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The science of successful baking

Marvin Gelkopf, left, and his son Max, run the website, the Science of Baking.

One of the best resources for kosher baking is a Canadian website called the Science of Baking (thescienceofbaking.ca).

The site is run by Marvin Gelkopf, a Toronto physician, and his son, Max, a second-year medical student.

Gelkopf has been a serious baker for more than 20 years. He tends to make a lot of traditional recipes, like babka and apple cake, while his son follows food trends more closely. For instance, Max Gelkopf has created scones in a variety of unusual flavours, like espresso and Earl Grey vanilla, and his Momofuku milk bar cake is a show stopper.

About 20 years ago, Gelkopf saw a bran muffin recipe in the newspaper. “It looked really healthy and making it took me back to Grade 8 chemistry,” he said. “Baking is a science.” He said he was intrigued by the chemical interaction of the flour, sugar, eggs and other ingredients.

That experience was his foray into baking. But Gelkopf often adapts recipes to reduce the fat and sugar content, and uses vegan ingredients, to ensure they’re both kosher and healthy.

He said that early on, he was inspired by kosher cookbook author Susie Fishbein. Now, he and his son also consult websites like Sally’s Baking Addiction and Smitten Kitchen for ideas.

“I read about a recipe. I follow the directions correctly the first time and then I make the changes. It’s all about the science,” he explained. “You put the ingredients together. Sometimes they fail and you go back to the drawing board.”

Gelkopf bakes for Shabbat, holidays, family life cycle events and his medical continuing education study group. The positive feedback he gets is an incentive, he said. “It’s truly gratifying.”

Max Gelkopf said he grew up watching his father bake. “I was always trying to help,” he said. “I’d hold the spatula and I’d be waiting eagerly for the thing to finish. At age 12, I started baking myself.” 


Limoncello Whip

o 500 ml (2 cups) unsalted pareve margarine

o 830 ml (3) cups granulated sugar

o zest of 6 lemons

o 8 large eggs, at room temperature

o 500 ml (2 cups) freshly squeezed lemon juice

o 10 ml (2 tsp) cornstarch

o 90 ml (6 tbsp) limoncello, or 10 ml (2 tsp) lemon extract

o 1 l (4 cups) whipping cream


o 6 large egg whites, at room temperature

o 2.5 ml (½ tsp) cream of tartar

o 375 ml (1½ cups) granulated sugar


Melt the margarine, sugar and lemon zest in a saucepan over medium heat until the margarine melts fully. Whisk the eggs, lemon juice and cornstarch together in a separate bowl and whisk the mixture into the pot.

Continue to whisk the curd over medium heat until it thickens and just begins to bubble, about 8 minutes.

Take the saucepan off the heat. Add the limoncello or lemon extract, then pour the mixture through a strainer and cover the surface of the curd with plastic wrap.

Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until ready to use. The curd will keep for up to 2 weeks sealed in the refrigerator. Makes approximately 6 cups of curd.

To make the meringue, preheat oven to 90 C (250 F). In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until frothy. Slowly add the sugar and beat on high speed until thick, glossy peaks form.

Divide the mixture between 2 parchment-lined cookie sheets and spread out, so it’s about 1.5-cm (1/2-inch) thick. Bake for 90 minutes.

To assemble, whip the whipping cream and then fold it into the lemon curd until combined.

Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a star-shaped tip and pipe into dessert glasses. Serving sizes can vary from small shot glasses to martini glasses.

Once cooled, crumble the meringue into small pieces and top the limoncello whip in each of the dessert glasses.

This whipped dessert can also be layered with fresh berries.


Mocha Espresso Frosted Cookies

o 185 ml (1½ sticks) butter, at room temperature

o 250 ml (1 cup) granulated sugar

o 1 egg

o 10 ml (2 tsp) vanilla extract

o 60 ml (1/4 cup) sour cream

o 60 ml (1/4 cup) coffee creamer

o 60 ml (1/4 cup) espresso

o 625 ml (2½ cups) all-purpose flour

o 125 ml (1/2 cup) cocoa powder

o 2.5 ml (½ tsp) baking soda

o 2.5 ml (½ tsp) salt


o 250 ml (2 sticks) butter, softened

o 5 ml (1 tsp) espresso powder

o 5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla

o 750 ml (3 cups) powdered sugar

o 15-45 ml (1-3 tbsp) coffee-flavoured creamer

o sprinkles (optional)


Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F). In a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together for 1-2 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla, sour cream, creamer, flour, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt and mix well.

Place golf-ball sized balls of dough on a cookie sheet, flatten slightly and bake for 16-18 minutes.

Allow cookies to cool before frosting.

To make the icing, cream the butter, then add the espresso powder and vanilla. When adding the icing sugar and the coffee creamer, alternate between the two ingredients. Add more icing sugar if the icing is too thin. If it is too thick, add more creamer.

Spread the icing onto the cookies. Top with sprinkles, if you wish.


Chocolate Chip Zucchini Loaf

o 185 ml (3/4 cup) granulated sugar

o 45 ml (3 tbsp) cooking oil

o 2 large eggs

o 5 ml (1 tsp) pure vanilla extract

o 250 ml (1 cup) unsweetened applesauce

o 250 ml (1 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour

o 250 ml (1 cup) whole wheat flour

o 30 ml (2 tbsp) unsweetened cocoa

o 6.25 ml (1¼ tsp) baking soda

o 5 ml (1 tsp) ground cinnamon

o 1.25 ml (1/4 tsp) kosher salt

o 375 ml (1½ cups) peeled and finely shredded zucchini

o 125 ml (½ cup) semisweet chocolate chips tossed with 1 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour


Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F). Place sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla into a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process until well blended. Add applesauce and pulse until combined.

In a separate bowl, combine the all-purpose and whole wheat flours, cocoa, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

Add the flour mixture to the processor and pulse until just combined. Add the zucchini and pulse until just combined. Add in the chocolate chips and fold in with a spatula.

Transfer the batter to a 23×13-cm (9×5-inch) loaf pan lined with parchment paper and sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for 55 minutes. Makes 10-12 servings and freezes well.

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