I’m from a happily mixed family. My husband is Jewish and I am Christian.
Whenever possible, I try to use one uncomplicated recipe for both Easter and Passover dinners, doubling the recipe to use for both. Passover desserts can have no flour, as no leavening is used at Passover. Chocolate is one of the easiest ways to please.
I own a chocolate bunny mold I use at Easter. It is somewhere. In a very good place. Unfortunately, after some time searching, no bunny mold has been found, although a plastic cat mold was located.
Williams Sonoma, just about the only cookware shop in downtown Charleston, was my first call. They are well known for their incredible collection of Easter decorations and foods. What I wanted was a chocolate bunny mold just like the one that is lost somewhere in my home, but I would have settled for any bunny mold.
I also make a freeform Star of David, and wondered if they had a mold that would make it easier to form. They had neither.
Jamie French, a former chef who is a manager and cooking class teacher at Williams Sonoma, came up with a solution. She suggested using a cookie cutter and firm chocolate to form shapes that symbolized each holiday. That would work.
French had two recipes that would yield both bunnies and a Star of David. One was her recipe for ganache, and the other was Sean Brock’s grandmother’s fudge, which is a strange combination of Velveeta cheese and chocolate. Incredibly, it turns out to be a fudge that is ideal for cut-outs, and happens to be as delicious as Jamie’s ganache. (You can substitute pecans for the listed walnuts, or leave out the nuts altogether.)
The Obstinate Daughter’s pastry chef, Andrea Lever Upchurch, knowing of my recipe search, offered up her recipe for a simple Black Forest chocolate cake. It can be baked in any decorative cake mold or ramekins.
Jamie French’s Ganache Cut-outs
Makes 1 tray firm chocolate ganache
1 pound semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon Irish cream, Chambord, mint extract or another kind of extract or liqueur (optional)
Put chocolate chips in a medium bowl.
Heat the heavy cream to a simmer. Add the heavy cream to the chocolate, a little at a time, folding the cream and chocolate together between each addition of cream to create a smooth, medium-firm consistency. If using, stir extract or liqueur into mixture.
Line a 1/4 sized sheet tray with parchment paper. Pour the ganache into the tray, spreading it evenly and smoothly. (Alternatively, make the ganache the thickness of any cookie cutter to be used). Refrigerate for at least three hours or overnight until firm. Do not cover until cool to prevent moisture. Once cool, cover with plastic wrap.
Once cool and firm, use any cookie cutter shape to make your cut-outs.
Sean Brock’s Grandmother’s Hillbilly Black Walnut Fudge
Makes 88 1-inch pieces
1 pound Velveeta cheese, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 pound unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices (Margarine can be used, so long as it’s not soft-serve.)
Four 1-pound boxes confectioners’ sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup chopped black walnuts
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Spray a 9-by-13-inch pan lightly with nonstick baking spray.
Put the Velveeta and butter in the top of a double boiler. Fill the bottom of the double boiler with water, insert the top, and set the double boiler over low heat; the water should never be hotter than a simmer. Stir the Velveeta and butter together with a silicone spatula until melted and combined, scraping down the sides as necessary, about 8 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and set aside.
Put the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa in a large bowl and whisk together, making sure that no lumps remain. Add the nuts and stir to combine.
Add the sugar mixture to the cheese mixture, then add the vanilla and stir until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Pour the fudge into the prepared pan. Tap the pan on the counter to remove any air bubbles and smooth the top with a small offset spatula. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours; wait until the fudge is cold before covering it, so that moisture won’t form on the top. Cut the fudge into 1-inch squares. Serve at room temperature.
Tightly covered, the fudge will keep for up to 1 week in the refrigerator. Tightly wrapped, it can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw it in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.
Excerpted from “Heritage” by Sean Brock (Artisan Books, 2014)
Black Forest Flourless Chocolate Cake
Makes 8 ramekins or 1 9-inch cake
This cake, developed by Andrea Upchurch, pastry chef of the Obstinate Daughter, is not only flourless, it is as easy as can be. She bakes it in a water bath, also called a Bain Marie.
To make a water bath, line a roasting or other pan with a tea towel. Add ramekins or cake pan on top of the tea towel. Carefully pour in warm water to come 3/4 way up the ramekin or cake pan, completely covering the tea towel with water. Do not let the water boil as the cake cooks. (The tea towel helps prevent the bottom of the ramekins or pan from overcooking.)
½ cup, plus 2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup light brown sugar
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 sticks, plus 2 tablespoons room temp. butter
12 ounces dark chocolate (60%)
For the topping:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons kirsch liqueur (preferable, but not absolutely necessary if not available) or vanilla extract to taste.
Cocktail cherries (preferably luxardo)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
In a medium saucepan, bring the water, vanilla, sugar, salt and butter to a boil. Remove from heat and add chocolate, whisk until smooth.
Whisk the eggs together in a mixing bowl and slowly add the chocolate mixture, continuously whisking, until smooth.
Pour batter into 8 buttered and sugared ramekins or 1 9-inch cake buttered and sugared pan. Bake in a water bath until set with a slight jiggle, about 40 minutes.
Let cool completely and unmold unto plate.
To serve, combine the heavy cream, kirsch and sugar in a mixing bowl. Whisk just until the cream reaches stiff peaks. Place a large dollop on the cake and top with luxardo cherries.