Parshat Yitro inspiration:
“In the third month from the Exodus of the Children of Israel from the land of Egypt…they arrived at the Wilderness of Sinai and encamped there…opposite the mountain. Moses ascended to God, and Hashem called to him from the mountain… Moses brought the people forth from the camp toward God and they stood at the bottom of the mountain… Moses said to Hashem, “The people cannot ascend Mount Sinai, for You have warned us, saying, ‘Bound the mountain and sanctify it.’”
I reinterpreted a Mont Blanc (a modest-looking mountain reaching remarkably high altitude) into my Mont Sinai (a mountain of modest altitude with remarkably high stature). The essential elements of a Mont Blanc are a base of either shortbread or sponge cake, a baked French meringue and chestnut cream. The chestnut cream is the special feature of this show-stopping dessert, and chestnut puree is a key ingredient. I ordered Crème de Marrons de l’Ardèche from France (thank you, Amazon), which is certified kosher by Lubavitch of France. None of the steps of this recipe are difficult, but it takes plenty of oven time at different temperatures, and time for chilling and cooling, so read the directions before starting out. You can make it over a couple days if you need to.
- 1 ¾ cups flour
- ¾ cup confectioners’ sugar
- 3 Tbsp almond flour
- ½ cup margarine
- 1 egg
1. Prepare an 8” or 9” round pan with cooking spray and line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough paddle, add flour, confectioners’ sugar, almond flour, and margarine. Mix at low speed until a texture like sand is obtained. Add the egg and mix until the dough comes together. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
3. Heat the oven to 285°F.
4. Roll out the dough to the diameter of your baking pan and fit it inside the pan. Prick a few holes in the dough with a fork to reduce internal bubbles.
5. Bake 25-30 minutes. Cool.
- 4 egg whites
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
- ¼ tsp cream of tartar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
1. On parchment paper, use a pencil trace around the edge of the round pan you used for the shortbread. You should have an 8 or 9” circle. Draw a ~1-inch diameter smaller circle inside that. The smaller circle will be the outer boundary of your meringue Sinai (it will puff in the oven, and you want to make sure it still fits on the shortbread disc). Turn the parchment paper over and place it on a baking sheet. You should still be able to see your pencil lines, but not transfer the pencil to your meringue.
2. Heat the oven to 225°F.
3. In the very clean bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks (about 2-5 minutes depending on your mixer). Add the granulated sugar first, slowly, about a tablespoon at a time while beating, then add the confectioners’ sugar, also slowly, while beating. Beat until the egg whites look thick and glossy, and if you turned the bowl over the egg whites would stay in place.
4. Add the cream of tartar and vanilla and beat again briefly to incorporate.
5. Spoon the meringue into the inner circle of your parchment paper. Roughly shape it into a mound, building upwards.
6. Bake at 225°F (do not use convection) for 75 minutes, then turn the oven off and keep the meringue in the slowly cooling oven for at least another hour.
- 2-3 cups whipped cream topping, whipped
- 1 cup Crème de Marrons de l’Ardèche (sweetened chestnut puree)
- 2 tsp rum
1. Place the chestnut puree in a bowl, add rum and mix to loosen.
2. Add the whipped cream and fold together until integrated. Taste as you go—you can adjust the strength of the flavors to your liking.
3. Refrigerate to stiffen prior to piping.
Assemble Mont Sinai:
Begin with the shortbread base. Pour about a cup of the chestnut cream on the shortbread disc and use a spoon or spatula to spread it out. Center the cooled French meringue on top. Scoop the remainder of the chestnut cream into a piping bag (or a large ziplock bag) and cut off just the tip so you have a small opening. Squeeze out the chestnut cream in concentric circles covering the meringue (it will look like light brown vermicelli noodles). Awe-inspiring.
Parshat Mishpatim inspiration:
“When you lend money to My people, to the poor person who is with you, do not act toward him as a creditor; do not lay interest upon him.”
Financiers are little brown butter almond cakes that are traditionally baked in little rectangular tins so that they end up looking like gold bars. Browning pareve margarine isn’t exactly the same, but brown butter is sometimes called hazelnut butter because of its nutty flavor, so I fudged it by adding ground hazelnuts. And I used mini muffin tins so now they are tidy gold nuggets.
- ¾ cup margarine, unsalted
- 2 Tbsp ground hazelnuts
- 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup almond flour
- 1 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
- Pinch salt
- 6 egg whites, lightly whipped until frothy
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Optional: fresh raspberries, slivered almonds to top
1. Heat the oven to 350°F.
2. Melt the margarine in a small saucepan. Remove a few tablespoons of the melted margarine and use a brush to grease the mini muffin or financier tins.
3. Add the ground hazelnuts to the melted butter in the saucepan, and simmer over medium heat until the margarine darkens to a dark gold or even light brown, but don’t let it burn. Set aside the margarine to cool slightly while you make the batter.
4. Combine the all-purpose flour, almond flour, confectioner’s sugar, and salt in a bowl and whisk briefly to distribute and reduce clumps.
5. In the large bowl of a stand mixer (or a hand mixer is fine, too), whip the egg whites until frothy, but not yet to soft peaks.
6. Fold the flour mixture into the egg whites with a spatula, about a cup of the flour mixture at a time. Fold gently until well integrated.
7. Pour in the hazelnutty margarine and vanilla and fold until integrated. It doesn’t seem to want to mix at first, but it combines nicely eventually. Be patient.
8. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins, filling about 3/4s to the top of the tins. Add toppings if desired.
9. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before removing from tins. Stack up like gold bars or nuggets, ready for the ethical financiers in your house.
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