“No flour, no Torah; no Torah, no flour.” – Pirkei Avot 3:21
In my world, nothing completes the menu in a shared meal like a wonderful dessert. What if it has to be kosher and non-dairy? And it’s Shabbat or a Jewish holiday, so you want something special. Sometimes, commercial baked goods are just fine – even delicious – but too often they’re overly sweet, dry, and lacking real flavor. As a home baker, I’ve spent years in search of reliable techniques for parve (neutral, that is neither dairy nor meat according to Jewish law) desserts and other wonders of the oven.
I do most of my baking on Thursday nights and just before holidays. Baking channels my creativity and desire for authenticity into a form that pleases the eye, nose, and taste buds, too. Living in the city, it’s also one of the most frequent and meaningful ways that I connect with nature. Working with flour, sugar, fruits, oils, and eggs – not to mention nuts and chocolate – reminds me that plants, trees, and animals all contribute to the food that sustains us and brings joy in the form of gorgeous cakes, cookies, and pies. Did I mention bread?
I’m a Conservative rabbi and cultural anthropologist. So I understand baking as both a religious obligation and a cultural practice shaped by my upbringing, education and community. The recipes and information here reflect what I do in my own kitchen, but you don’t have to keep kosher or be Jewish to enjoy them. If you’re Jewish and religiously observant, follow your rabbi’s guidance in matters of kashrut. My goal is to make kosher baking at home pleasurable and the parve breads and desserts on our tables consistently delicious.
Great parve baking is a challenge, but the rewards of success are well worth the effort. Baking without dairy products is a necessity for kosher meals at which meat is eaten. It is a gift at any time to family and friends who are lactose intolerant or avoid dairy for other reasons.
Time to go pre-heat the oven!
aka The Parve Baker
"The Torah begins and ends with acts of loving kindness."
– Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 14aTake me to the Torah Morsels Archive