This recipe and story originally appeared in the March 12, 2012 edition of “From Tali’s Kitchen,” my biweekly cooking column in Binah magazine.
It was three decades ago when 17-year-old Chani arrived in Israel all alone, making good on an 8-year-long promise to herself. It’s no simple matter to leave your family and familiar surroundings, but Chani knew with every fiber of her being that her future was in Israel.
Three years later, she met the man who would become her husband, a born and bred Yerushalmi. They became engaged on her twenty-first birthday and went on to raise seven children in a small yishuv near Chevron. Today, Chani is the proud grandmother of nine little Israelis.
Around the same time that Chani landed in Israel, a 22-year-old man by the name of Menachem was making the move from Miami.
Like Chani, he came to Israel without his family and encountered his share of struggles as he built a life for himself in a new country. Menachem married an olah from Belgium and settled in Jerusalem, where they raised their nine children. Today, he is the proud grandfather of nine little Israelis of his own.
Chani and Menachem would probably never have met had their sons not learned in the same yeshiva. Chani’s son Yisrael and Menachem’s son Aryeh became not only chavrusas and best friends, but ultimately, brothers-in-law when Aryeh married Yisrael’s sister.
When the young couple gave birth to a boy within the year, a new generation had begun. The seeds that Chani and Menachem had each planted were now fully in bloom.
For 31 years, Menachem was the only person from his family who lived in Israel. When I made aliyah in 2010, I broke that pattern.
And my Uncle Menachem played no small part in getting me here.
I often say that if there was a book describing how I came to live in Israel, chapter one would be called “Abba and Imma,” chapter two, “My Year in Seminary,” and chapter three, “Uncle Menachem.”
I spent the summer I was 16 soaking up Eretz Yisrael-style Torah in a girls’ learning and touring program. That was also the summer during which I had a number of serious conversations with my uncle about the importance of living in Israel and the importance of coming soon.
One morning, we sat down with a pair of chumashim and, over the course of three hours, studied the countless times Eretz Yisrael is mentioned there. What can I say? It made an impression on me.
As time passed, I knew with certainty that I could not be truly happy anywhere else. When I was 23, I finally booked my one-way ticket. It was what I wanted, and it was what I needed.
Even if it meant leaving a promising job that I loved. Even if it meant leaving the friends who were like sisters to me. And yes, even if it meant leaving my family.
Pesach is the holiday that most highlights being with — or without — your family.
For most people, there is no better Seder table than one surrounded by several generations. Those of us lucky enough to have shared Sedarim with our grandparents know how precious these memories are.
I know I wouldn’t trade anything for the image of my grandpa donning his white kittel, for the sound of his kiddush at the start of the Seder. And even as a young kid, I felt that sitting next to Grandma at the Seder was better than finding the Afikoman.
For now, my husband and I don’t have a Seder like that. Our grandparents, parents, and siblings are 6,000 miles away, and it will be many years before the two of us can fill a Seder table with our own generations.
But when I think of Chani and of my Uncle Menachem (at whose Seder table my husband and I sat last year), I know the wait is worth it. There are sure to be moments of loneliness along the way, especially around the chagim. But when we host our grandchildren at our Seder some day, it will all come full circle.
Living apart from family sometimes results in creating your own traditions. These mini chocolate soufflés are loosely adapted from the “Shokozim” soufflé cake that Chani bakes for her family every Pesach.
My first few attempts at kosher l’Pesach baking were so disappointing that I wanted to swear off flour substitutes for the rest of my life. But these soufflés are the perfect solution, since they rely on coffee-laced chocolate for flavor, and separated, whipped eggs for a light, fluffy texture.
You can make these two different ways: Maple chocolate soufflés use a few tablespoons of pancake syrup in the batter and are drizzled with more just before serving; for an adult version, replace the syrup with amaretto liqueur.
When served immediately, these are soft and airy. If that isn’t practical for Yom Tov, feel free to let them sit in the fridge for a day or two before serving. Eaten this way, they’re more settled but still a few shades short of fudgey…and still so delicious you’d be hard-pressed to think of them as a Pesach dessert.
Yield: 20 mini soufflés
- 12 oz (340 grams) baking chocolate, chopped
- 1½ sticks unsalted butter or margarine, cut into small pieces
- heaping ½ tsp instant coffee powder
- 6 large eggs, separated
- 12 Tbsp sugar, divided
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 Tbsp maple syrup OR 2 Tbsp amaretto liqueur (plus more of either for topping)
- ice cream, to scoop on top
- additional topping option: chocolate syrup or melted chocolate
1. Preheat oven to 350 F/180 C. Line muffin tins with paper liners and set aside.
2. In a double boiler, melt together chocolate, butter, and coffee powder. Set aside to partially cool.
3. Using a handheld electric mixer and a medium bowl, beat egg yolks and half the sugar until thick and pale. Add chocolate mixture, vanilla extract, and maple syrup or amaretto to the yolk mixture and beat just to combine. Set aside.
4. Wash and dry the beaters. In another bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add salt and the remaining sugar, beating until medium-firm peaks form. Add this to the chocolate mixture, half at a time, beating to combine.
5. Fill muffin cups three-fourths of the way and bake 15-20 minutes, or until tops are cracked and dry to the touch. The puffed tops will sink soon after coming out of the oven, creating an ideal space for a scoop of ice cream. Drizzle with maple syrup or amaretto (whichever you used in the batter), or alternatively, with some chocolate syrup or melted chocolate.