Traditional recipes

Lightened Jewish Desserts

Lightened Jewish Desserts

Two Jewish grandmothers are the inspiration for these lightened holiday desserts that you can enjoy all year long.

The laughter at the other end of the line was my brother's. "You can't be serious," he said, catching his breath. "Low-fat Jewish treats? Isn't that an oxymoron?" Of course, I knew where he was coming from. While growing up, my two Jewish grandmothers fed me delicious and irresistible cookies, cakes, and desserts year-round. Jewish holidays, besides being religious celebrations, are centered around food. And sweet treats are the hallmark of many of these occasions.

There are so many Jewish holidays, I often wonder how it was possible for my grandmothers to keep up. Even though we were living in wartime Shanghai, where food was not always plentiful, nothing prevented them from going all-out.

Eating healthy should still be delicious.

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When it came to desserts, the rule was sweet, eggy, nutty, fruity, and buttery. That's why my brother was laughing so hard. At Passover, for example, when flour and leavenings such as yeast, baking powder, or baking soda are forbidden, it's quite a challenge to make a cake that will not only rise but maintain its shape after cooling. Ground nuts often replace flour in Passover cakes, and beaten eggs substitute for leavening agents. But the large quantities needed are out of the question when one is cooking light.

Jewish dietary laws can be daunting to the uninitiated, but if you grow up with them, they're what you know, and you follow them naturally. When I lived with Granny, she was scrupulous about observing all the holidays, and she did everything by the book. For Passover, she scoured our one-room apartment the week before. She packed away all traces of flour and leavening products and stored them elsewhere. She cleaned the two sets of Passover china―one for dairy products and one for meats. Although Granny baked during the holiday, she always bought matzo, the unleavened bread eaten during Passover, from a kosher bakery. All during the year, Granny kept a kosher kitchen, so we always ate the correct foods.

"Kosher" means "fit to eat," and the Jewish dietary laws, or kashruth, stretch back thousands of years. Even though the prescriptions are specific, there is room for interpretation in many cases. For this reason, I don't make any claims for the kosherness of these dessert recipes in any religious sense. What I do claim, however, is that they satisfy the general guidelines for the holidays in question, and they can be eaten all year.

To carry on tradition and make these recipes accessible to more people, I decided to lighten them. Lately there's been a resurgence of interest in Jewish desserts, and several new cookbooks are on the market; you can certainly get authentic recipes from them, but they're really heavy. I don't think our bodies should pay the price. Basically, what I did with these desserts was cut back on the fat by reducing the solid shortenings.

These recipes are in honor of my grandmothers, who each instilled in me my love of food. Light Jewish desserts that taste just as good as the originals? Granny and Baba wouldn't believe it, but they would both be proud.

Lightened up menu for a S.F. Jewish New Year

1 of 3 Pomegranate sorbet with honey brittle as seen in San Francisco, California, on Wednesday, August 31, 2011. Food styled by Sophie Brickman. Craig Lee/Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

2 of 3 Grilled apple salad with fig balsamic vinaigrette as seen in San Francisco, California, on Wednesday, August 31, 2011. Food styled by Sophie Brickman. Craig Lee/Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

My great-grandfather Moishe earned his living in Poland as a schochet, or ritual slaughterer. To my knowledge, Moishe was not only the last of our brave lineage to shed bovine blood - the closest my father ever came was tipping cows in college at Wisconsin - but also the last strictly observant Brickman.

In my household, we kept Moishe's legacy alive at the Passover table, but when I met Dave, I started celebrating other Jewish holidays and got a glimpse into the traditions his parents had adapted.

Sundown on Sept. 28 marks the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, or Jewish New Year, the first one we will spend in San Francisco. When Dave asked that we keep some of his family's practices alive, I realized we had a rare opportunity: to rethink tradition with a California twist.

Back East, Rosh Hashanah falls right when the weather is starting to cool off - sweaters and boots come out of boxes, and it seems proper to gather over a warm soup, hearty meat dishes and sweet, dense desserts. But in San Francisco, people are usually packing away their sweaters and pulling out flip-flops. What to do?

