Paula Shoyer is the author of the forthcoming book The Holiday Kosher Baker: Traditional & Contemporary Holiday Desserts. She also has written The Kosher Baker: Over 160 Dairy-Free Recipes from Traditional to Trendy, and has contributed to a variety of websites and publications. A former practicing attorney, she lives in the Washington, D.C., area.
Q: You write on your website that you are "proving that Kosher food can be beautiful, elegant and delicious." What do you think the image has been of kosher desserts, and what would you like to see that image become?
A: Kosher desserts still have a long way to go. I call my campaign the kosher baking revolution because I am trying to change the baking culture, from home baking, to bakeries to caterers to restaurants.
Even at the best kosher restaurants around the world, the desserts are disappointing. I know what is possible, from what I have seen in France, and what I create myself. We have so many ingredients today to use to make parve desserts and I am teaching the kosher world how to use them.
Q: What role does baking play on holidays, and is there a particular holiday you associate more than others with desserts?
A: It is essential to have great desserts for the holidays. It is when Jewish families come together to celebrate and we need to create powerful food memories in our children so the holidays become special to them, now and always.
There is a concept of hiddur mitzvah enhancing the celebration of a mitzvah. Nearly all Jewish holidays have specific desserts we associate with them, donuts for Chanukah, hamantashen for Purim, cheesecake for Shavuot.
My goal in writing The Holiday Kosher Baker was to give the community updated, creative traditional recipes that remind them of their grandmothers but then go so much further. But I also wanted to give people a new way to look at holiday baking, ideas they never thought of such as fortune cookies for Purim gift baskets and pies on Passover.
Q: Do you have a favorite recipe from your new cookbook?
A: I have a chewy chocolate olive oil cookies for Chanukah that I just keep baking over and over. It is super easy and so chocolatey and uses dark cocoa. I also love the gluten-free lemon tart with basil nut crust in the Passover chapter.
Q: For someone who's not an experienced baker, will they find recipes here that are relatively easy to make?
A: Every recipe is labeled as easy, moderate and multiple step and there are tons of one-bowl quick but elegant desserts. Just start with those and build up to the more challenging ones. I walk everyone through the recipes and have many how-to photos to show you the way.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: A book tour that started in Hong Kong, China! I am always writing several columns for www.kosherscoop.com, Whisk Magazine, and www.jewishfoodexperience.com and working on a Chanukah column for The Washington Post - right now I am all about Chanukah and the convergence with Thanksgiving.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: The books has many gluten-free, whole grain, vegan, nut-free and low-sugar desserts, so there is something for everyone in the community.
I teach classes in the D.C. area in baking and cooking with an emphasis on Jewish and French desserts, and travel all around the U.S. and beyond spreading my revolution. I will be on WUSA9 in Washington, D.C., on November 22 demonstrating Chanukah desserts.
Also, I am updating my website with more recipes and Jewish holiday dessert guides that will soon be relaunched: www.thekosherbaker.com.
Interview with Deborah Kalb. This interview was conducted in conjunction with The Lessans Family Annual Book Festival at The JCC of Greater Washington. Paula Shoyer will be speaking at the festival on Sunday, November 10, at 1:30pm.