Advertising Info     About Jewish Woman Magazine     Jewish Women International     Join our Community


   Successful Women


Chocolate Experiences!

Share your favorite chocolate experiences with Jewish Woman.

Do you have a favorite chocolate memory? Please share it with us...

In fifth grade, my teacher was obsessed with chocolate so at the end of the year we did a chocolate "unit" and we had a party where everyone had to make something with chocolate and bring it in. So we all ate while watching "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." Then my teacher compiled all the recipes in a class cookbook.

My favorite chocolate encounter is "Visions of Chocolate"an annual benefit for the Chicago Abused Women Coalition. Imagine sitting down at a dinner and realizing that every single piece of the beautiful centerpieces on each table are chocolate (and then every person at each tabledespite their semi-formal dressstands up and reaches into the middle of the table to eat an appetizer piece of the centerpiece). And, after dinner, there are "stations" where some of the best chocolate desserts of popular and famous Chicago restaurants are prepared by top chefs. So, dinner guests go around the room piling their plates with decadent chocolate treats! It is an amazing experience and the best thing in the world for chocoholics. You get to eat yourself sick while helping to support an important cause!

I think of being a kid on the boardwalk at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, in the summertime and my father lifting me up to watch strawberries being dipped in chocolate in the window of the candy store.

Hot Chocolate at Abigail's in Paris, France. They claim that it is Chocolat Chaud but it tastes like liquid fudge.

When we were little, we spent a summer at the beach in Knocke, Belgium, living in a villa with my grandparents and cousins. My grandfather stayed the week in Antwerp where he worked and came out on Thursday for Shabbat. He would bring treats from the city including chocolates. My little brother, Edward, then aged 2 1/2, watched my grandpa put the chocolates high up in the cupboard in the kitchen. One Thursday night, Edward climbed out of his crib, which was in my parent's room, crept down the stairs, into the kitchen, climbed up on the counter, opened the cupboard and began a feast of chocolate. My grandpa, hearing noises, took his rifle, crept down the stairs into the kitchen and there saw his little baby grandson with chocolate all over his face. Lucky he didn't shoot first.

One of my hobbies is molding and casting faces. I've done the whole family. A couple of years ago at my 13-year-old's school they had an edible art contest, so I recast Phil's face (I have a plaster version in my office) in solid chocolate--milk chocolate, white chocolate, and chocolate with crispies. We titled it "Eat Phil's Face." It was a big hit, though it only won an honorable mention.

When the kids settled down for bed, it became my parents' time to talk and have their time together. My dad called my mom "Sugar." Every once in a while he would surprise her with a big Hershey's chocolate bar (she loved chocolate). Mom would always save a small piece for me!

My lungs felt ready to burst, my legs were screaming for me to stop. The sweat was dripping from beneath my helmet to wash the dust into my eyes as they squinted into the midsummer sun. But if I could pedal just a little bit longer to the top of the hill, waiting for me in my handlebar bag was an unopened bar of not-quite-melted dark Swiss chocolate.

Only during this eight-day ride on Germany's Romantiche Strasse (Romantic Road) has chocolate been such a guilt-free indulgence. Indeed, it was hard earned fuel as we crossed the countryside between medieval Bavarian villages. Sharing the bittersweet squares with family and friends, looking back on where we'd come from and reveling in where we were, that chocolate was practically a form of spiritual union.

The country's history is undeniably complex and stirred up mixed emotions, but after the most grueling stretches of the ride, when I started questioning what the hell I was doing there, my mind could settle on the simple pleasures of the chocolate, the companionship, and the ripe grain swaying in the fields. The cold beer at the end of each day's ride is a story for another issue!

There's a famous Belgian drinking song; they sing it in the winter when it's really cold. I remember standing near the Royal Palace in Brussels on New Year's Eve. They have fireworks there at midnight all across Europe. Thousand of people danced, drinking champagne and hot chocolate from Thermoses... chanting "Chaud, Chaud, Chaud Cho-co-LAT! Chaud, Chaud, Chaud Cho-co-LAT! Chaud, Chaud, Chaud Cho-co-LAT!"... "Hot, Hot, Hot, Chocolate!" And that's my favorite chocolate moment.

My earliest and best memories of chocolate are steaming cups of cocoa, made on top of the stove with Hershey's cocoa, milk, and sugar. This is still the best way to make a cup of hot chocolate.

