Organic Shortening – and Dairy-free Flourless Chocolate Torte Revisited

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I always thought shortening was evil.  That is until I found out that my favorite food in the world (birthday cake frosting) was made of shortening and confectioners’ sugar and maybe vanilla (I like my birthday cakes all white – no chocolate for me) – and that it makes for a very flaky pie crust.   But still, it’s one thing to buy a cake or pie from a bakery and another to use the stuff at home.  So why am I devoting a post to shortening?

For one thing, I’m talking about organic shortening.  It’s not hydrogenated oils (evil) like the kind you find in supermarkets.  It’s palm oil (the oil from a palm seed) and nothing else – more importantly – it’s not hydrogenated (a process that turns oil that is naturally liquid at room temperature into shortening that is solid at room temperature).  The flavor is very neutral which is a great deal better than the other options.  As for its health benefits or lack thereof – I’m not too sure as I’ve seen some articles that praise it and others that say it’s downright bad for you.  But to be honest now that “science” has declared butter and eggs okay, I’m not sure anyone knows anything about foods anymore.

I’ve never really been thrilled with my butter replacement choices since going dairy free.  Ghee (clarified butter) has a flavor that overwhelms the delicate flavors of baked goods.  Non-dairy margarine has too stuff in it and I’m not overly in love with the flavor.  Coconut oil leaves everything tasting slightly coconutty and further the consistency can be tricky depending on the room temperature – in the summer it’s liquid and in the winter it’s rock solid.  Oil tends to be…oily.  But this particular shortening is solid but soft like butter that’s been allowed to soften.


I’ve been playing around with this shortening since I purchased it and find it to work pretty well in any of the recipes that I’ve used coconut oil in.  Here’s the Chocolate Torte  made with shortening.  It’s denser and chocolate-ier than the original I posted last year.  Here’s the recipe: (more…)

Passover Dinner

Circa 1980's

Circa 1980’s

Happy Passover.  No recipes today.  I am too bushed from last night’s seder (Passover dinner) and so busy with 2nd seder that I’m just giving you a recap of what I served at the 1st seder – you have all these recipes already.  My guests said it was the best meal they ever had ; )

Date and Pear Charoset


Chicken Soup with Matzoh Balls instead of Noodles (sorry no photo with matzoh balls)

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Roast Chicken


Wilted Cucumber Salad





Asparagus with Homemade Hollandaise Sauce


Chocolate Torte

chocolate torte 106


Best Ever Chocolate Torte: Gluten and Dairy Free (not Paleo)

Wheat free * Dairy free * Gluten free * Vegetarian * Parve * Passover

  chocolate torte 106

This is my to-die-for Passover dessert.  It is dense and rich with a close-your-eyes-when-you-eat-it deliciousness.  So rich that when I have leftover cake (which is rarely) I cut it into small pieces and roll the pieces in unsweetened cocoa or chocolate sprinkles and serve them as truffles.

I got this recipe (sort of) as the result of a good deed, so it’s appropriate that it is the best chocolate torte I ever tasted.  Here’s what happened.  Every year I host a break fast for friends and family.  I found out there were 3 people I didn’t know, who had nowhere to go, so I invited them to join us.  In walked one of the unknowns and he brought a chocolate torte he had baked.  When I tasted it first I swooned and then I begged for the recipe.  It was a flourless chocolate torte (making it gluten-free) that he found in Gourmet Magazine (Nov. 1999) and then played with.  I have played with it even more to convert it to dairy-free.  I should let you know that this cake is soooo rich that I’ve had one of these small cakes serve 20 people, but I usually do serve multiple desserts.  I think you can easily serve 12 or 8 real chocoholics. (more…)