Soup up your dessert

Why not cook up something special to finish off the meal?

chocolate mousse 88 (photo credit: )
chocolate mousse 88
(photo credit: )
In the early Seventies, when I started learning how to cook, a neighbor of mine in Bat Yam mentioned that her children liked fruit soup. The idea of making a soup out of fruit was new to me. I had only two or three cookbooks at the time and was glad to see that Aviva Goldman's The Kosher Cookbook (in Hebrew) had four fruit soup recipes: cherry soup, apricot soup, apple soup and mixed fruit soup. All were made basically the same way: You cook the sliced fruit in a sugar syrup with lemon juice and, in most, vanilla pudding powder. You thicken part of the syrup with beaten eggs, and combine the two mixtures when they are chilled. I couldn't quite understand the egg-thickening trick, so I made the soup without it, and it was fine. Later I learned that fruit soups were especially popular in Russia and Poland, and those recipes probably influenced Israeli cooks. Marja Ochorowicz-Monatowa, author of Polish Cookery, makes soups from apricots, plums and fruit mixtures in a similar manner to Aviva Goldman, but she purees the cooked fruit and thickens the soup with potato starch instead of pudding powder. Another Polish writer, Rysia, who wrote Old Warsaw Cookbook, makes apple soup from pureed cooked apples mixed with sweet cream, sugar and cinnamon. It's like creamy cinnamon applesauce in soup form. Wine is used in the spirited Russian apple soup made by Halma Witwicka and Serge Soskine, authors of La Cuisine Russe Classique. They cook the apples with both white and red wine as well as cinnamon and lemon juice and zest, and sweeten the soup with red currant jelly as well as sugar. Similar soups are made with dried fruit as well. All these soups are easy to make and, if you go easy on the sugar and the cream, are fairly healthy desserts. But the most luscious sweet soup I've ever tasted was at a celebration of a new book on healthy cooking, written by my friend Dana Jacobi, The Essential Best Foods Cookbook, at our friend Akasha Richmond's newly opened restaurant, Akasha, in Culver City, California. It was a chocolate soup, and I have to confess I had two helpings! Jacobi explained why the soup is good for you: "News about chocolate's health benefits continues to be positive, mainly because of the high level of flavanols in cacao beans. These compounds... appear to have significant cardiovascular benefits... The darker the chocolate, the more flavanols it may deliver." APPLE AND PEAR SOUP An Israeli friend gave me the recipe for this popular Polish fruit soup. It's served hot or cold as a first course, but I also like it as dessert. Adding the prunes is a trick I learned from my mother to give the soup good color. If you like, use low-fat sour cream or leben as the garnish, or omit the cream to make the soup parve. Makes 4 servings 4 1 large apple 4 1 large pear 4 1 liter water 4 2 pitted prunes, diced 4 2 to 4 Tbsp. sugar 4 2 Tbsp. cornstarch 4 1⁄4 tsp. ground cinnamon, or to taste 4 Lemon juice to taste 4 3 to 4 Tbsp. sour cream Peel, halve and core apple and pear, reserving peelings and cores in a medium saucepan. Add 1 liter water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 20 minutes. Remove peels and cores with a slotted spoon. Dice apple and pear and add to liquid. Add prunes and 2 tablespoons sugar and stir to blend. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Cover and cook over low heat about 10 minutes or until tender. In a small cup, mix cornstarch with 1⁄4 cup water until blended. Slowly stir mixture into simmering soup. Return to a simmer, stirring. Remove from heat and add cinnamon and lemon juice. Taste, and add more sugar if needed. Serve hot or cold, topped with sour cream. CHOCOLATE SOUP From Dana Jacobi, The Essential Best Foods Cookbook. Like many fruit soups, this chocolate soup is thickened with cornstarch, and resembles a rich chocolate pudding. Dana wrote: "If you steal spoonfuls from the pot when making chocolate pudding, this dessert will be bliss. It uses dark milk chocolate, which is sweet enough that no added sugar is needed. Should you have chocolate soup left over, it is decadently good over oatmeal." Dana serves the soup with crisp brownie dippers, which are a cross between a brownie and a chocolate biscotti; you can substitute biscotti if you like, but I find the soup is wonderful on its own. It's also fast and easy to make. If you want to make it parve, use soy milk or rice milk, and plain dark chocolate with a bit of sugar or honey to taste. Makes 4 servings 4 2 cups whole milk 4 2 Tbsp. cornstarch 4 Pinch of salt 4 110 gr. dark milk chocolate, chopped 4 1 Tbsp. hazelnut liqueur or dark rum, or 1 tsp. vanilla extract In a small saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat until it starts to steam, 2 to 3 minutes, or heat in a microwaveable measuring cup on medium power. Place the cornstarch and salt in a deep, medium saucepan. Add 1⁄4 cup of the hot milk and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Pour in the remaining milk. Set the pot over medium heat and cook, whisking until the milk mixture boils, taking care not to let it boil over, 1 to 2 minutes. Away from the heat, add the chocolate and liqueur, rum or vanilla. Whisk until the chocolate melts and blends with the milk mixture. Allow to sit for 10 minutes to cool slightly. To serve, divide the soup among 4 dessert bowls. Faye Levy is the author of Healthy Cooking for the Jewish Home.