Jews & Chocolate in America

According to Joan Nathan, the author of Jewish Cooking in America, the first Jewish chocolate maker on record was one Aaron Lopez, a Newport, R.I., merchant in the 18th century. "In those days chocolate…was used as a drink, served as one would serve tea or coffee; it was not yet used in cooking," says Nathan. "In 1790, another Jewish merchant, Levy Solomons of Albany, New York...had a chocolate factory to provide his Dutch clientele with their dearly loved hot chocolate." Chocolate desserts came later.

Do Try This at Home

I'm the kind of woman who gets a hankering for something sweet after dinner, which is when I get in trouble with the chocolate-chip cookies in my freezer. Several of the chocolate experts I spoke with for this article suggested that the best way to quell a sweet tooth is to eat a little piece of dark chocolateas unsweetened as you can stand. I decided to try it. After dinner, just when I was about to reach for a chocolate-chip cookie, I nibbled instead on a piece of bittersweet Scharffen Berger baking chocolate. Okay, it was bitter, but I enjoyed itand it worked. After a few bites, my sugar craving was history.
Sharon Boorstin

Understanding Chocolate

Chocolate is made from the beans of the tropical cocoa plant in a long, rather complicated process. The simple version: First the beans are fermented, dried, roasted and cracked. Next, the chocolate nibs, which contain about 54 percent cocoa butter, are removed from the shells and ground to extract some of the cocoa butter. This leaves a dark brown paste called chocolate liquor, which is then refined. To make unsweetened cocoa powder, more cocoa butter is extracted from the refined chocolate liquor, and the remaining solid is ground. To make chocolate, the chocolate liquor is refined again, and ingredients such as sugar, milk powder and flavorings are added. Then it is heated and stirred in a 12- to 72-hour process called "conching," which removes moisture and acids.

Unsweetened Chocolate:
Containing up to 75 percent cocoa solids, this is dark chocolate with no added sugar, milk or other products. Also called bitter or baking chocolate, it is too bitter for all but diehard chocoholics to enjoy.

Bittersweet Chocolate:
Containing up to 75 percent cocoa solids and a little added sugar, bittersweet chocolate is the choice of trendy pastry chefs.

Semisweet Chocolate:
The traditional favorite of home bakers, semisweet chocolate, also considered a dark chocolate, contains a high percentage (up to 75 percent) of cocoa solids and a little more added sugar than bittersweet chocolate.

German Chocolate:
A dark chocolate that is sweeter than semisweet, German chocolate did not originate in Germany, it was developed by a man named German.

Milk Chocolate or Sweet Chocolate:
As in a Hershey's or other candy bars, milk chocolate is dark chocolate to which whole and/or skim milk powder and sugar have been added. Milk chocolate is rarely used in cooking because the milk protein interferes with the texture of the baked products. It contains approximately 20 percent cocoa solids.

White Chocolate: Made from cocoa butter, the fat that's extracted from cocoa beans when making chocolate and cocoa powder, along with milk solids, sugar, lecithin and flavorings usually including vanilla. According to the FDA, white chocolate is not really "chocolate" because it is not made with chocolate liquor, which is what gives chocolate its intense chocolate flavor and color. Cocoa butter itself has very little "chocolate" flavor.

Obsessed with Chocolate
By Sharon Boorstin

"Forget love… I'd rather fall in chocolate. "Whoever said that must have been a woman. Women have always had a special place in their heartsand their cravingsfor chocolate. We all know the one about the woman who savors the chocolate candy, piece by piece, that her sweetheart gives her in a heart-shaped box on Valentine's Day, then goes out and buys a box for herselfinhaling every chocolate-draped crème, nut and nougat in one sittingthe moment he breaks up with her.

Chocolate contains substancessuch as phenylethylamine, theobromine and tryptophanthat act as mood enhancers, which partly explains its allure. While some of us may already believe that there are six food groups: unsweetened, bittersweet, semisweet, German, milk and white, scientists now tell us that dark, unsweetened chocolate does indeed have proven health benefits. It contains polyphenols, plant substances that lower high blood pressure, and antioxidants that lower cholesterol. (As if we needed an excuse to validate our craving.)

