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L'shana 'tofu'

Editor's note: When Olney resident Rachel Ornstein Packer's son was diagnosed with egg and nut allergies, she made it her mission to create Jewish holiday recipes that wouldn't exclude him. She has charted these efforts in personal essays and articles for The Washington Post, the Baltimore Jewish Times and Washington Jewish Week, among others. Trust us, her tofu desserts for Rosh Hashanah are not to be missed.

Dairy-Free Chocolate Chip Mandelbread. (Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)

In my home, mandelbread and carrot mousse are synonymous with the Jewish New Year. However, when we discovered that my son had severe egg and nut allergies, the holiday, along with many others, became rather painful. All of the delicacies that we looked forward to were off-limits for him.

Recipe Included

I was determined to create something our whole family could enjoy without sacrificing our beloved traditions. After research, experimentation and some serious hair pulling, I found a source that would seamlessly allow me to create these holiday goodies: tofu.

I will be the first to admit that I do not like the taste of it, whether it’s fried, scrambled, baked or marinated. Whenever I think of tofu, it brings to mind the rhymes of Dr. Seuss's "Green Eggs and Ham."

However, tofu is virtually undetectable as an egg replacement in certain baked items. It works very well for mousses, puddings and cakes, as well as denser desserts such as brownies and muffins. It can also be used in hearty cookies but it produces a cakier result.

Every recipe is different. But here are a few guidelines for using tofu for baking:

  • When baking, use only silken tofu (I prefer the "lite" silken tofu.

  • 1/4 cup of blended tofu equals 1 egg.

  • For lighter desserts, such as cake, use one less tofu “egg” than the recipe calls for.

  • Once the package is open, it only lasts for 2 days in the fridge. Trust me on this one.

With a little practice, tofu can be a literal lifesaver. And it can make the new year just that little bit sweeter.

Carrot Mousse, made with silken tofu. (Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)

Dairy-Free Carrot Mousse
6 to 8 servings

This side dish is light enough to be called a carrot flan. The tofu makes for an especially creamy texture.
MAKE AHEAD: For best results, make this mousse in advance and refrigerate it (for a day or two) or freeze it (for up to 1 month). Reheat, covered, in a 325-degree oven until warmed through. From Olney resident Rachel Ornstein Packer.

8 ounces "lite" silken tofu (depending on the brand, half a package)
1 pound cooked, cooled carrots (may use baby-cut carrots)
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unbleached flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) pareve margarine/butter substitute, such as Earth Balance non-hydrogenated margarine, melted
Dash ground cinnamon
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-by-8-inch casserole dish with nonstick cooking oil spray.

Place the tofu in the bowl of a food processor; puree until smooth. Add the carrots, making sure they are free of excess moisture. Puree to a smooth, evenly pale orange, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Add the sugar, flour and melted margarine; process until smooth and creamy.

Transfer to the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg to taste. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the mousse is just set, or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out fairly clean.

Cool completely, then cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight. Reheat before serving.

Per serving (based on 8): 190 calories, 2 g protein, 20 g carbohydrates, 11 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 180 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 15 g sugar

Dairy-Free Mandelbread
Makes 30 to 36 slices

Neither flavor nor crunch is sacrificed in these orange-flavored, biscotti-shaped cookies, which are great for dipping into coffee.

MAKE AHEAD: The mandelbread can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

3 cups unbleached flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 1/2 to 8 ounces "lite" silken tofu (depending on the brand, half a package)
3/4 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (may substitute with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract plus 1 teaspoon almond extract)
Freshly squeezed juice and finely grated zest from 1 orange (1 1/2 tablespoons juice, scant tablespoon zest)
1/4 cup white chocolate chips or chunks
1/2 cup chocolate chips
Cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling (2 to 3 tablespoons sugar, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.

Sift together the flour, ground cinnamon, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl.

Place the tofu in the bowl of a food processor; puree until smooth, then add the oil and sugar. Process until creamy and thick; stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla extract, orange juice and zest; process to incorporate.

Transfer to the mixing bowl and stir into the flour mixture until well incorporated, then add the chocolate chips and mix well. The dough will be fairly stiff.

Divide it into 3 equal portions, then form 3 loaves that are approximately 7 1/2 inches by 4 inches (1/2- to 3/4-inch high). Place on the baking sheet, spaced at least 1 inch apart. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until browned on top. The loaves will be firm, with a little give.
Transfer to the stovetop (off the heat). Use a wide spatula to transfer one loaf at a time to a cutting board; use a sharp, nonserrated knife to cut crosswise into 10 to 12 slices. Repeat with the remaining loaves.

Arrange the slices so they lay flat on the baking sheet (30 will fit on a standard half-sheet). Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar, then turn the slices over and sprinkle on the second side.

Return to the oven and bake for 5 minutes to crisp the mandelbread. Transfer the slices to a wire rack to cool completely before serving or storing.

Per slice (based on 36): 130 calories, 2 g protein, 18 g carbohydrates, 6 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 50 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 9 g sugar

By The Food Section  |  September 3, 2010; 3:00 PM ET
Categories:  Recipes  | Tags: recipes  
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