First, I read up on the Rosh Hashanah table, which differs slightly from tradition to tradition and can include:

-- Something round, to symbolize the new year and continuity. Anything from round challah to black-eyed peas or couscous is fair game.

-- Something sweet, for a sweet year. Apples and honey are the standard. (Stay tuned for the Oct. 2 stories on The Chronicle's rooftop honey.)

-- Seeds, to symbolize fertility. Often these come from a pomegranate, which also symbolizes hope and good deeds, as it is said to have 613 seeds, the number of commandments in the Torah.

-- A whole fish or lamb or the head of a lamb, to symbolize the head of the year.

For our entree, I opted for fish, in keeping with our light theme. Our grill sat on the roof for much of the summer, neglected and buffeted by cold winds. Now, finally, we're in grilling season, so we'd grill a whole fish (see instructions).

Since we already had the grill fired up, we could use it for our starter as well. Grilling apples caramelizes the sugars in the same way that baking the apples in a tarte tatin does - in other words, they become delicious. I added the grilled apples to a salad with fig dressing and pistachios for crunch.

For dessert, instead of dense honey cake, we readied the freezer bowl of our ice cream maker for pomegranate sorbet - slightly acidic, bracing and light. Dave pointed out that we were missing a honey element, so I amended the recipe to include honey both in the sorbet and in a crisp almond-honey brittle to crumble on top.

It'll be our first Rosh Hashanah on our own. I figure a little extra sweetness can't hurt.

Grilling a whole fish

Oil and season the outside and cavity of a cleaned, gutted fish. Stuff with herbs and lemon slices, if desired. Prepare a charcoal or gas grill to high heat. Place the fish in a fish basket, on a thoroughly soaked cedar plank or directly on a very clean grill (beware of sticking). Cover and cook about 5-10 minutes for a 1- to 2-inch-thick fish. Carefully turn (use two wide spatulas, if necessary) and finish cooking. The basic rule is to cook 10 minutes per inch of thickness.

Pomegranate Sorbet With Honey Almond Brittle

Makes about 1 quart sorbet

  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons + 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 cups pomegranate juice (not from concentrate)
  • 1 cup orange or tangerine juice
  • -- Juice of 1 lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 1/4 cup whole roasted almonds
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda

For the sorbet: Combine 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup water and 2 tablespoons honey in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar and honey dissolve remove from heat and let cool. Add the pomegranate, orange and lemon juices, then transfer to an ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to a container, cover and freeze until firm.

For the brittle: Line an 8- by 11-inch pan with parchment paper, then spray with cooking spray. Set aside.

Combine 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup honey in a 2-quart (or larger) saucepan - the mixture will bubble up. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until the mixture registers 300° on a candy thermometer. Turn off the heat, then quickly mix in 1/4 cup whole roasted almonds and whisk in the baking soda until just combined. Don't fuss with it as it bubbles up or else the aerated bubbles will collapse.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and let it settle naturally. Refrigerate until firm, then flip the pan over and knock until the brittle releases. Break into small pieces and store in an airtight container, layered between parchment or wax paper, until ready to use.

To serve: Spoon the sorbet into small bowls, and top with a scattering of brittle.

Grilled Apple Salad With Balsamic Fig Vinaigrette

  • 3 tablespoons + 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 figs, stemmed, peeled, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • -- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 medium green apples, cored, cut into wedges
  • 4 loosely packed cups mixed fresh lettuces
  • 1/4 cup shelled roasted pistachios

For the vinaigrette: In a small saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil until shimmering, then cook the shallot until it begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add figs and cook until mushy and water has released, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a blender, add 1/4 cup vinegar and pulse together. With machine running, stream in 1/4 cup olive oil to form a thick dressing. Taste and season with salt and pepper. (This can be made up to 2 days in advance.)