On top of that, cosmetic companies are putting chocolate in beauty products (chocolate body scrub, anyone?), and candy makers are producing an array of artisanal gourmet chocolates for cooking and snacking. Sales of dark chocolate rose 17 percent last year, according to the Chocolate Manufacturers Association. You could almost say that chocolate is hot.

And wouldn't you know it, at the front of the chocolate-aficionada pack are three Jewish womentwo pastry chefs cum cookbook authors, Alice Medrich and Lora Brody, and chocolate entrepreneur Sarah Levy. We spoke with them about their love affair with the dark side and asked them for their favorite chocolate recipesjust in time for Chanukah.

Chocolate Chip Mandelbrot

From Chocolate American Style, by Lora Brody (Clarkson Potter, 2004)
Makes 5 dozen cookies

Mandelbrot was enjoyed by German Jews long before Italian biscotti came on the scene. This heirloom treasure comes from my friend Susan Schwartz's grandmother, Lottie Koss. The addition of chocolate chips would surprise some Old World Europeans, but we think it adds yet another attraction to this lovely, homey cookie. Dipping them in coffee or tea is as traditional as the cookies themselves.

3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup almonds, finely chopped
1 cup semisweet mini–chocolate chips.

Preheat the oven to 350°F with 2 racks as close to the center position as possible. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone pan liners.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. Break the eggs into a small bowl and stir them together with a fork, then add the vanilla. Place the sugar, oil and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until light and very smooth, about 2 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to low, and add the flour mixture and the egg mixture alternately to the butter mixture, starting and ending with flour. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Use a wooden spoon to stir in the nuts and chocolate chips. The dough will be quite stiff and it will appear oily.

Scrape the dough onto a work surface and form it into 4 logs that are 10-1/2 inches long, 2 inches wide, and 1/2 inch high. Position the logs lengthwise on the prepared baking sheets, leaving 3 inches between them. Place both baking sheets in the oven and bake the logs for 25 minutes; reverse the baking sheets top to bottom after 12 minutes. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 250°F. Let the logs cool on the baking sheets for 15 minutes. Carefully transfer each log to a cutting board, and use a sharp, serrated knife to cut each log on a slight diagonal into 1/2- to 3/4-inch-wide slices.

Return the cookies, cut-side up, to the baking sheets. Bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes, or until the cookies are crisp and dry. Turn off the oven and let the cookies cool in the oven. Store the cooled cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

© 2004 Lora Brody

Alice Medrich:
A Bittersweet Affair

"Hershey bars were important in our family; we always ate them when we went to the movies," recalls Alice Medrich, who says that today she's a dark-chocolate devotee. Medrich is the author of six award-winning cookbooks featuring chocolate, including Chocolate Holidays (Artisan Books), just out in paperback, and Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate (Artisan).

After college, Medrich studied baking in Paris and learned how to make chocolate truffles from her landlady. When she returned home to Berkeley, Calif., she opened a successful chocolate-truffle business. That was in the 1970s, when Berkeley's Chez Panisse restaurant was raising the bar for gourmet dining in America.

Medrich still lives in Berkeley, where Scharffen Bergera small-batch, artisanal manufacturer of dark chocolateis now raising the bar for chocolate in America. "Today, the chocolate makers at Scharffen Berger are like winemakers. They blend beans from different parts of the world, make chocolate of varying intensities," she says. "The results can be as distinctive and different as those among wines."

Most of Medrich's chocolate recipes call for semi- or bittersweet chocolate. "I'm not a fan of chocolate chips, which tend to be sweeter than bar chocolate, plus they don't melt as nicely or have the same flavor," she says. In addition, her recipes are simple. "My grandmother, who was from Eastern Europe, always said plain was best, whether in dressing, in cooking, or in living," recalls Medrich. "To me that means you don't have to fuss to achieve quality."

Medrich has strong opinions about chocolate cravings. "I think a chocolate addiction is really more about sugar than chocolate. Ifyou can change from sweet milk chocolate to less-sweet dark chocolate, you can satisfy your craving more quickly," she says."If I eat a few M&Ms, I won't be able to stop, but if I nibble on a Scharffen Berger bittersweet chocolate bar, it doesn't take much to satisfy me."

