Dafna Baruch is the chef and owner of two successful Jerusalem restaurants. The first, Pituim (which means temptations), is in the German Colony just off Emek Refaim. Her second restaurant is in the Mamilla Mall, just above the new Gap store.
Dafna Baruch at one of her restaurants. [Photo by Barry A. Kaplan]
This 34-year-old mother of three exudes a lot of self-confidence, creativity and talent.Baruch was born in Jerusalem, and her parents were born in Jerusalem, although her father’s parents came from Turkey. Her mother’s parents were many-generation Jerusalemites on one side, and her grandmother was from Lebanon.
“All my life until the age of 15, I never stepped into the kitchen!” she exclaims.
When she took a cooking course at school, she says, “for the first time, I saw I had a talent for this,” but her mother didn’t want her in the kitchen.
In the army, she taught martial arts because she had a black belt in taekwondo and then did some post-army travelling in the United States.
When she returned to Israel in 1994, she knew she wanted to do two things – cook and learn archeology. Since the timing was wrong to start university, she started cooking for a French restaurant and enrolled in the culinary course at Hadassah College.
She married Meir, a personal trainer, and by the time she had completed her Hadassah course, she was sous-chef at the French restaurant.
Baruch decided that “a good chef has to know to cook and to bake, and this was what I wanted to do,” and she went to London for six months to study pastry at Le Cordon Bleu.
When she returned, a friend of her husband’s told her his dream was to open a restaurant, but only with her. So at the age of 23 and pregnant, she opened a very small place in the German Colony, called Pituim, temptations.
Why this name?
“When I thought of a name, I thought it was exactly what I do. Everyone will go and say, ‘You can tempt me today,’” since it was more bakery than restaurant.
After about three years, Baruch decided to move to a bigger space, at the side of German Colony, “so people who come would come to me, not the street,” she said. She chose a place “with history,” in a building 70 or 80 years old that she remembered from when she was six years old.
Inside are wooden chairs and tables with red checkered tablecloths in an area that seats about 21; in the garden with wicker chairs, there are seats for about 40.
Baruch later opened a second restaurant in Mamilla Mall. “I really like this place. It’s one of the most beautiful malls in Israel. Also, my father was born in Mamilla; it was the border then. When he was two years old or younger, he went across the border and the Jordanian soldiers were pointing their guns at him and my grandmother was trying to get him back with candy.”
Pituim is a kosher mehadrin dairy restaurant where one can have breakfast, lunch or dinner. Breakfast can be for one or two, and includes a long list of sandwiches that come with a salad. Specialties include a portobello burger, a round and crispy polenta with mushroom and pesto and white wine, lasagna, and fish such as salmon with red wine and almonds. There are also soups, salads, pastas and quiches. Pituim salad has lettuce, avocado, red grapefruit, pine nuts and fried Bulgarian cheese in a mustard vinaigrette. There is a fixed menu, but some changes are made every season. No one should leave the table without a temptation such as mousse cakes, tarts and pies or a special temptation – hot chocolate soufflé.
The showcase features 25 different desserts, which Baruch makes herself, including sweets to buy and take home, in boxes with the restaurant’s rolling pin logo.
Today, Baruch has three children, ages nine, five and two, and she is not done with Pituim.
“Now I have a project to open Temptations as a kosher bakery in Los Angeles. It’s very interesting,” she says. “I think it can work wonderfully.”
Pituim is located at Rachel Imenu 5. Phone 02 566 2899
For Pituim Mamilla, phone 02 500 4006.
Here is one of Dafna Baruch’s temptations.
Chocolate Mousse with
Nougat and Hazelnuts
1/4 cup crushed cornflakes
3 1/2 oz. milk chocolate
2 tbsp. nougat (Hazelnut paste)
10 1/2 oz. dark chocolate
2 tbsp. nougat
13 oz. 42 per cent heavy cream
2 separated eggs plus 2 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
hazelnuts dipped in chocolate
Preheat oven to 325. Place parchment paper in the bottom of a soufflé pan.
Melt milk chocolate in a double boiler. Blend together with nougat and mix with corn flakes. Pat mixture on the paper and bake in preheated 325-degree oven for 2-3 minutes. Let cool.
Melt dark chocolate with nougat in a double boiler.
Whip two egg whites, adding sugar as they get stiff. Set aside.
Whip heavy cream until it starts to get thick then add egg yolks, one at a time. Add chocolate with nougat. Fold in egg whites. Spoon mousse onto base. Freeze at least four hours.
Garnish with cocoa powder or chopped hazelnuts or hazelnuts dipped in chocolate.