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Unnatural parve desserts

Compote Nov 10, 2008 02:37 PM

It seems that virtually all kosher, parve desserts are made without much thought given to their ingredients; i.e., 'we're going to make this pie crust or "butter"cream frosting no matter what kind of stuff (hydrogenated fats, artificial colors & flavors, all sorts of funky thickening agents, etc.) we have to put in there.' Don't get me wrong - dessert isn't meant to be healthy, it's supposed to taste good - but shouldn't it at least be real?
As a corollary: does anybody know of a kosher place (bakery, mostly) in NYC that does take care to use only real ingredients? If there isn't, I have half a mind to open one myself (partners, anyone?).

  1. j
    jda10014 Dec 4, 2008 11:31 AM

    The healthy-kashrut conversation really seems to be spreading.... Very exciting. Some items of interest:
    --Whole Foods makes (under its in-house 365 label) super-delicious pareve (O-K) Dark Chocolate Mini Chunks.
    --Late July makes equally delicious cookies, crackers, etc.--organic, vegan (O-U dairy label, but that's for dairy equipment--check with your LOR/posek) available in Whole Foods, Gourmet Garage, et al. In boxes, the size of small cereal boxes.
    --Laura Frankel's <Jewish Cooking for All Seasons> begins with a manifesto against chemical desserts. Excellent....
    --The Hazon Food Conference is coming up in just a couple of weeks, in California. <www.hazon.org> Definitely worth checking out.
    --The next issue of <PresenTense> magazine is the Food Issue--coming soon and also definitely worth a look.
    --Some of us here in NYC affiliated with PT and Hazon are putting together a committee/working group aimed at taking speciifc and concrete steps to contribute to "healthify" kashrus--anyone interested please contact me at
    jda AT indiana.edu.

    2 Replies
    1. re: jda10014
      Bashful3 Mar 11, 2010 12:02 PM

      Not a baked dessert, but I thought the flavors of the Vegan/Parve Trader Joe's ice creams were excellent. Fooled me taht they were soy products. I imagine they are 100% healthy, but so tasty I didn't want to know more.

      1. re: Bashful3
        cheesecake17 Mar 12, 2010 06:09 AM

        I love the TJ's vanilla soy ice cream. They also had a mango/vanilla swirl that was really good.

    2. s
      saraha71 Nov 25, 2008 08:07 AM

      Try Levana Kirschenbaum's line of 100% whole grain spelt desserts, made with HEALTHY fats and natural ingredients.


      Real fruit, quality chocolate... unbelievable.

      She just started it, so I am not sure when they will be in stores. my personal favorite: Her chocolate cake! All her cakes come in muffin, small cake4two size (very cute) and 24 oz. loaves. She also has about 10 different cookies, plus 4 - 5 biscotti.

      Pricing is not any more expensive than the other kosher stuff... It's got an OU Pareve Pas Yisrael hechsher.

      Worth looking for!

      1. serenarobin Nov 19, 2008 06:33 AM

        I noticed that Crisco now says "no trans fats". Does that mean it's more healthy than Fleischmans? If anyone cooks with Crisco I'd love to know how it compares to margarine.

        1 Reply
        1. re: serenarobin
          GilaB Nov 19, 2008 07:13 AM

          In my experience, Crisco makes cookies crispier, while Fleischman's makes them chewier. Pie crusts with Crisco are better and flakier, although still tasteless. I've never tried it in cakes.

        2. rebeccafriedman Nov 17, 2008 12:30 PM

          I do a lot of vegan baking for clients, and have found that Earth Balance IN THE TUB works far better than the sticks from a taste perspective (if you find it salty taste the pastry and adjust with a little lemon juice & nutmeg) and ease of use. Just be sure it is VERY cold before you start to use it, as it melts quickly. Incidentally, we use Earth Balance spread (all organic ingredients, no trans or saturated fats) on the Shabbat table, and it is great on challah! My totally nonreligious family cannot tell that it's not butter. (OK, maybe they can tell, but it's really very good!)

          I have also had great results using EVOO instead of shortening in pie crusts. This tip came from my nonreligious sister, who was vegan for many years. It works particularly well with blueberry pie - after cooking, you won't notice the olive flavor at all!

