In honor of Israel’s 70 years of independence I’ve come up with a list of the top 7 classic Israeli desserts, one for each decade. As a pastry chef I find it critical to do market research and as such, pride myself on having tested all of these (and many more) desserts. I’ve included some recipes for you to try at home and some suggestions of where to find others. I recommend not reading this when you’re hungry!
#1 Ugat Bisquvitim
“Ugat Bisquvitim” – aka Tea Biscuit Cake aka Classic Israeli Cheesecake that anyone can make!
This no-bake cheesecake is a staple in every Israeli home on Shavuot. It’s simplicity and classic flavor are what make it so popular. I knew I needed to include it in my roundup of Israeli Desserts.
The ugat bisquvitim is made up of classic tea biscuits, heavy cream, milk and vanilla pudding. This list of ingredients can be found in every home in Israel, making this dish perfect for last minutes entertaining or afterschool fun with the kids.
The tea biscuits are dipped in milk to soften and layered with the whipped cream, milk and pudding mixture. The top is often covered in chocolate shards.
Of course, every family has their ‘recipe’ or way of preparing this cake and almost every Israeli has fond memories of enjoying a slice with their morning/afternoon/evening coffee.
Here I’ve included my version, the classic in all its glory:
1 sleeve of tea biscuits
1 box (250ml) of heavy cream
½ cup milk (for mixing with the cream)
1 cup of milk (for dipping the biscuits)
½ a packet of vanilla instant pudding
½ bar (50g) of dark chocolate, grated
- Start by whipping together the heavy cream, ½ cup of milk and vanilla pudding mix
- Prepare a bowl with 1 cup of milk and dip each biscuit in the milk for 2-3 seconds
- Place the biscuits in a single layer on the bottom of a square pan
- Spread cream on the biscuits and place another layer of dipped biscuits on top.
- Repeat until all the cream in finished, the top layer should be cream.
- Sprinkle grated chocolate on top. Refrigerate.
Next up for recipe 2 of #7desserts70years, I’ve chosen to showcase a well-known world-wide dessert (or breakfast?) the chocolate rugelach.
Chocolate rugelach are small yeast Danish filled with gooey chocolate and traditionally covered in sugar syrup. Here in Israel it’s the classic bakery treat that everyone brings home on Fridays for the weekend. Shabbat morning rugelach is a truly Israeli experience.
I was lucky enough to catch Itzik from the world famous Marzipan bakery in Machane Yehudah just as he was taking some hot trays of chocolate rugelach from the oven and brushing them with sugar syrup.
Many home bakers like to make their own rugelach, even using store bought frozen dough. If you’d like to attempt this, I can tell you one thing for sure, the smell in your kitchen will be worth it!
#3- Chocolate Truffles
Loosely translated as Chocolate Balls, also known as chocolate truffles. This is a favorite amongst all Israeli children and anyone who was ever an Israeli child. Every mom in Israel knows the “recipe” for this classic dessert off by heart and even young kids know how to whip these up on their own.
This no-bake classic is so versatile and can be made in several different ways. The type of chocolate can vary and the toppings can be picked according to personal taste. I’ve also seen versions of these with cornflakes instead of biscuits, which are always a big hit.
This is my version, but feel free to try any recipe (mostly passed down from mom to child).
250g dark chocolate
250g (1 container) heavy cream
1 sleeve of tea biscuits
Toppings: Sprinkles, cocoa powder, icing sugar
- Heat heavy cream and salt in a small pot until hot but not boiling.
- Pour hot cream over chocolate and wait a few minutes until it starts to melt. Mix.
- Crush tea biscuits by hand in a bag.
- Add them in to the chocolate ganache and mix well until all combined.
- Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
- Using a spoon form small balls of chocolate and dip into toppings.
- Refrigerate until ready to eat.
#4 – Halva
Halva is probably one of the most well-known Israeli desserts in the world. It is a dense, tahini based candy that falls apart in your mouth.
In Israel, you can find an endless amount of halva variations. It can be made with nuts, dried fruit, chocolate… you imagine it, it probably exists.
As a pastry chef here in Israel, I’m learning that Israeli taste is very different from north American taste. Israelis don’t like things that are “too sweet” – think donut covered in glaze and sprinkles… but prefer a subtle sweetness and more depth of flavor. I think this is why halva is such a popular dessert here. Halva isn’t overly sweet and the tahini flavor really comes through.
I was in the shuk this week and caught a glimpse of “the king of Halva” they serve it up in large bricks, each with a different flavor and topping. They slice it up into tiny squares and offer it to all the passerby’s. What a treat!
#5 – Malabi
Malabi is a traditional middle eastern cream dessert infused with subtle rose water usually topped with strawberry syrup and nuts. Most Israelis fondly think of this dessert as a holiday treat on the table of every home during the holidays.
Malabi is a milk pudding similar to panna cotta. Infused with middle-eastern flavors this dessert is now showing up on many fancy restaurants dessert menus here in Israel. Pastry chef’s are modernizing it with different syrups and toppings.
Here I’ve tried the classic street-food version, and while I know it’s a favorite amongst Israelis, I personally prefer cake.
#6 – Stuffed dates
I’m not sure we can call this a dessert, but again, I’m originally from Canada where desserts are meant to be full of sugar (and topped with sprinkles!). For Israeli’s and specifically Yemenites, stuffed dates drizzled with chocolate is the perfect end to a beautiful meal.
Israel is known for celebrating a healthy dietary lifestyle: lots of vegetables, heavy lunch and light dinners, so it should come as no surprise that one of our classic desserts is actually dried fruit and nuts.
A large date is stuffed with a walnut, drizzled with dark chocolate and topped with coconut. It has everything you want in a dessert; crunchy, sweet, chocolate!
These stuffed dates are often prepared without the chocolate and snacked on all day long. They are perfect to satisfy a sweet craving and at the same time keep energy levels up. What more could you ask for?
#7 – Krembo
This list would not be complete without Israel’s favorite winter treat, Krembo.
A krembo is a meringue cream sitting on a cookie dipped in chocolate. In Israel it comes out to the stores in October and then disappears from the shelves in March. All year round Israelis love their ice cream, but in the few short winter months we have here, we replace ice cream with krembos!
People stock up and buy cases at a time! I recently asked my local store proprietor if he had any Krembos left (In April) and he started to laugh! He said even when it was krembo season he barely had any.
One of the recipes my subscribers created in the January Lilyrose Bakers Box was my take on a krembo: a krembo sandwich.
This week we as we celebrate the miracle that is our country’s 70th anniversary, I hope you’ll all enjoy some spectacular Israeli desserts! Yom Ha’atzmaut Sameach!