Lauren Stacy Berdy earned her professional diploma from Ecole de Cuisine, La Varenne Paris, France in 1978, then spent a few years working in Europe before bringing it home. She spent more than three decades as a private chef-caterer. She now resides 130 paces from the beach with her husband in Hollywood, Florida, where she wrote Remaining Kosher Volume One: A Cookbook For All With A Hechsher In Their Heart. This eBook is available on iTunes. Volume Two is well on its way.
Rethinking Sweet Parve
Even with more than three decades of culinary expertise it was always challenging when working kosher as a caterer to create parve desserts. I have tasted many parve cookies, cakes and pastries that are disappointing to eat. They give taste the skip. The fact is that most parve sweets, even homemade ones, have been co-opted by faux industrial ingredients like margarine. Margarine and I have no real relationship. It is like the friend of a friend of another friend. It’s a stand-in replacement. It is really just tasteless oil.
But nothing says that cannot be changed constraints can sometimes teach us more about ourselves. We are not bound by tradition. We do not have to be bullied by ingredients. Maintaining the Kosher standard has less to do with wishful thinking and fast substitutions and more to do with just being in the nature of all things kosher.
My personal take on cooking kosher food is simple. It is valued because it invokes a delicious idea not just an adherence. My desserts are no different.
I have adopted another point of view, a new direction. I want to get the past into perspective. My interest is to start a sweet parve conversation. Think of this as parve ecology.
I changed the way I viewed sweet parve by changing my attitude towards it. I have faith in my skills. They have supplied me with a living for many years.
Our world is filled with wonderful sun filled ingredients, splendid staples like extra virgin olive oil, halvah and tahini.
I would be the last person to say that I am an originator of anything. All it takes is a sudden leap of thought to transform what seems like an elusive subject like non-dairy sweets and make something not only delicious but also memorable. A sideways glance can rotate one's point of view.
It is my hope in sharing these recipes that I help to expand the landscape of tempting parve sweets. Choices abound and many new roads have been explored. It’s all in the laws of succession. Replacement rather than continuity!
Also, I ask you who doesn’t appreciate a delicious cookie.
These recipe is an excerpt from:
Remaining Kosher Volume Two: A Cookbook for All with a Hechsher in Their Heart
Publication Volume Two: Spring 2016, UDJ Productions
All text © 2015 Lauren Stacy Berdy, All photos © 2015 John White
Here is the lowdown on these skinnies: they have a wonderfully satisfying crisp texture. It’s an intense bite no matter which nut you invite into the dough.
I am an ardent fan of the hazelnut, due mostly to an early indulgence in Barton's Butter Crunch.
In this recipe, the nuts get toasted then ground with a vanilla sugar. A standing blender or food processor accomplishes this task.
All you will have to do is a little easy tailoring with damp fingertips. This simple action flattens the dough and prepares the “skinnies”. You decide if the cookies are large or small.
I bake 6 cookies to a sheet pan.
They are lavishly amusing. This delicious cookie merits your attention.
Note: Slip in whatever nuts are on hand. Even coconut! Toasted first, of course.
Special Equipment: standing blender or food processor, table fork, standing mixer, batter attachment, rubber spatula, baking sheet pan, silicone mat (or non-stick spray), tablespoon
Yield: about (25) 3½” inch cookies
1 cup toasted hazelnuts
1 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, scraped
or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup unbleached flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg, checked and beaten
2 tablespoons almond milk (or any non-dairy “milk”)
Prime the ingredients.
To roast hazelnuts: spread whole kernels in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 275 ºF for 15-20 minutes. Take care not to over roast as nuts can scorch quickly.
To remove hazelnut skins: wrap the warm hazelnuts in a clean dishtowel and let them sit for 3-5 minutes. Rub the nuts vigorously in towel. Set aside the skinned hazelnuts; shake the skins into the sink.
Many varieties do not lose their skins entirely, which is a good thing! Hazelnut skins add nutrients and color.
To prepare a vanilla bean: place the vanilla bean in front of you on a cutting board. Carefully cut the vanilla pod lengthwise into two equal pieces. Use a small knife to scrape the bean’s inner “caviar” from the insides of both halves. Scrape the “caviar” into the measured sugar (tuck the empty pod into your sugar bowl).
Place the sugar and vanilla “caviar” inside the standing blender, add in the hazelnuts. Briefly blend on high for 5 seconds. Stop. Stir to the bottom using the tines of a fork.
Blend for another 10 seconds. Stop. Stir again. Blend for another 5 seconds.
Most of the hazelnuts will be powdered, some chopped and maybe a few halves.
Gently whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together.
Place the olive oil, dry ingredients, beaten egg and the non-dairy milk in the bowl of the standing mixer (add the pure vanilla extract if using). Use a batter attachment and beat until just mixed. The mixture should be thick.
Use the tines of the fork to loosen and shower the ground nuts into the standing mixer bowl.
Beat again until mixed.
The dough will be a little sticky.
Note: This dough does not freeze well. But the dough can be refrigerated for a day or two.
Preheat oven (convection if available) to 350 ºF.
Prepare the baking sheet(s).
Line baking sheet(s) with silicon pad(s) or generously spray with non-stick spray.
Place the dough on the pad(s) using a tablespoon (not heaping) 3 inches apart. I place 6 on a cookie sheet.
Dampen your hands with tap water then shake them.
Flatten each cookie with your damp fingertips.
Press the tops to flatten. Trying to keep the shapes circular and neat.
Repeat as needed.
The cookies will rise up while baking and spread out. The dough flattens into thin wafers as they bake. They will spread out to about 3½ inches in diameter.
Bake for about 10-11 minutes. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet. They will crispen upon cooling. Use a metal spatula to remove the cookies.
Nothing is better than a freshly baked cookie!
But. . . these cookies can be made three days ahead if stored in an airtight container.