          To avoid a greasy crust, I always prebake the crust. Just pierce it a bunch of times with a fork, bake in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes. To avoid browning the top part of the crust, I wrap aluminum foil around the edges, hanging over the top 1/2 inch of the crust.

          Cooks.com has excellent how-to videos on almost every subject - they probably have one on this as well.

          Although I have not tried it, I would steer away from an animal-fat based crust. Who needs all the extra saturated fat?

          4 Replies
          1. re: rebeccafriedman
            DeisCane Nov 18, 2008 05:36 AM

            EVOO? Seems like it would be much better with a Light OO.

            1. re: rebeccafriedman
              cherylp3 Nov 19, 2008 10:58 AM

              Has anyone tried making a tofu based whip cream? I can't seem to find kosher parve whip cream in Orlando. I'm still hunting but am considering making my own.

              1. re: cherylp3
                rebeccafriedman Nov 20, 2008 08:21 AM

                It doesn't truly "whip" but you can make a fantastic frosting out of tofu - try this recipe:

                2 packages Mori-Nu firm silken tofu
                1 tbsp honey (I use agave)
                1/2 cup powdered confectioner's sugar (I use splenda)
                1 tsp vanilla extract
                1 tsp almond extract (optional)
                1/2 tsp salt
                beet juice/raspberry juice (red frosting)
                orange juice concentrate (yellow frosting)
                blueberry jam (blue frosting)

                Add all together in a food processor or a bowl and blend. If the food processor does not have a whip cycle, then take the resulting mixture and whisk for about 5 minutes. It will give the frosting more body and enough stiffness to cover a cake, torte, etc.

                1. re: cherylp3
                  ferret Nov 20, 2008 01:01 PM

                  No certification (that I can find) but there's product out there.


                  I've also heard of people using coconut cream in a Whip-it:


                  If you have a serious need, get a Whip-It and experiment. Much easier (although more expensive) than a mixer (really incorporates the nitrous into the mix -- the primary issue is stability -- not breaking down immediately after dispensing).

              2. l
                lisap310 Nov 13, 2008 11:04 AM

                Magnolia Bakery is Kosher, they use all fresh natural ingredients http://www.magnoliabakery.com/. If you are baking try earth balance, we have a Kosher bakery in Los Angeles, that uses earth balance and their products are delicious.

                5 Replies
                1. re: lisap310
                  DeisCane Nov 13, 2008 11:26 AM

                  Unfortunately, I do not believe that anything at Magnolia is pareve.

                  1. re: DeisCane
                    CloggieGirl Nov 13, 2008 07:11 PM

                    Everything at BabyCakes is vegan so they make delicious bakery items without any dairy (or eggs!). They're also good for gluten-free items that don't taste like sawdust.

                    1. re: CloggieGirl
                      DeisCane Nov 14, 2008 05:04 AM

                      Very cool. To anticipate everyone's next question, the authority is Rabbi Malek.

                      1. re: DeisCane
                        vallevin Nov 14, 2008 08:15 AM

                        And the next question....who is he? I goggled the name but only came up with other places he is certifying.

                        1. re: DeisCane
                          CloggieGirl Nov 15, 2008 03:17 PM

                          It's Adas Yereim of Paris, according to Shamash.

                  2. w
                    websterhall1994 Nov 13, 2008 05:44 AM

                    I'm surprised noone mentioned Earth Balance Non-Hydrogenated Shortening Sticks. I use it instead of margarine in ALL types of recipes. Earth Balance makes a non-hydrogenated margarine as well, but it is salted and I could taste the salt in desserts, so I just use the shortening.

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: websterhall1994
                      adventuresinbaking Nov 13, 2008 06:14 AM

                      I've used earth balance a lot in my baking and have had very good results. I find that it works better with pastry flour than all purpose when making pie crusts. With frosting, it can be a little waxy, but I've never had anyone not love it.

