When the weather outside is frightful, and the newspaper headlines far from delightful, seek comfort in cocoa. We’re not simply talking about the steamy brew, mind you, but cocoa as the main component in indulgent desserts.
Chocolate is a relatively new starring ingredient in the world of Jewish desserts, as dried fruit, nuts, and poppyseed (far less costly and arguably just as delicious) have been the traditional main players. In her fascinating culinary history, On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes, Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz chronicles how the relationship between chocolate and Jewish food evolved, first tracing how Jewish merchants exiled from Spain in the 15th century became engaged extensively in the chocolate trade all over Europe. Prinz then outlines how immigrants from the continent in the late 1800s took advantage of their familiarity with this ingredient when establishing bakeries in the United States to secure the business of Americans who had already developed a preference for chocolate sweets. Gradually, such establishments tested substituting chocolate for prunes and poppyseeds, leading to the emergence of old-new hybrid confections.
Mouth watering yet? We thought so. Feast your eyes on these seven chocolatey Jewish desserts, which will warm your heart and body all winter long.
1. Chocolate Babka Bread Pudding
Maybe Elaine from Seinfeld was right: cinnamon is the lesser babka when compared to chocolate. The proof is literally in the (bread) pudding, which, when made with chocolate babka, evolves from a simple dessert often relegated to potlucks. This recipe made with challah is a terrific way to use up leftovers. For a chocolate babka bread pudding with a more textured mouthful and earthy taste, try this one with hazelnuts.
2. Chocolate Rugelach
Fruit and nuts are fine fillings for rugelach, but to render these rolled pastries truly decadent, stuff them with a semi-sweet chocolate paste. For those who like their chocolate with the salty-sweetness of peanut butter, these double chocolate peanut butter rugelach hit the spot. Or if you are really ready for an over-the-top rugelach experience, try this chocolate rugelach pull-apart cake from Israeli chef Lior Mashiach.
3. Chocolate Matzah S’mores
Entertaining al fresco in cold weather suddenly becomes palatable when you can offer your guests a gooey toasted treat cooked right in front of them over an open flame. These killer kosher s’mores, a Jewish take on the camp classic, eschew graham crackers in favor of chocolate-covered matzah.
4. Chocolate Noodle Kugel
Traditional noodle kugel may be the epitome of old-school Jewish comfort food, but, and we hate to break it to you, bubbe, the chocolate edition is just as soothing. You’ll need some chocolate linguine and a lotta buttah for this chocolate kugel dusted with crunchy sugared cornflakes. Or keep it chunky with this version that calls for chocolate chips.
5. Kokosh Cake
Kokosh means “cocoa” in Hungarian, and this yeast baked good showcases it perfectly. Jamie Geller doubles down on the chocolate in her kokosh by interweaving cocoa powder and chocolate hazelnut spread to create a wonderfully moist rolled confection. If you’re a sucker for streusel, however, we recommend this buttery, crumb-topped kokosh by Chaya Rappoport.
6. Homemade Chocolate Gelt
Rest assured, this is not the (crappy) gelt of your childhood, so chase away those visions of sad chocolate pennies! When made with high-quality chocolate and decorated with candied orange, sea salt, or dried blueberries, gelt becomes bona fide gourmet edible currency. Make extra during Hanukkah — you’ll need it to satisfy your chocolate cravings long after you light that last candle.
7. Chocolate Latkes
Don’t limit yourself to potatoes when it’s time to deep-fry some carbohydrates for Hanukkah. Alice Medrich eschews potatoes altogether in her luxurious chocolate latkes bound with egg whites and shredded coconut, while these latkes drizzled in dark chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt eliminate that wretched eternal decision over sweet or salty.