Recently I mentioned to my daughter Bella I was going to Montreal soon for a demo, and she said with great urgency: “Mommy, whatever you do, make sure you go back to the store where we had those heavenly good chocolate danishes. You just can’t go to Montreal without having one!”
We had that danish almost eight years ago. We were spending a few days in Montreal for a weekend wedding, and our hosts chartered a bus that took all of us around town. The bakery with the unforgettable danish was on top of the list of attractions. When the bus arrived in front of their stores, the baker did as he had been instructed by our hosts, and gave out a chocolate danish to each passenger. And sure enough, we were all swooning.
Which begs the question: What’s the problem? Do they know something about danishes in Montreal that we don’t know in New York? Can’t we whip up a good danish in our wonderful city with our endless resources? Is it necessary to go abroad in order to have a great danish? Now wouldn’t that be really vexing? Oh gosh, look what just happened with Trader Joe’s Chocolate Chips going Dairy!
The answer is ridiculously simple, and I’ll share it with you at the risk of appearing sarcastic: The chocolate used was….. chocolate! Not chocolate-flavored drops! Not a sugary slab with a little chocolate in it to turn everything chocolate-black. Don’t always believe that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck. Fake chocolate amply bears out the exception that confirms the rule. It is quite unfortunate that most commercial bakeries use inferior products that contain lots of sugar and only traces of chocolate (same for all the extracts: artificial lemon, orange, vanilla flavor instead of pure extracts). But what is worse, most kosher Supermarkets carry precisely the same mediocre chocolate and “extracts” as in those institutional bakeries, with the lame explanation that “this is what the people ask for”. The people? Hello, that’s us! We the People would LOVE more good, meaning real, chocolate products. And real vanilla, and real everything. I can’t ever remember any merchant offering the real thing to the public and getting turned down. Did someone say real chocolate? Bring it on down! Real chocolate is good chocolate, nothing else is.
Please don’t fall for the old fallacy that the real thing is much more expensive than its lackluster counterpart. For example: you need a few drops of vanilla extract in a recipe that would use globs of artificial flavor, and the worst part is, it will never hold a candle to the real thing, no matter how thick you spread it! There ain’t nothin’ like the real thin’! That’s how the song goes, not for nothing.
Interestingly, around Passover, we find wonderful chocolate products. Where do they hibernate the rest of the year? I think I can explain this: The manufacturers of “heimish” (read: fake) chocolate don’t find it worth their while, thank Goodness, to take the trouble of making Passover batches, so they import Passover good chocolate. But why wait until Passover to enjoy the real thing? Please note I am not mentioning any chocolate brand, there’s no need to do that: Even a price club or supermarket brand will do, just because it is chocolate, not a chocolate-like substance. Any chocolate product containing less than 50% cocoa mass is just not worth using: 50% would be sweet chocolate. Then comes semisweet, with up to 60% cocoa mass, then bittersweet, with 70% cocoa mass or even higher, then unsweetened. Many brands offer pure cocoa powder. What would we all give for a fabulous cup of ready hot chocolate? The meager pickings are mostly sugar, very little chocolate, and this is why I make hot chocolate mix for all my grandchildren: Very simple I assure you, less sugar more cocoa and you are there! You’ll find loads of chocolate-based recipes (sweet and savory!) right here on my blog: yum! just type chocolate in my search box, you’ll be very pleased http://www.levanacooks.com/kosher-gourmet-recipe/ I even have a story about my award-winning CCC!
So, dear kosher supermarkets: Will you please instruct your buyers to get some good genuine chocolate products to put on your shelves, so we housewives can whip up delicious cookies, brownies, cakes, pies? The difference is like the difference between night and day! If you don’t, you oblige us to go to other stores to get the real thing: Not nearly as meaningful as patronizing our own stores, is it?