                      Here is my favorite cake easy cake recipe, that doesn't contain dairy or egg. It is vegan, even though I'm not.:
                      Serves 8
                      Preparation time for cake: 6 minutes
                      Baking time: 30 minutes
                      Preparation time for glaze: 15 minutes
                      Chilling time (if using glaze) 30 minutes
                      Equipment: 9-inch round or 8-inch square cake pan, 2-cup measuring cup, double boiler

                      Cake Ingredients
                      1 ½ cups unbleached white flour
                      ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
                      1 teaspoon baking soda
                      ½ teaspoon salt
                      1 cup sugar
                      ½ cup vegetable oil
                      1 cup cold water or coffee
                      2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
                      2 tablespoons cider vinegar

                      Preheat the oven to 375º.

                      Sift together the flour, cocoa, soda, salt, and sugar directly into the cake pan. In the measuring cup, measure and mix together the oil, cold water or coffee, and vanilla. Pour the liquid ingredients into the baking pan and mix the batter with a fork or a small whisk. When the batter is smooth, add the vinegar and stir quickly. There will be pale swirls in the batter as the baking soda and vinegar react. Stir just until the vinegar is evenly distributed throughout the batter.

                      Bake for 25 to 30 minutes and set aside to cool.

                      1. re: adventuresinbaking
                        Kochav Nov 17, 2008 11:56 AM

                        Thanks websterhall and adventuresinbaking for noting the Earth Balance shortning sticks--I'd not seen these around before, but will be sure to hunt some down (I'm guessing Whole Foods will have them).

                        And I second that cake recipe (from Moosewood, I think). It is my old reliable when I need a quick dessert for Shabbat. When the kids were younger, it was also a favorite because they could lick the fork, as there was no egg in the batter. I've made it with a variety of vinegars--white wine, red wine, cider, balsamic--though a herb-infused vinegar would probably be a bad choice ;)

                        1. re: adventuresinbaking
                          yointle Mar 8, 2010 10:15 AM

                          thanks so much for posting this recipe!

                          I love recipes that let me eat the batter---- fear-free. I saw this friday afternoon and decided it was a must!
                          No matter how good for you or delicious tasting many vegan desserts with bananas and apple sauce can be, it is just not the same as pure chocolate goodness.

                          Unfortunately, I only had 1/2 regular flour left and ended up using 1cup of whole-wheat flour, I was afraid that it would be awful, but everyone really loved it !

                          I did have a question on your recipe though...

                          I know it says mix everything right in the baking dish but I couldn't believe it wouldn't stick so I mixed it in a bowl and the poured into a GREASED pan---- was that unnecessary does it really come out cleanly as suggested by the process above??

                          thanks again!

                          1. re: yointle
                            Kochav Mar 11, 2010 10:28 AM

                            yointle, it really does come out of the pan cleanly. However, I always serve it straight from the pan. It's a very moist cake, I don't glaze it, and I end up making it right before Shabbat rather than the night before, so it doesn't have time to cool much--all factors making me worry it wouldn't survive being removed from the pan in one piece, or not really caring about taking it out of the pan at all.

                        2. re: websterhall1994
                          queenscook Nov 13, 2008 12:45 PM

                          Actually the soy margarine I use is Earth Balance brand, but it's in a tub rather than sticks. I just weigh it on my kitchen scale.

                          1. re: queenscook
                            vallevin Nov 13, 2008 01:31 PM

                            I've used Earth Balance for frosting...and it is a little too salty, but I love the buttery taste, any way to mitigate the salt?

                            1. re: vallevin
                              Bugg Superstar Nov 15, 2008 11:46 PM

                              get the sticks! they are sodium free. i don't know what recipe for frosting you are all using, but if you put some (more?) soy, almond. or rice milk in the frosting, it mitgates waxiness.

                              1. re: Bugg Superstar
                                addicted2cake Dec 3, 2008 09:57 AM

                                Shortening sticks are sodium free, not the EB buttery sticks. Buttery sticks have the same amount of sodium as the EB tub.

                                1. re: addicted2cake
                                  DeisCane Dec 3, 2008 01:53 PM

                                  And I think the EB buttery sticks are OU-D, no?

                                  1. re: DeisCane
                                    addicted2cake Dec 4, 2008 03:30 PM

                                    No. Buttery sticks are pareve, just like the tub. Pareve (OU) and vegan.

