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Comfort Me with Israeli Chocolate

Since Israel’s Operation Protective Edge began I have taken a break from my almost daily social media posts about chocolate. I want to mourn the devastation of the war. I want to respect the sacrifices being made by those in the Israel Defense Forces, their families and the entire country. I want to honor the injuries and the loss of life throughout in the conflict. Chocolate seems frivolous during such tragic events.

Yet chocolate is also a great comfort food and I have not stopped eating it. In New Spain in the 17th century, conversos used drinking chocolate, along with other foods, for similar purposes. Holding vigil for the dying Doña Blanca Méndez de Rivera, her daughters and granddaughters spent a day in reflection and prayer, fortified by a special meal of chocolate and pickled fish. Gabriel de Granada (October 1642) described that during the the period of mourning for his father hard boiled eggs and chocolate were sent for his mother and siblings. At funerals, the Váez family (1630s) ate chocolate, raisins, almonds, salad, and homemade bread.

As the conflict continues to unfold, I offer recipes for two iconic Israeli recipes: chocolate spread and chocolate cake (known as ugat yomledet). If fortification from liquor appeals to you, you might want some Sabra chocolate liqueur. Israeli chocolate and Sabra may be purchased on line. May we all be comforted.

Chocolate Spread
Yields: About 1 1/2 cups
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs, pasteurized (or egg substitute)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5-6 heaping tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Cut the butter into small pieces and put in a blender. Add the sugar, eggs, and vanilla, and blend well. Add the cocoa powder and blend well again. Put in a container and refrigerate. Serve on bread or toast, with fruit, or in a sandwich.

Israeli Chocolate Cake (Ugat Yomledet)
Yields: 10-15 servings
Cake Ingredients
3⁄4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 cup milk
4 large eggs, lightly beaten 12 ounces butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup boiling water
optional: 1⁄4 cup instant coffee for additional flavor

Frosting Ingredients
1⁄2 cup whipping cream (optional: add 1 tablespoon instant coffee)
41⁄2 ounces dark chocolate, crumbled
Sprinkles, for decoration (optional)

For the Cake
1) Preheat the oven to 320 F. Lightly grease a 10-inch springform pan or Bundt pan, or line a cake pan with parchment paper.
2) Mix together the milk, eggs, melted butter, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the sugar and mix. 3) Fold the milk mixture slowly into the dry ingredients. Mix the boiling water with the cocoa; stir into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.
4) Bake for 40–45 minutes. Check with a toothpick to see how firm it is; bake until it is firm inside, perhaps another 20–30 minutes. Cool completely in the pan. Remove when cool.
For the Frosting:
1) Warm the cream in a large heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water; do not let it boil.
2) Add the chocolate and stir until melted. If you prefer to cover the entire the cake with frosting, double or triple the recipe.
3) Once the frosting has cooled, apply it to the cake. Decorate with sprinkles.

Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz lectures about chocolate and Jews around the world. Her book, On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao, was published in 2013 by Jewish Lights and is in its second printing. The book is used in adult study, classroom settings, book clubs and chocolate tastings. Prinz writes for The Huffington Post, On the Chocolate Trail, Reform Judaism and elsewhere.

Free download: Lesson plans for use in schools on chocolate related topics such as Sephardi North American Colonial traders, Hanukkah, Passover, Jewish history, blessings, and more.

Photo credit: Megumi, Flickr

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