When it comes to Jewish culture, how sweet it is

Sweet dishes play a tremendous role in Jewish cooking and culture. Whether Ashkenazi or Sephardi, the tradition of serving sweets is long. We offer a variety of desserts at every oneg, we honor the sweetness of our Torah with candy, we break our fasts with cookies and cakes and we begin Rosh Hashanah with apples and honey. We celebrate birthdays with cake, b’nai mitzvah with candies and romance with chocolate. In our family, we distinguish Shabbat by real desserts, which contrast to the rest of the week’s “nice piece of fruit.”

Why not invite friends over after Shabbat services for coffee and cake, tea and cookies, or wine or brandy and chocolates? It’s easier than preparing an entire meal, and a lot of fun. Remember to save room for dessert!

Chocolate Truffles | Makes about 36 small truffles

8 oz. bittersweet chocolate

3 oz. cream, heated

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa

¼ cup powdered sugar

Melt the chocolate in a warm oven, microwave or over very low heat on top of the stove. Beat the chocolate and cream together. Allow to chill for 1 hour.

Scoop out small amounts of the mixture and roll into balls with your hands. Roll in cocoa or powdered sugar. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator.

Real Gingersnaps | Makes about 48

8 oz. unsalted butter

1½ cups sugar, plus extra

sugar to roll cookies in

1 egg

¼ cup molasses

1 Tbs. finely grated fresh ginger

2 tsp. baking soda

¼ tsp. salt

2½ cups flour

2 tsp. dried ginger

2 cloves, ground

½-inch cinnamon stick, ground

Beat the butter and 1½ cups sugar together until very light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then the molasses, then the fresh ginger, making sure everything is well combined. Mix together the baking soda, salt, flour, dried ginger, cloves and cinnamon. Combine the dry ingredients gently and thoroughly, without overmixing. Allow the dough to rest 1 hour (if made by hand).

Place the granulated sugar in a shallow dish. Form 1-inch balls of dough; then roll each one in the extra sugar. Place the cookies 2 inches apart on a lined cookie sheet. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes for soft cookies, 10 to 14 minutes for crispy.

Cool a few minutes on the cookie sheet before transferring to a cooling rack.

Melted Chocolate Cake | Serves 4

3 egg yolks

3 eggs

¼ cup sugar

5 Tbs. flour

6 oz. semisweet chocolate,


6 oz. unsalted butter, melted

2 tsp. Sabra or

orange-flavored liqueur

zest of 1 orange,

finely chopped

powdered sugar for garnish

Beat the egg yolks, eggs and sugar to soft peaks. Sift in the flour. Fold in the melted chocolate, butter, liqueur and orange zest. Pour into individual molds or ramekins that have been buttered and floured. Chill until ready to bake.

Bake the cakes in a preheated 375-degree oven for 15 minutes. Unmold, dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately.

Caramelized Oranges | Serves 8

12 sweet oranges, peeled and

sliced into ¼-inch slices

¼ cup orange-flavored vodka


zest of 2 oranges

1 cup sugar

½ cup water

Arrange the oranges in overlapping slices in a shallow serving dish. Sprinkle the vodka if using over the oranges and garnish with the orange zest. Set aside.

Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, and cook until the syrup looks pale amber when a drop or two is spooned onto a white saucer. Swirl the pan gently and continue to cook until drops are medium to dark amber in color. Pour the caramel over the oranges. Allow to cool completely before serving.

Rebeca Ets-Hokin is a Bay Area cooking teacher and food professional. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to J. or to [email protected].