When I first started converting dairy recipes into pareve ones, I immediately turned to parve margarine as my go-to butter substitute and achieved great results, especially for French pastries. Over the years, I have experimented with many different brands of margarine with varying results. Initially, my only goal was to create the best tasting desserts.
Over the past three years, however, I have been more mindful of health concerns. I started experimenting with different flours, sweeteners and fats in an effort to create healthier desserts, but without compromising taste. I was further influenced by the movement to get trans fats out of our foods. Trans fats raise our bad LDL cholesterol while lowering the good HDL cholesterol and the combination increases our risk for heart disease. Parve bakers can now bake with trans fat-free margarines as well as coconut products, both of which are tasty and effective substitutes for the margarines we grew up with.
Although I love latkes and sufganiyot as much as the next person, you simply cannot and should not eat them for eight days straight. So here, instead of cooking in oil, I am using it in my desserts. These two desserts, one cake and one cookie, are made with extra virgin olive oil. The olive oil adds flavor and richness to the desserts while your body gets a dose of a fat that has proven to have many health benefits. Moreover, baking with olive oil is what people did at the time of the Maccabees. Have a sweet Chanukah!