MONTEZUMA DRANK 50 cups of it a day from a golden chalice. Its beans were considered so valuable by early Mesoamericans that they used them as currency. Touted as an aphrodisiac, its high levels of the powerful stimulant theobromine could kill you…if you ate 22 pounds of it! We’re speaking, of course, about chocolate, the wickedly addictive subject of Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz’s travelogue/history/memoir/recipe collection, “On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao,” (Jewish Lights, $18.99), a captivating read that uncovers unique Jewish connections to chocolate.
While some travelers may plan a trip around art, architecture, music or dining, one could do worse than to plan one’s vacation around chocolate. At a chocolate boutique in Paris in the spring of 2006, Prinz happened to pick up a brochure that stated: “Jews brought chocolate making to France….At Bayonne the origins of the manufacturing and the consumption of chocolate happened at the beginning of the seventeenth century, when the Jews exiled from the Inquisition settled in the suburb of Saint Esprit.”
She was stunned. Jews brought chocolate to France? Who knew? “This amazing morsel of history had been omitted in my serious Jewish education and had not surfaced in over thirty years of study about Judaism as a rabbi,” she writes.
Prinz was fascinated, and she and her husband, Rabbi Mark Hurvitz, began following the chocolate trail, tasting and researching their way around the world, including forays into France, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Mexico, Switzerland, England and Israel, uncovering the fascinating history of chocolate along the way.
With its import to Spain around 1520, chocolate developed into an industry, and those Jews exiled from Spain and Portugal during the Inquisition who were engaged in international trade learned of Spanish chocolate making techniques and spread them throughout Europe.
Chocoholics take notice! Historical chapters are interspersed with luscious recipes, a chocolate glossary, a timeline of chocolate and religion, suggestions for selecting the best ethically produced chocolate, tips for cooking with chocolate as well as a list of sweet chocolate museums and tours around the world.
Along the way you’ll learn fascinating tidbits about the world’s favorite confection. Did you know chocolate Hanukkah gelt may have developed from St. Nicholas customs? The Mayan “Book of Counsel” taught that gods created humans from chocolate and maize. Although Quakers do not observe Easter, Fry’s, a Quaker-owned chocolate company, claims to have created the first chocolate Easter egg in the United Kingdom. And the bishop of Chiapas, Mexico, was poisoned because he prohibited local women from drinking it during Mass.
Prinz’s recipe for Kokosh is actually an easy chocolate babka that she received from Frimet Goldberger, aka The Babka Lady, who took her mother’s recipe and now ships both the chocolate and cheese versions out of her own home kitchen. (See thebabkalady.com/)
The spectacular Chocolate Truffle Pecan Tart shown here was originally developed for the website kosherscoop.com run by Estee Kafra. “Gorgeous and sophisticated, the filling is a cinch to make since it’s not much more than a ganache enriched by egg yolks,” writes Daphna Rabinovitch in “The Baker in Me” (Whitecap. $45). The optional spun sugar dome adds a dramatic flourish. “If you do try your hand at the spun sugar, be armed with patience. Even if your dome cracks a bit, keep going. In the worst case scenario – at least the first time you make it – you can always pretend that you meant to use shards in the first place.”
And here’s a great tip: “It’s well near impossible to remove caramel from a saucepan by washing it, so give your hands a break and use this foolproof method. Fill the saucepan with water and place it back on the stove over high heat. Bring the water to a boil, which will melt any cooked sugar that has stuck to the saucepan. Once it’s all melted, just drain the saucepan.” Α
Chocolate Kokosh (aka Simple Babka)
For a delicious gluten free cookie, drop teaspoons of filling onto prepared cookie pan and bake 8 -10 minutes.
Yield: 2 – 4 loaves
1 packet (2 ¼ teaspoons) instant dry yeast or active dry yeast
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
¼ cup warm water, about 110-115º
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup orange or lemon juice (optional lemon zest)
1½ sticks (6 ounces) 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
1 stick butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 cup cocoa powder
2 ¼ cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 egg whites
Chocolate chips (optional)
1 Dough: In bowl of mixer with paddle attachment, mix yeast with 1 teaspoon sugar. Pour warm water on top; let mixture foam 5-10 minutes. Combine dough ingredients and add yeast. Knead on medium speed for a couple of minutes. If dough is too sticky, add a little flour.
2 Filling: In medium bowl, mix cocoa powder with melted butter. Add remaining filling ingredients; stir until combined and mostly smooth.
3 Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
4 Flour 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 thick. Spread with light coating of oil or melted butter. Spread layer of chocolate filling over dough to about an inch from edges. Roll dough from shorter side, flattening slightly between each roll. Brush top of log generously with beaten egg and sugar mix. Repeat with remaining dough. Lay seam down onto prepped pan; prick top with fork. Bake until tops and bottoms are deep golden brown, about 30-35 minutes, depending on size of loaf, rotating pan midway. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Source: “On the Chocolate Trail” by Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz
Chocolate Truffle Pecan Tart with Spun Sugar Dome
2 cups pecan halves
½ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour or potato starch
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup whipping cream, at room temperature
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla
Spun sugar dome, optional (For the recipe go to jlifesgpv.com)
1 Preheat oven to 350°F.
2 Pulse pecans, sugar and flour in food processor until pecans are finely ground. Add melted butter; pulse until mixture is thoroughly moistened. Press pecan mixture onto bottom and up sides of 9- or 10-inch French tart pan with removable bottom. Place tart pan on baking sheet and bake in center of oven 15 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
1 Filling: Heat cream in saucepan just until bubbles appear around edge. Pour scant 1/4 cup of mixture into egg yolks, whisking constantly. Whisk egg mixture and remaining cream over chocolate, whisking until chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Whisk in vanilla. Pour into cooled shell. Cover lightly and refrigerate 8 hours to two days. Remove tart from pan and place on serving plate. Top with Spun Sugar, if using, and serve.
Source: “The Baker in Me” by Daphna Rabinovitch
Join Rabbi Prinz for a Chocolate Fantasy Luncheon on Saturday, January 13 at noon at Temple Beth Tikvah in Fullerton. Tickets are $13 for temple members and $18 for non-members. Call the Temple office for reservations: 714.871.3535.
Jlife Food Editor Judy Bart Kancigor is the author of “Cooking Jewish” (Workman) and “The Perfect Passover Cookbook” (an e-book short from Workman), a columnist and feature writer for the Orange County Register and other publications and can be found on the web at www.cookingjewish.com.