“Sweet Genius” Contestant, Paula Shoyer, Baking in Westport, CT.

photo courtesy of FOOD NETWORK

Did you miss Paula Shoyer, author of THE KOSHER BAKER, on the Food Network’s new baking competition “Sweet Genius”?
 If so, you can catch her in Westport on Wednesday, January 25 when she will be offering a baking demonstration and scrumptious tasting at Chabad of Westport.
Shoyer performed magnificently on “Sweet Genius”. She was poised, cool and creative in that episode in October 2011. Along with other contestants, she was given unexpected, last minute challenges like being asked to integrate jelly beans and hot sauce into her recipe already in the works. Her rosemary lemon sponge cake with raspberry mint sorbet between the layers was not the version she had planned on when she started!

Shoyer was chosen as a contestant by Ron Ben-Israel, the competition host. Ben-Israel has been creating extraordinarily complicated and gorgeous special occasion cakes for over 15 years at Ron Ben Israel Cakes in Manhattan. As a baker in NYC, he offers kosher and non-dairy cakes because well, “it is almost a necessity.”

He tapped expert baker, Paula Shoyer, founder and instructor at Paula’s Parisian Pastries Cooking School in Chevy Chase, MD., for her kosher baking skills and top notch training. Shoyer received her pastry diploma from the Ritz Escoffier Ecole de Gastronomie Francaise in Paris in 1996.

While kosher eaters don’t eat dairy desserts after meals that include meat, bakers have  always been creative with getting around that rule by tapping other ingredients.
Shoyer felt frustrated by what she found available in traditional kosher bakeries, though. She found the same ol’brightly colored layer cakes and chocolate dipped cookies from the 60’s Synagogue kiddush table. Artificial flavors and colors were prominent,  in the effort to bring out flavor and visual interest while avoiding traditional dairy baking products like sour cream, butter and heavy creams.

photo: Michael Bennett Kress

She wanted to create a collection of recipes that would be a resource for baking more flavorful, contemporary and elegant desserts that could be managed by home bakers of all levels.
Most recently, she spent over five years studying, testing and tasting traditional and contemporary desserts and converting them to non-dairy recipes for her book, THE KOSHER BAKER.
Kosher keepers,  those who are lactose and gluten intolerant, vegans and those seeking naturally sugar free and kosher for Passover recipes will find it all in this friendly, beautifully photographed, encyclopedic volume. The Kosher Baker includes over 160 dairy free recipes ranging from “traditional to trendy”.

Shoyer has broken down her contents into three useful categories. She begins with “Quick and Elegant Desserts”  which can be mixed in one bowl and thrown into the oven with only 15 minutes of prep time. I made “Everyone’s Favorite Chocolate Cake” and she was spot on about it being easy, chocolatey and moist, even days after baking.

photo: Michael Bennet Kress
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Her second section is dubbed, “Two-Step Desserts” and includes some great staples like “Summer Fruit Galette”. It’s the perfect go-to choice because of its rustic looking dough and
flexible filling.  Almost any fruit can be enveloped in this easy dough. Let the seasons guide you and  include plump summer berries or farm fresh apples or pears in this gorgeous galette.

Cinnamon horns and chocolate babke cupcakes require more than 30 minutes prep time and fall into the third section called “Multiple-Step Desserts and Breads”.
In addition, there is a section on baking challah, the traditional braided Sabbath bread.  Her photos are instructive here, teaching the home baker how to manage the dough to create three braids, more complicated arrangement of braids and round challah loaves.

She includes recipes for basic sweet challah, whole wheat and “harvest” challah, among others. The unusual “Harvest Challah” appeals to me as does the “Sweet Honey and Saffron” version.

The “Harvest Challah”  calls for part rye and part whole-wheat flour and includes caraway, pumpkin and sunflower seeds in addition to dried cranberries. I can imagine the pleasing crunch with a steaming bowl of soup during these cold winter months.

Paula Shoyer will be in Westport on Wednesday, January 25, to teach the first in a series of culinary events presented by Chabad of Westport.

The event will include a demonstration of three recipes from THE KOSHER BAKER, including one from each of the sections ranging from easy to more technique driven.  Each dessert will be plated for participants to taste.  Cost is $36.

RSVP to www.chabadofwestport.com for this not to be miss baking event. The fun begins at 7:30 PM.

The KOSHER BAKER, OVER 160 DAIRY-FREE RECIPES FROM TRADITIONAL TO TRENDY will be available for purchase that evening and Paula Shoyer will be signing them.

Baking equipment and utensils will be provided by Pampered Chef  and will be available for sale that evening.

3 Comments

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