For the salad: Mix the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil with the remaining 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, honey, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Toss with the apples, and let apples marinate while the grill is heating.

Prepare and heat a grill to high, or heat a grill pan over high heat. Lift the apples from the marinade, and grill them until nicely charred with grill marks, about 3 minutes per side.

Toss greens with vinaigrette, arrange grilled apple wedges on top, scatter on pistachios and serve immediately.

Per serving: 324 calories, 2 g protein, 24 g carbohydrate, 26 g fat (4 g saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 9 mg sodium, 4 g fiber.

Jewish Apple Cake With Vanilla Glaze

Of all the fancy desserts I know how to make as a former pastry chef, this simple family Jewish apple cake recipe remains at the very top of my rotation: requested often, devoured always. Very easy to make, this Jewish apple cake looks like how autumn on a Vermont farm feels (or so I imagine), and fills the house with the aroma of cinnamon, apples, and vanilla.

This Jewish Apple Cake recipe came from my mom’s home economics class back when she was in high school. It was the first thing she learned to bake on her own, but certainly not the last: She is a fabulous home baker.

You may also like: Soft Italian Sprinkle Cookies and Buttermilk Birthday Cake

Many of my best recipes come not from cookbooks or a website, but from simple recipe cards, passed along from neighbor to neighbor, grandmother to mother to daughter, friend to friend, and so on. I pull out these trusty family recipes time and again from my beloved wooden recipe box my late husband crafted for me from his grandfather’s felled cherry tree. These recipe cards, with their handwritten ingredients and side notes, grow a little more smudged, and thus a little more loved, with every use.

Lightened Up Red White and Blue Cheesecake Parfait (1 WW SmartPoint per Serving!)

I love cheesecake in any way, shape or form – but I’m trying to watch what I eat and following the WW plan, so I want to use my Freestyle points wisely. Having a big piece of cheesecake is not what I want to do right now. While my family can still enjoy the Red White and Blue Cheesecake Parfait I’ve made before – get that recipe right here, it’s just not a good option for me. So, I took the recipe that I had for this and created one that I could totally get to enjoy myself. What resulted was delicious and on WW!

You’re going to need nonfat greek yogurt, Jello brand Sugar Free Cheesecake Pudding Mix, a red berry (I used strawberries, but you could totally use raspberries) and blueberries.

I like to make this in single servings, but if you are making for a crowd, it’s going to be very easy to figure out. I use 1/4 of the Jello Sugar Free Cheesecake Pudding Mix (so 1 SmartPoint).

It’s one heaping teaspoon (there are 4 heaping teaspoons in the package). Mix that with 1 cup of nonfat greek yogurt (0 SmartPoints).

You’re going to want to do one layer of strawberries, then the yogurt/cheesecake pudding mix, then add more berries. Repeat until all the cheesecake pudding mix and yogurt are gone and all your berries are in your cup! Serve!

You’re going to want to do one layer of strawberries, then the yogurt/cheesecake pudding mix, then add more berries. Repeat until all the cheesecake pudding mix and yogurt are gone and all your berries are in your cup! Serve!
You can totally have this for a dessert or snack (it’s greek yogurt. ) or even breakfast, like I did yesterday. So yummy and totally satisfied my sweet tooth!

For 1 Serving
1 cup nonfat greek yogurt
1 Tbsp Jello brand Sugar Free Cheesecake Pudding Mix
1 cup strawberries or raspberries
1/2 cup blueberries

Mix nonfat greek yogurt with 1 heaping tbsp of Jello brand Sugar Free Cheesecake Pudding Mix.
Mix well.
Layer strawberries on the bottom of your glass or bowl.
Add yogurt/cheesecake pudding mix, then add more berries.
Repeat until all the cheesecake pudding mix and yogurt are gone and all your berries are in your cup!