                        3. queenscook Nov 12, 2008 01:42 PM

                          I've been very successful with soy margarine to replace stick margarine in many, but not all applications. It certainly works in cakes, pie crusts, and crumb toppings for fruit crisps. I have not tried to make a parve buttercream frosting with it; I don't think it would remain as solid as it should. (For parve frosting, I use the transfat-free tofutti cream cheese mixed with confectioners' sugar ; it's quite tasty, stays very firm, and can be tinted and flavored quite easily.) I have even had good results with the soy margarine with a fudge pie that is essentially a flourless chocolate pie. I personally prefer the taste when I make that with regular hydrogenated margarine, but it still gets raves even when made with the soy margarine. And even though I like the taste of the other one, I don't think it's so good that it's worth it to make it with the transfats; the research saying that that stuff is poison is just too strong to do it. It would be nice if the kosher markets would start carrying this stuff; I load up when I'm at Trader Joe's. It's more expensive than stick margarine, but in my family we firmly believe it's more important to eat healthily, even if it means paying a bit more. I'd rather pay money now than pay with my health later.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: queenscook
                            addicted2cake Dec 4, 2008 03:43 PM

                            I've yet to make a decent pareve white frosting. Your recipe with tofutti cream cheese and confectioner's sugar sounds very good. I use Fleishman's tub margarine - pareve, unsalted, and transfat free per serving, in my chocolate frosting. I don't use much, just enough to give it a smooth, buttery taste. Like you, I've been successful with Earth Balance and Soy Garden in cakes, cookies, and pie crusts. I make a delicious "buttermilk" cake subbing with Earth Balance and soy milk that goes over very well with my family and butter lovin' friends. Pareve can be done more healthfully than what the Kosher bakeries sell, at least the Kosher bakeries in my neighborhood (Boston area). With the exception of Challah, I don't buy baked goods from Kosher bakeries. I'd rather make my own.

                          2. berel Nov 12, 2008 09:13 AM

                            I find fruit like plums, grapes, watermelon, cantalope etc. to be an excellent parve dessert with only real ingrediants. Once in whlie we cheat and havs some pistachio nuts too..

                            1. k
                              Kochav Nov 12, 2008 08:17 AM

                              The artificial colors and flavors are one thing, but I honestly don't know of a way to do a lot of nondairy baking without using hydrogenated fats. Fleischman's unsalted stick margarine is my best pareve baking buddy. I know there are alternatives with using mixes of oil and applesauce, and I've used them a couple of times, but the stick margarine seems to produce a "better" product.

                              The one exception might be pie crust: there was an LA Times article a number of years ago about using other animal fats (besides lard) in pie crust. The writer did a fair bit of experimentation, and found that beef suet made an exceptional pie crust. I never got around to trying it myself. And now there's a vegetarian in the family; I'm happy to make her a veggie alternative for (increasingly rare) fleischig dinners, but I draw the line at making vegetarian and non-vegetarian pies for dessert.

                              22 Replies
                              1. re: Kochav
                                GilaB Nov 12, 2008 12:17 PM

                                A cousin of mine swears by baking with coconut fat (which is a saturated fat, like butter, and is thus also solid at room temperature.) She says it lends a non-overwhelming coconut flavor to the finished product, so it wouldn't work for coconut-haters, but I doubt it's any less healthy than baking with butter or trans-fats, and it's not an industrial product the way margarine is. I haven't tried it yet myself.

                                I haven't yet tried baking animal-fat-based pie crusts, but if I ever find a source for rendered duck fat or beef suet, I'd be open to it. I'm not invested enough to render my own duck fat, and the idea of having desserts that made me fleishig for the next bunch of hours is a bit unappealing. The NY Times had an article on animal-fat pie crusts a couple of years ago (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/15/din...), and the author found that any more than 30% animal fat made the crust somehow too meaty for dessert pies, but obviously her solution of using butter for the rest of it doesn't really work for me :) The article also briefly discusses using chilled nut butters for pie crusts, saying that it leads to a somewhat cookie-like crust with (obviously) a nutty flavor.

