 minutes

This can be made ahead and frozen or refrigerated until needed. Because the eggs are not separated in this recipe, you need a heavy-duty stand mixer to achieve the most volume from them. If you can't find Passover parchment paper, use regular or line the baking sheet with foil and grease it with unsalted margarine.

CHOCOLATE GENOISE

8 eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup matzo cake meal

1/3 cup potato starch, not packed

1/4 cup cocoa, measured then sifted

1 tablespoon Passover vanilla sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons unsalted Passover margarine, melted, or oil

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a baking sheet or jellyroll pan. Line it with parchment paper. Generously grease the parchment paper (this will help release cake later).

Place the eggs still in their shells in a bowl of hot water to warm for 1 to 2 minutes. Do not leave them in any longer, and do not make the water so hot that it cracks the eggs.

Fill a mixing bowl with very hot water to warm it, then dry it completely. Break the eggs into the warmed bowl and mix them with the whisk on slow speed just to break them up. Increase the speed to high and beat the eggs 10 minutes, dusting in the sugar gradually as eggs are being whipped. After 10 minutes, the batter should be extremely voluminous.

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In a small bowl, sift together the cake meal, potato starch, cocoa, vanilla sugar and salt.

Gently transfer the batter into a very large mixing bowl. Fold in the dry ingredients in small increments, gently folding after each addition. Drizzle in the melted margarine or oil, taking care not to deflate the mixture too much (some deflation is impossible to avoid).

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