Low-fat Jewish cookbook : 225 traditional and contemporary gourmet Kosher recipes for holidays and everyday

When people think of Jewish cooking, "low fat" aren't usually the first words that come to mind. But now, thanks to The Low-Fat Jewish Cookbook, kosher food doesn't have to mean fattening food. Using simple combinations of accessible ingredients, renowned cookbook author Faye Levy creates delicious, healthful dishes that meet all of the guidelines for keeping kosher. While many Jewish cooks don't keep a kosher kitchen throughout the entire year, they do want to prepare

traditional Jewish dishes for the holidays. Following a comprehensive introduction outlining the rules of kashrut, the first part of the book is divided by holiday (including a section on Shabbat), beginning with a description of each special day and the foods that are associated with it. The recipes that follow include lightened-up versions of old favorites such as noodle kugel, blintzes, honey cake, challah, and even a gefilte fish that is made in the food processor

all low in fat and all true to their origins. The second part of the book consists of fabulous low-fat everyday recipes organized into general chapters, including Appetizers and Salads, Dairy and Egg Dishes, Chicken and Turkey Dishes, Vegetables and Vegetarian Dishes, and Desserts. Faye Levy proves that a dish doesn't have to be complicated to be delicious, and it doesn't have to be high in fat to be flavorful. The Low-Fat Jewish Cookbook is a contemporary

straightforward companion that will allow kosher cooks to enjoy traditional and innovative meals without the guilt

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Coffee Ice Cream

Homemade ice cream is the perfect summer treat and coffee is a sophisticated flavor that dad will love. A big bonus of this recipe: it does not require an ice cream maker. Even without special equipment, you can have a decadent, creamy treat at home. Plan ahead—you'll need at least six hours of freezing time before serving.

Top Kosher Cheesecake Recipes for Shavuot

Italians make cheesecake with sweetened ricotta cheese (some flavor it with honey and bay leaves) while the French favor a thin version lightened with Neufchâtel cheese and gelatin. Greek-style features mascarpone or mizithra, a flavorful Greek cheese similar to ricotta, but drier.

Within America, the two most popular kinds of cheesecake are New York style, an extremely rich and smooth version made from cream cheese, heavy cream and egg yolks, usually baked in a graham cracker crust and Chicago-style, which has a firm outside and light, creamy interior due to sour cream added to the cream cheese batter, and typically baked in a shortbread cookie crust.

Recently Japanese cheesecake made the internet rounds and it is a lighter, fluffier cheesecake. While in Israel you can find Cheesecake all year round at all the breakfast buffets, mainly characterized by the special sour cream like cheese that is used.  Finally, there is also no-bake cheesecakes, which are mostly made from cream cheese and leave out the eggs, not very traditional, but easy and nonetheless delicious.  

Why now? It&aposs almost Shavuot. The tradition is to eat dairy on Shavuot and we have overਂ,000 dairy recipes for you to browse, but no Shavuot is complete without:

5 Honey Desserts for a Sweet Jewish New Year

For those of you gathering around the table for Rosh Hashana, you know that dipping apples in honey symbolizes the promise of a sweet new year. It's a time-honored combination that, for many Jews, harks back to the days of Hebrew school, or to a time when their own kids were huddled around the table. This year, in honor of the first of the High Holy Days, revel in the sweetness of the coming Jewish new year with festive, honey-laced treats that are blissfully sweet and celebratory.

Set out a plate of these delicate yet crispy Honey-Almond Lace Cookies (pictured above) after dinner with a platter of fruit for an easygoing holiday dessert. A flourless batter of honey, brown sugar, butter and sliced almonds gives these treats their distinctive thin, holey disposition.


Chef Name: Food Network Kitchen Full Recipe Name: Honey Ricotta Cheesecake Talent Recipe: FNK Recipe: Food Networks Kitchen’s Honey Ricotta Cheesecake, as seen on Project:, FN Essentials/Weeknights/Fall/Holidays Show Name: Food Network / Cooking Channel: Food Network

Photo by: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Renee Comet, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Giada De Laurentiis' Honey Ricotta Cheesecake comes with a buttery crust made from an after-dinner dessert cookie: biscotti. As for the filling, tangy cream cheese and creamy ricotta are sweetened with orange blossom honey, plus a tablespoon of orange zest. Enjoy a sweet and citrusy slice that's as easy as pie — but so much better.