Chocolate Banana Blintzes

From Chocolate Holidays, by Alice Medrich (Artisan, 2005)
Serves 6 (3 blintzes each)

This is a great party dessert. The blintzes look complicated (which they aren't) and fancy (which they are). Simple do-ahead steps can be completed a day or more in advance. A few minutes of your attention at serving time are amply rewarded when the first fork breaks a tender crepe bursting with bananas and warm chocolate sauce.

3 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1-3/4 cups milk
2 tablespoons melted butter
Butter or oil, for frying

7 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1/2 cup whole milk, plus extra if needed
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large ripe bananas
Butter, for frying
Sour cream, for serving (optional)

Heat a six-inch frying pan over medium-high heat. Brush it lightly with butter. Pour in 2 tablespoons of batter and tilt the pan immediately to coat the surface evenly. When the crepe is uniformly translucent and the surface no longer looks wet, 45 seconds to 1 minute, loosen the edges with a spatula and invert the pan over a piece of wax paper. Repeat with the remaining batter, buttering the pan when necessary. Use the crepes immediately or stack between sheets of wax paper, cover airtight, and refrigerate up to 2 days.

To make the sauce, mix chocolate, milk, sugar and vanilla in the top of a double boiler over barely simmering water. Or microwave on medium power about 2 minutes. Stir frequently until smooth, adding milk as necessary. Use the warm sauce immediately or set aside and use cool. The sauce keeps several days in the refrigerator. Rewarm gently before use.

To assemble the blintzes, slice the bananas 1/4 inch thick. Place 3 slices in a row, horizontally, in the middle of a crepe. Spread 1 tablespoon of sauce over them. Fold 2 sides of the crepe, then the top, over the bananas. Fold the bottom up to overlap. Place on a tray. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.

To serve, heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add 1 tablespoon of butter and swirl to coat the pan. Cook as many blintzes as will fit comfortably until just browned, about 30 seconds, on each side. Serve plain or with sour cream.

© 2005 Alice Medrich

Lora Brody:
The Chocolate Diet

Lora Brody has written more than 20 cookbooks, including the best-selling bread-machine cookbooks. Here's how serious she is about chocolate: Her first book was Growing Up on the Chocolate Diet: A Memoir with Recipes. "Chocolate isn't like tofuyou don't have to encourage people to like it," says the Massachusetts-based author, who grew up in an observant Jewish household. "It's a challenge to cook with because it requires extra attention, but everyone loves you when you give them something chocolate."

Brody attributes the current U.S. trend toward dark chocolate to the increasing sophistication of the American palate. "Dark chocolate used to be a European thing; Americans preferred milk chocolate because it's sweeter," she says. "But today Americans are more open to trying new tastes, including dark chocolateand there's more good dark chocolate to choose from." Brody admits that she'd rather eat a bar of Scharffen Berger dark chocolate than cook with it, but she's not a snob when it comes to chocolate. "The other day, when I was sitting on the beach with my dog watching the sunset, I ate a box of melted Junior Mints."

Her passion for baking, she says, came from her mother, who is still baking at the age of 91. "My father was a picky eater, but he loved desserts," recalls Brody. "So even though she always made simple entrees, my mother went all out when it came to dessertsand she made the best chocolate-chip cookies."

Chocolate Latkes

From Chocolate Holidays, by Alice Medrich (Artisan, 2005)
Makes about 24 cookies

There are no potatoes or added fat in these! Lots of chocolate and coconut make for a crunchy and chewy exterior and a wonderfully brownie-like interior.

4 egg whites
3 cups sweetened shredded coconut
3-1/2 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
6 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Scant 1/4 teaspoon salt

Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. To make the latkes, combine all of the ingredients in a large heatproof mixing bowl, preferably stainless steel. Set the bowl in a skillet of barely simmering water and stir the mixture, scraping the bottom to prevent burning, until it is sticky and hot to the touch.

Scoop rounded tablespoons of the mixture about 2 inches apart on the cookies sheets. Flatten each cookie slightly with your fingers to resemble miniature potato pancakes. Bake until the cookies feel dry on the surface and the edges and the protruding coconut shreds are dark golden brown and the interior still looks like melted chocolate, 13 to 15 minutes. Rotate the sheets from front to back and upper to lower about halfway through. Slide the parchment onto a cooking rack. Cool the cookies completely before removing them from the parchment.

The cookies are most delicious on the day they are bakedthe exterior is crisp and chewy and the interior soft and moist. Cookies may be stored, airtight, for 4 to 5 days.

