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Hanukkah
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The secret to kosher baking: fresh and natural

December 10, 1996
Web posted at: 4:30 a.m. EST

ATLANTA (CNN) -- Jewish people the world over are celebrating an ancient tradition by lighting the Hanukkah menorah on this festive holiday.

Traditionally, Jewish holidays are also celebrated with special foods, and what sweeter way to enjoy Hanukkah than with fresh baked desserts.



desserts

But kosher baking is governed by certain rules.

According to Jewish law, milk and meat should not be eaten in the same meal. Therefore, kosher desserts are usually made without cheese, cream butter or milk.

And without the creaminess of dairy products, the grand finale can end on a sour note unless it is baked a special way.

"We've come up with a number of desserts -- fruit desserts that have no dairy in them at all. You can substitute margarine for butter easily," said Atlanta caterer Carole Parks.

"What we'll try to do is come up with some spices with the fruit, maybe reduce the fruit, or use some sun-dried fruits, because they are much richer in taste."

Parks caters kosher meals for any occasion. She has created desserts like five-flavored pound cake that substitutes fruit for butter and milk, and a flourless chocolate cake made with dark chocolate and espresso to give it rich vibrant taste without cream.

rabbi

"If (you) just stay with natural ingredients, kosher can be wonderful," Parks said.

At the Swissotel in Atlanta, a rabbi, called the Meshiagh, oversees all of the kosher food preparation. He turns on all the ovens, looks for a red mark on utensils which indicates they've been sterilized, and he checks to be sure all of the ingredients have the kosher seal on the label.

"I am looking at the ingredients. It should not have anything from the animal, because, according to Jewish law, the rabbi should have killed the animal," explained Rabbi Moshe Selech.

storage room

Not only do the ingredients need to be kosher, but the plates and utensils served with the meal must be kosherized too. They must be sterilized and kept separate from anything that might have touched non-kosher ingredients. The Swissotel keeps all of the plates and serving utensils that have been kosherized in a special storage room -- the rabbi is the only one with a key.

Only after the Meshiagh is finished with his preparations can the hotel's executive pastry chef, Daniel McCathern, begin to bake.

Today on the dessert menu: a hazelnut brittle basket with chocolate mousse.

"Instead of using milk, we use non-dairy substitutes, non-dairy creamers, and non-dairy whipped cream."

His secret for a delicious dessert?

"The best thing you can do for kosher desserts is to use the best products you can find. There's a lot of kosher products out there," McCathern said.

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