                                Cakes that are supposed to be oil-based, such as the chocolate cake on the back of the Hershey's Cocoa box (an adaptable standby I've been making forever, although I prefer it with Droste cocoa), or chiffon cakes, are also good options.

                                But I agree with Compote that most kosher bakeries load in the junk. I find that nearly all commercial kosher baked goods are made focusing mostly on looks, with taste coming in a distant second. Really, the only way to get decent kosher baked goods is to make them yourself.

                                1. re: GilaB
                                  midasgold Nov 12, 2008 12:56 PM

                                  We've tried the (organic) cocunut oil with poor results. On the other hand, we swear by (organic) non-hydrogenated palm oil. It's naturally solid at room temperature; we use it all the time. It's a much more healthful alternative to Crisco or similar shortening, as it's both organic and non-hydrogenated. The brand is Spectrum, and it can be found at http://www.spectrumorganics.com/?id=8... (two varieties of the cocunut oil can also be found at this site). I believe the current hashgacha of the shortening is the KSA, and of the cocunut oil is OU, but supervisions change periodically, so I'd check into it.

                                  As for pie (and other) crusts, we often use extremely fine ALMOND FLOUR as someone in the family has Chron's Disease and is, therefore, not allowed to eat any type of grain. The almond flour is a great alternative to grain flours, and it's 100% kosher for Passover (non-gebrokt) to boot. Guests couldn't believe that some of the desserts we've made didn't contain any flour! (As an aside, while not tasting like the real McCoy, a small amount of fine almond flour sprinkled on top of meat pasta sauce is amazingly like parmesan cheese.)

                                  1. re: midasgold
                                    midasgold Nov 12, 2008 01:15 PM

                                    A recipe for "Claire's Quick and Easy Pie Crust" using Spectrum organic non-hydrogenated palm shortening can be found at http://www.spectrumorganics.com/share... .

                                    1. re: midasgold
                                      GilaB Nov 12, 2008 01:42 PM

                                      Does pie crust made with palm oil taste like anything? I've never been a fan of pareve pie crust, because to me it tastes like greasy nothing, albeit flaky greasy nothing if it's made with shortening.

                                      1. re: midasgold
                                        rockycat Nov 13, 2008 06:05 AM

                                        Sidebar to midasgold-
                                        Do you mean celiac disease? I have Crohn's and I have very few dietary restrictions, although I know that's not the case with all Crohn's patients. However, a grain restriction is a new one on me.

                                        My cousin with CF and celiac, however, cannot consume any gluten and that would include nearly all grains.

                                        Except for Passover, when I'll futz around with non-dairy substitutes and non-hametz "flours", I try to keep dairy with dairy and parve with parve as it were. Some desserts were just never meant to be parve and it's best to just wait and serve them with dairy.

                                        1. re: rockycat
                                          midasgold Nov 13, 2008 11:26 AM

                                          Response to Rocky Cat: If you have Crohn's and have never heard of Elaine Gottshall's watershed book, "Breaking the Vicious Cycle," you should get your hands on it and read it as soon as possible (it's available at www.amazon.com ). Her "Specific Carbohydrate Diet" (SCD for short) has helped far too many Crohn's sufferers avoid all types of surgery and medication for it to be summarily dismissed (though the results are anecdotal since no drug company will fund expensive studies). I suggest you check out www.breakingtheviciouscycle.info . We have family members who have been on the diet for years. If you have any specific questions, please contact me privately (I don't want to post my private e-mail address here; how can that be done?)

                                    2. re: Kochav
                                      zsero Nov 20, 2008 03:45 AM

                                      Unfortunately, suet is not kosher. In fact it's more treif than pork. (Well, I suppose deer suet would be kosher, if there is such a thing, but I've never heard of it, and my guess is that it doesn't exist.)

                                      1. re: zsero
                                        DeisCane Nov 20, 2008 06:09 AM

                                        Suet is usually from a cow, so why couldn't it be kosher?

                                        1. re: DeisCane
                                          ferret Nov 20, 2008 01:02 PM

                                          It would have to be rendered and there's not a whole lot of demand.

                                          1. re: ferret
                                            DeisCane Nov 21, 2008 05:30 AM

                                            That doesn't mean it is "not kosher. In fact, it's more treif than pork."

