I’m one of those folks who feels it isn’t dessert without chocolate.
With my passion for chocolate, it was especially interesting to learn of its strong Jewish connection. Sephardic Jews fleeing the Inquisition raised cocoa beans (as well as vanilla and sugar) in the New World. Others spread chocolate-making techniques to France. Jews later developed chocolate confection companies such as Elite, based in Israel, and the now-closed but fondly remembered Barton’s Candy chain here in the United States. That tradition continues with some of today’s chocolatiers, including Charles Chocolates in San Francisco.
The chocolate-themed desserts below are takes on traditional Ashkenazi dishes. Chocolate Cookie Kugel uses cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies as its base. The Chocolate Blintzes feature a cocoa-based crêpe and a ricotta filling laced with milk chocolate chips.
Chocolate Cookie Kugel
3 Tbs. unsalted butter melted, divided
30 chocolate sandwich cookies (approx.)
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
8 oz. sour cream
1 cup milk
4 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. almond extract
3 Tbs. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divided
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly brush 1 tsp. of the melted butter inside a 9×13-inch baking pan. Cover bottom with cookies, breaking some in half to fill in any large gaps.
Mash softened cream cheese with sour cream until smooth. Add remaining butter, milk, eggs, almond extract, sugar and salt. Beat until smooth.
Pour mixture over cookies. Scatter 1/2 cup of chocolate chips evenly over top. Place in oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Rotate pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon, then scatter remaining chips over top. Bake for additional 15-25 minutes until custard top is firm and puffy and pulling away from sides of pan. Let sit for 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature topped with whipped cream if desired.
12 chocolate blintz crêpes (see below)
1 recipe blintz filling (see below)
1 Tbs. unsalted butter, divided
2-3 Tbs. powdered sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
12 strawberries, sliced
Lay crêpe cooked side down on work surface. Place 2 Tbs. of filling in the middle, leaving about an inch margin at top and bottom of crêpe. Fold top over filling, then bottom. Fold one side over. Lightly moisten inside edge of last side to help seal. Fold side over crêpe. Repeat.
Heat large fry pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tsp. butter. When melted, place first batch of blintzes seam side down in hot pan. Fry for about 2 minutes until beginning to darken. Flip and fry other side. Remove from pan, add additional butter as needed and fry remaining blintzes in batches. Serve warm sprinkled with powdered sugar, a dollop of sour cream and sliced strawberries.
Blintz Crêpes: Add to blender 1 1/4 cups milk, 1/2 cup cold water, 1 cup flour, 1/4 tsp. salt, 2 Tbs. baking cocoa, 2 Tbs. sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla extract, 2 Tbs. melted unsalted butter and 2 eggs. Blend until smooth.
Melt 1 Tbs. butter. Heat 8-inch crêpe, omelet or fry pan over medium heat. Brush lightly with melted butter. With pan off the heat, pour 1⁄4 cup batter in center of pan. Swirl pan to distribute batter evenly. Fry on one side until top is set and bottom has darkened. Remove with spatula. Place cooked side down on dishtowel. Repeat, adding butter as needed. (Recipe makes a few extra.)
Blintz Filling: Mix 2 cups ricotta cheese with 1 beaten egg and 1⁄2 tsp. almond extract until smooth. Stir in 1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest, 1 Tbs. sugar and 1⁄2 cup milk chocolate chips.