Tu b’Av is the Jewish holiday of love.
Want to “bake” someone happy? In honor of the holiday, which runs from the evening of August 1 through August 2, here are a couple of tasty options that hold deep meaning for the chefs who shared them.
Dawn Lerman’s maternal grandmother, Beauty, always told her that the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach. “By the look of pure delight on my dad’s face when he ate a piece of warm, homemade chocolate cake, or bit into a just-baked crispy cookie, I grew to believe this was true,” Dawn Lerman, author of “My Fat Dad: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Family, with Recipes,” told the Journal.
“After several months of exchanging smiles, I decided to make Hank a batch of my chocolate brownies – the brownies that my dad said were like his own personal nirvana.”–Dawn Lerman
Lerman knew that when the time came, and she liked a guy, that a batch of her chocolate brownies would cast him under a magic spell, and they would live happily ever after. “When I met Hank, I was completely unprepared for the avalanche of emotions that invaded every fiber of my being,” she said. “After several months of exchanging smiles, I decided to make Hank a batch of my chocolate brownies – the brownies that my dad said were like his own personal nirvana.”
After debating for hours whether to make the brownies with walnuts or chips, or to fill the centers with peanut butter or caramel, she got to work. “I had made brownies hundreds of times before, but this time felt different,” she said. “With each ingredient, I carefully stirred into the bowl, my heart began beating harder. I felt like I was going to burst from excitement.” She thought “surely, after Hank tasted these, he would love me as much as I loved him. I was not just making him brownies, I was showing him who I was, and what mattered to me.”
The next day, Lerman placed the warm, gooey brownies on his desk, transforming not only his idea of the perfect brownie but their relationship. “From then on, we were madly, truly deeply in love,” she said.
Lerman’s brownies contain a fraction of the flour found in traditional brownie recipes, but she said they are the “most decadent, delicious bit of heaven you can imagine.” They also freeze well if you don’t want to devour them in one sitting.
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, plus extra for
greasing the pan (you can also use
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped, or
semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup brown sugar, coconut sugar or
monk fruit (for monk fruit use only
half a cup)
2 eggs at room temperature, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup flour (you can also use almond
flour, but change measurement to 1/3
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
Fresh berries or powdered sugar for
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish.
In a double boiler, melt chocolate. Add butter; when melted, stir until blended.
Remove from heat and pour into a mixing bowl. Stir in sugar, eggs and vanilla, and mix well. Add flour. By hand, mix well, until very smooth; there should be no lumps.. Stir in chopped walnuts, if desired.
Pour batter into the greased baking pan. Bake for 35 minutes, or until set and barely firm in the middle. Allow to cool on a rack before removing from the pan. Optional: Garnish with powdered sugar, berries or both.
Faith Kramer’s carrot cake recipe is a double act of love. “First, I make it for my husband, Gary, who loves carrot cake,” Kramer, the author of “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen,” told the Journal.
Kramer says her husband loves carrot cake so much, he’ll ask her to make it whenever she bakes and orders it nearly every time he sees it on the menu. He also orders it as a birthday cake for her, even though carrot cake is not her favorite. (She doesn’t dislike it, she just doesn’t love it.) “Over the years, I’ve come to understand that in making him carrot cake I’m doing something special for him, which is a wonderful feeling,” she said. Kramer also makes carrot cake in the memory of her good friend Mark, who passed away almost 13 years ago. “Carrot cake was Mark’s one and only specialty,” she said. “It became the standard my husband used to judge all other carrot cakes.”
The cake recipe, Kramer explained, also aided in Mark’s romantic pursuits. “For a while he ran a personal ad in a Jewish singles column that offered to teach potential dates how to make his carrot cake, if they would teach him how to dance,” Kramer said.
While you can serve the cake just sprinkled with powdered sugar, Kramer likes to use the optional glaze or the traditional cream cheese frosting. She sometimes decorates the top with additional shredded carrots. “This is a very special cake and has lots of meaning,” she said.
Carrot Spice Cake
1¼ cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp dried, ground ginger
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
2 large eggs, beaten
½ cup oil
1 cup shredded carrots, packed
8 oz can crushed pineapple packed in
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
¼ cup chopped or slivered walnuts or
2 Tbsp powdered sugar
Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour an 8-inch square cake pan. (If you plan to remove the cake from the pan, line bottom with parchment paper then grease and flour bottom and sides.)
In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. Stir in eggs, oil, carrots, pineapple with juice, applesauce and nuts until well combined. Pour into the prepared pan.
Bake for about 50 minutes until the top is golden, edges are pulling away from the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool. Serve from pan or, If desired, remove from the pan and peel off parchment paper.
Sprinkle it with powdered sugar. Glaze or frost (see below).
Cream Cheese Glaze: Beat 8 oz. room-temperature vegan cream cheese (the kind packed in tubs) until smooth. Mix in 2 tsp. lemon juice. Slowly whisk in ¾ cup powdered sugar until smooth. Chill 1 hour and pour over completely cooled cake just before serving. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
Mark’s Cream Cheese Frosting: Cream together with electric hand or stand mixer 4 Tbs. butter and 4 oz. cream cheese (both at room temperature). Beat in 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract. Slowly add in 8 oz. powdered sugar. Beat until smooth. Cake must be completely cool before frosting.