20 Delicious Strawberry Desserts for Summer

Try our fresh strawberry recipes for your best dessert ever.

Strawberries, like all berries, are a healthy fruit: they're great sources of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. But that&rsquos just icing on the cake, because as many a kid will tell you, strawberry desserts are where it&rsquos at. So after you&rsquove had your fill of this fragrant fruit in healthy smoothies and summer salads, and maybe stashed some frozen strawberries in your freezer, treat your loved ones (and yourself) to what you were really craving and whip up one of these after-dinner winners.

Whether you dip them in chocolate, bake them in a pie, or throw them on the grill (yes, really), here are 20 sweet ways to eat the quintessential summer berry that'll feel like an indulgent treat every time.

Buffet Brunch Inspirations

By the time I rub the sleep out of my eyes and roll out of bed on the weekends, my parents already ran (Mom) or hiked (Dad) 6 miles of hills, drank a chai latte (Mom) or black coffee (Dad), drove to Target (Mom) or Home Depot (Dad), typed out 20+ work emails (both), and showered (both). All by 9 am. Although not necessarily in that order.

No, they aren’t bakers with those early morning hours (but that would explain a lot behind my recipes!). They’re just naturally the wake-up-at-4:30-and-consider-6-am-sleeping-in type of people.

You kind of get used to it after a while.

My brother and I also started out as early birds. We woke up and raced downstairs over an hour before the Saturday morning cartoons began, and we impatiently bounced off our bedroom walls while waiting for the 6 am “release time” on Christmas morning. But as teenagers, we slowly eased into the sleeping in routine, and now we much prefer a 7 or 8 am buzzing alarm on weekdays.

Which means one of the few meals we can all share is at 11 am.

Brunch. (Breakfast for my brother and me lunch for our parents.)

While we usually pile into the car and drive across the Bay for our favorite blueberry coffee cake, we stay in town if it’s the last Sunday of the month. The local country club hosts a fancy brunch, and I never refuse an excuse to dress up!

The country club goes ALL OUT for their buffet brunches. The table starts with make-your-own-salad toppings and dressings, moves on to the shrimp and feta orzo, followed by the fresh fruit platter with melons and berries. Next comes the cheese plate and 5 types of crackers, the smoked salmon and shrimp (yes, twice), and the toasted bagels and English muffins.

And that’s just the “cold” stuff.

The table continues to the heated metal containers, holding eggs Benedict and applewood-smoked bacon, hash browns and french toast, chicken cacciatore and fresh fish, and a warm vegetable sauté. Plus the separate carving station with ham and made-to-order omelettes.

Oh, but I’m not done! They finish at desserts, which recently included lemon poppy seed muffins and old-fashioned donuts, mini fruit tarts and pecan pie, strawberry- or chocolate mousse-topped chocolate cake bites, and chocolate-dipped cream puffs.

Basically my idea of heaven.

Despite so many sweet treats—and one very enticing slightly melty dark chocolate croissant—my favorite thing of the entire buffet was a blueberry blintz. For those of you scratching your heads in confusion, a blintz is classically a crêpe wrapped around a sweet cheese filling (cream, ricotta, or farmer’s) like a tiny burrito and often topped with a fruit, caramel, or chocolate sauce.

Their creamy version, with its slightly tangy blueberry syrup, had me swooning after the first bite—and wanting to lick the plate clean after my last! But I somehow managed to refrain and instead decided to make my own lighter version at home.

Oh. My. Goodness. You guys… These blueberry blintzes are rich, creamy, sweet, and guiltlessly sinful. I didn’t think it was possible, but they’re even better than the buffet originals! By using frozen blueberries, I ensured that you can eat them all year round, and I absolutely guarantee… They’re 100% work waking up early to eat!