                                            1. re: DeisCane
                                              zsero Nov 23, 2008 07:58 PM

                                              For some reason my replies are not posting. Third attempt: suet from a cow, sheep, goat, or buffalo are by definition not kosher. And the prohibition is worse than that of pork. If there were suet in a deer it would be kosher, but I don't think there is any.

                                              1. re: zsero
                                                queenscook Nov 23, 2008 11:15 PM

                                                Is the issue chalav? If so, perhaps you should say that. Otherwise, it's very unclear when you keep saying it's "by definition" not kosher, but not explaining why not.

                                                1. re: queenscook
                                                  zsero Nov 24, 2008 05:10 PM

                                                  Chelev, not chalav! If you're using milk, that's a whole nother problem!

                                                  And I did say so - in English, which is the language we're using. Chelev is just Hebrew for suet. If I said blood was by definition not kosher, would you insist that I say "dam"?

                                                  1. re: zsero
                                                    queenscook Dec 1, 2008 03:31 PM

                                                    Been out of town and had no computer access, so I couldn't answer this before. The difference is that people who keep kosher might know what chelev is (sorry for the previous misspelling; I never meant milk), but might not have know that suet was the same thing. And while I might not think that blood should be referred to as "dam" to clarify things, there are other examples of things frum/kosher-keeping/Jewish people eat that really don't translate well to English. Who would ever say they are putting "stuffed derma" in a cholent rather than kishka, or even refer to cholent itself by some English words (overnight stew perhaps?)?

                                                2. re: zsero
                                                  DeisCane Nov 24, 2008 03:36 AM

                                                  OK, since I was completely ignorant of suet before this thread, I decided to do some hunting. I found the point to which zsero must be referring. It is from Leviticus 3:17:

                                                  "It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations in all your dwelling place, that you eat neither fat nor blood."

                                                  Evidently, the fat referred to therein is so-called "hard" fat found around the kidneys, etc., and which is now commonly referred to as suet.

                                                  Interestingly, on searching for the term, I came across this absolutely fascinating article from the NY Times from 1896 (!) about kosher cooking, etc.:

                                                  1. re: DeisCane
                                                    vallevin Nov 24, 2008 04:35 AM

                                                    Per my book "The Kosher Kitchen" (R. Binyomin Frost), this is all correct. Just to split hairs, the term is "Cheilev" (chet, lamed, vet). R. Frost cites Rambam 7:1 and Yoreh Deah 64:1

                                                    1. re: vallevin
                                                      ferret Nov 25, 2008 12:06 PM

                                                      In any case, I don't think anyone who keeps Kosher has a strong interest in fleischig desserts, so this is more than a moot discussion. Frankly I could never understand the inclusion of animal fats in sweets. In addition, not everything has to be replicated in kosher and/or parve version in a laboratory somewhere. There are plenty of excellent kosher options to be had without trying to come up with a kosher Twinkie or some other crappy dessert item.

                                                      1. re: ferret
                                                        midasgold Nov 25, 2008 01:25 PM

                                                        I beg to differ, Ferret. A Twinkie is not "crappy." According to Wikipedia, It's a "Golden Sponge Cake with Creamy Filling." It's a delicious comfort food that's a slice of Americana and as much a part of the American Cookbook as is apple pie or mac n' cheese; if and when it can be replicated in a kosher pareve or cholev Yisroel variety, I guarentee I'll among be the first to run to savor the delightful taste experience.

                                                    2. re: DeisCane
                                                      Kochav Dec 3, 2008 09:21 PM

                                                      Now I'm wondering just what it was that my mom's butcher (Los Angeles, Pico-Robertson area, in business forever) sent her when she asked him last year for beef suet! I never ended up rendering it for pie crust, but maybe I'll have her ask him.

                                                      1. re: Kochav
                                                        zsero Dec 4, 2008 02:20 AM

                                                        Please do. My guess is that you'll find it was ordinary fat, not suet, and would not have been suitable for baking.

                                              2. re: DeisCane
                                                zsero Nov 23, 2008 07:50 PM


                                                1. re: DeisCane
                                                  zsero Nov 23, 2008 07:55 PM


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