Master pastry chef Alex Levin has an impressive background. He received his undergraduate degree in applied mathematics from Yale, was the top student in the class of 2012 at the Culinary Institute of America, and trained under some of the industry’s leading pastry chefs. But his talent with desserts pre-dates all of those degrees and formal training. He started baking as a child in the kitchen of his grandmother, Martha Hadassah Nadich, Rebbetzin of the Park Avenue Synagogue in Manhattan.
At Passover, Alex and his family still channel his grandmother by preparing some of her classic desserts, such as sponge cake. Alex loves that cake and the nostalgia it elicits. It is, he says, a great cake, one he wouldn’t dare mess with.
Here are some insightful trade secrets from Chef Levin to help you elevate your Pesach dessert this year to the next level:
1. Invest in quality baking tools
Many of us hesitate to buy good quality baking tools for Pesach, since the holiday only lasts eight days a year. But good begets good. Your Passover desserts will come out better if they are baked in quality tins and if you use the right equipment every step of the baking process.
2. Make use of the broad range of nut flours available today
Cakes made with almond, pistachio or walnut flour are delicious, gluten free and kosher for Pesach. And if you can’t find Kosher for Pesach nut flours, making them is as easy as processing the nuts in a food processor.
3. Potato to the rescue
When a cake recipe calls for a combination of all purpose flour and nut flour, substitute the all purpose flour with potato starch. You don’t, however, want to use potato flour for more than 25 per cent of the total flour used.
4. Go slow and steady
Pesach desserts use lots of beaten egg whites. When beating the egg whites, do so on a mixer’s medium speed, slowly and evenly, for best results.
5. The right substitute
Coconut oil or solid shortening is a fine substitute for butter or margarine.
The Nosher, JTA
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