The Kosher Bak­er: Over 160 Dairy-Free Recipes from the Tra­di­tion­al to the Trendy

  • Review
By – September 22, 2011
Cooks who keep kosher find bak­ing to be a spe­cial chal­lenge. Mak­ing pareve desserts that com­ple­ment meat meals can be dif­fi­cult. Paula Shoy­er, a cook­ing teacher trained at the Ritz Escoffi­er École de Gas­tronomie Française in Paris, offers solu­tions. She shows cooks how to use dairy-free sub­sti­tutes such as veg­an mar­garine and soy milk to cre­ate deli­cious desserts that do not have the con­sis­ten­cy of card­board. She begins with a brief expla­na­tion of the kashrut laws and lists of nec­es­sary kitchen equip­ment and ingre­di­ents. She then offers three sec­tions of recipes rang­ing from sim­ple one-step cakes and cook­ies to fanci­er cook­ies, lay­er cakes, and pies that require a few more steps and more time to advanced desserts requir­ing mul­ti­ple steps and longer prepa­ra­tion times. Shoy­er also includes Passover recipes and recipes for dia­bet­ics and peo­ple who are on gluten-free diets. Amaret­to cook­ies, chal­lah beer bread pud­ding with caramel sauce, and choco­late bab­ka are among the delec­table desserts fea­tured in this beau­ti­ful­ly illus­trat­ed cook­book. The instruc­tions are clear and easy to fol­low. Both novice and expe­ri­enced cooks will enjoy hav­ing this book in the kitchen.

Recipe: Pear and Almond Tart

Serves 8

Stor­age: Store in the refrig­er­a­tor for up to four days. In this clas­sic French dessert poached pears are baked in an almond cream in a cook­ie crust. Don’t wor­ry about the three parts: you can make the dough in advance and freeze it, make the almond cream three days before, and the pears two days before. You can then assem­ble it all on the day you will serve the tart. I learned how to make the dairy ver­sion of this tart in cook­ing school in Paris.

Pas­try Dough Crust
1 cup all-pur­pose flour
23 cup con­fec­tion­ers’ sug­ar
5 table­spoons parve mar­garine, frozen for 30 min­utes and cut in pieces
1 large egg yolk
2 table­spoons cold water
14 tea­spoon pure vanil­la extract

Poached Pears
7 cups water
1 cup sug­ar
1 table­spoon vanil­la
Juice from 1 lemon
3 firm pears

Almond Cream
5 table­spoons parve mar­garine, plus extra to grease pan
13 cup sug­ar
12 cup almond flour
1 table­spoon all-pur­pose flour, plus extra for dust­ing work sur­face and sprin­kling
1 large egg
1 tea­spoon pure vanil­la extract
1 tea­spoon rum (option­al)

2 table­spoons apri­cot jam, for glaz­ing pears
2 table­spoons con­fec­tiones’ sug­ar, for sprin­kling on tart

1. To make the pas­try dough crust: Place the flour, con­fec­tion­ers’ sug­ar, and mar­garine in the bowl of a food proces­sor fit­ted with a met­al blade. Process for 10 sec­onds, or until the mix­ture resem­bles sand. You can do this by hand by cut­ting the mar­garine into the dry ingre­di­ents using two knives or a pas­try cut­ter. Add the egg yolk, cold water, and vanil­la and process or hand mix with a sil­i­cone spat­u­la or wood­en spoon until the dough comes togeth­er into a ball. Place the dough on a large piece of plas­tic wrap. Gath­er into a ball, cov­er with the plas­tic, and then flat­ten. Chill 1 hour in the freez­er or overnight in the refrig­er­a­tor.

2. To make the poached pears: In a medi­um saucepan, bring water, sug­ar, and vanil­la to a boil. Mean­while, place the lemon juice in a shal­low bowl. Slice the very bot­tom and very top off of each pear and peel, mak­ing sure to keep the pear shape. Halve the pears from stem to bot­tom. With a 12 ‑tea­spoon mea­sur­ing spoon or mel­on baller, start­ing at the top of a pear half, gen­tly scoop out just the thin vein that runs from top to the bot­tom and the core and seeds of the pear. You want to keep the shape of the pear.

3. As each half is pre­pared, place in the lemon juice and turn to coat. When the poach­ing syrup has boiled, add the pears to the pot and cook uncov­ered for approx­i­mate­ly 15 min­utes on medi­um heat so the pears sim­mer, or until the tip of a sharp knife slides eas­i­ly into the inside of one of the pear halves; do not cut through.

4. Once the pears are cooked, remove the pan from the heat and let the pears cool in syrup. Trans­fer the pears to a bowl or con­tain­er and ladle some of the cook­ing liq­uid on top and cov­er. The pears may be chilled for 2 days.

5. To make the almond cream: With an elec­tric mix­er on high speed or a whisk, beat the mar­garine until soft. Add the sug­ar, almond flour, and flour and beat or whisk again. Add the egg, vanil­la, and rum, if using. Turn up the speed of the mix­er to high and whip until the mix­ture is light and airy, about 1 minute. The cream may be made 3 days in advance and stored cov­ered in the refrig­er­a­tor.

6. When you’re ready to assem­ble and bake the tart, pre­heat the oven to 425°F. Place the pear halves on paper tow­els to dry. Grease an 8- or 9‑inch tart ring, with or with­out a remov­able bot­tom, with a lit­tle mar­garine and place on a parch­ment- lined cook­ie sheet.

7. Remove the dough from the freez­er or refrig­er­a­tor and let sit at room tem­per­a­ture just until you can press it gen­tly. Place a piece of plas­tic wrap larg­er than the tart ring on the counter and sprin­kle with flour. Place the dough on top. Sprin­kle with a lit­tle more flour. Cov­er with a piece of parch­ment and roll on top of the parch­ment to roll out the dough until it is at least 1 inch larg­er than the tart ring. Remove the parch­ment.

8. Place your hand under the plas­tic, lift the dough and turn it into the tart ring, using your fin­gers to gen­tly press the dough into the cor­ners. Remove the plas­tic and use a rolling pin to roll over the top to trim off the excess dough.

9. Use a sil­i­cone spat­u­la to spread the almond cream even­ly on the bot­tom of the dough, all the way to the cor­ners. Take each pear half, place on a small cut­ting board, and using a small sharp knife, make thin cross­wise (not top to bot­tom) slices into the pears all the way through, being care­ful to keep each slice in place to retain the shape of the pear. 10. Using a met­al flat blade spat­u­la, care­ful­ly pick up the entire sliced pear half and place on the cream, stem side fac­ing the cen­ter. Repeat for the next pear half and place across from the first, the stem sides fac­ing each oth­er. Care­ful­ly place the remain­ing halves in the ring, spac­ing them even­ly. With your fin­ger, gen­tly fan each pear from the cen­ter to the ring.

11. Bake for 30 for 35 min­utes, or until gold­en­browned. Slide the parch­ment and the tart onto a rack to cool.

12. To serve, warm the apri­cot jam in the microwave for 15 sec­onds and stir. Sift the con­fec­tion­ers’ sug­ar over the baked almond cream and then brush the pears with the jam. If the tart will not be served the same day, it must be refrig­er­at­ed.

Reprint­ed with per­mis­sion from The Kosher Bak­er by Paula Shoy­er, Bran­deis Uni­ver­si­ty Press/​University Press of New Eng­land 2010.

Bar­bara M. Bibel is a librar­i­an at the Oak­land Pub­lic Library in Oak­land, CA; and at Con­gre­ga­tion Netiv­ot Shalom, Berke­ley, CA.

Discussion Questions