© 2005 Alice Medrich

Sarah Levy:
Dipped in Chocolate

When 25-year-old Sarah Levy was a sociology major at Northwestern University, her senior thesis examined ways that Jewish cooking brings the family togetherin particular her family. Food and cooking were always big in the Levy family: her father and uncle founded a restaurant company that now includes dozens of outlets, from award-winning Spiaggia in Chicago to concession stands in sports stadiums throughout the country. Levy admits that she calls her now-retired father 10 times a day for advice on running Sarah's Pastries and Candies, the chocolate business she launched in 2004.

"Dark chocolate is my favorite thing to eat in the world," says Levy, who attended pastry school as soon as she graduated from college so that she could open her dream company. Levy's first product was a chocolate candy studded with caramelized almonds, roasted pistachios and crispy rice, which she made in her mother's kitchen. "Taste tests have shown me that people have different chocolate favorites, so I make them in milk and white chocolate as well as dark chocolate," Levy explains. Today, the chocolate delights, along with other candies in the Sarah's Candies line, are sold in Whole Foods Markets throughout the Midwest. Levy just opened her first retail outlet, which sells pastries and coffee as well as candy, in downtown Chicago.

So how does a young woman who makes candy all day avoid weighing 300 pounds? "I'm very active, working in the kitchen all day, and now I have paperwork on top of that," Levy says. "Plus I eat dark chocolate, never sweet or milk chocolate, and a little goes a long way."

Chocolate Truffles

From Chocolate American Style, by Lora Brody (Clarkson Potter, 2004)
Makes 40–50 truffles

Before some genius thought of rolling a mixture of chocolate and heavy cream into rough-hewn balls and coating them with cocoa, the only truffles we knew about were a delicacy hunted by specially trained pigs (or dogs) and then, because they are more costly than diamonds, shaved sparingly onto pasta or risotto (among other things). With the advent of chocolate truffles, "sparingly" is no longer an issue; your only limit is how many you can eat at a sitting.

1 cup heavy cream
1 lb. chocolatebitter- sweet, semisweet, milk or white, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder or granules (optional)
2 tablespoons grated orange zest (optional)
2 to 3 tablespoons Grand Marnier, Chambord or Bailey's Irish Cream (optional)
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar

Line a rimmed baking sheet with wax paper or parchment paper. Place the cream in a medium, heavy saucepan. Set the pan over medium-low heat and bring the cream almost to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the chocolate, butter and the instant espresso powder, orange zest and liqueur, if using. Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Scrape the truffle mixture into a medium metal bowl and place it in the freezer for about 20 minutes, or until it is firm.

When you are ready to roll the truffles, sift the cocoa powder with the confectioners sugar onto a plate or into a small, shallow bowl. Use a teaspoon to scoop up a full teaspoon of the truffle mixture. Roll the truffle quickly in your hands to make a ball about 1 inch in diameter. (The truffles will melt on your hands, but just work quickly and wipe your hands frequently.) Roll the truffle in the cocoa mixture and place it on the baking sheet. Continue forming and rolling truffles with the remaining truffle mix. Refrigerate the truffles for about 20 minutes, or until they are firm. Truffles can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, or frozen for up to 3 months.

© 2004 Lora Brody

Chocolate Brownie Cookies

From Sarah Levy, president, Sarah's Pastries & Candies Inc.
Makes about 20 cookies

These are my all-time favorite chocolate cookies.

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350F. Cut four of the 6 ounces of chocolate into pieces and the remaining 2 ounces into small pieces the size of chocolate chips (or just use chocolate chips). Melt the 4 ounces of chocolate (in a microwave at 50 percent power). Add the butter to the chocolate, and stir until both are completely melted. Let cool.

Beat the sugar, vanilla and egg on medium until the mixture thickens, about 1 minute. Stir in the melted chocolate and sifted flour and baking powder and stir until incorporated. Stir in the small pieces of chocolate. Let the mixture chill for about 1/2 hour. Roll into about 20 1-inch balls. Bake on ungreased baking sheets, about 2 inches apart, for roughly 12 minutes, or until the tops are not glossy. Cool completely on a wire rack.

© 2005 Sarah Levy

Sharon Boorstin is the author of Cookin' for Love: A Novel with Recipes and Let Us Eat Cake: Adventures in Food and Friendship.