Jake Cohen's Trick For Making Mediocre Chocolate Taste Great - Exclusive

Recipe developer and cookbook author Jake Cohen's two books — "Jew-Ish" and the newly-released "I Could Nosh" — are both deep dives into modern Jewish cuisine that work to expand traditional notions about what counts as Jewish food. For example, you might not think of brownies or flourless chocolate cake as classic Jewish recipes, but Cohen has a trick for improving these desserts using an ingredient he picked up from his husband's Middle Eastern Jewish family: sumac.

Sumac is a spice with a very distinct flavor. As Cohen explained in an exclusive interview with Tasting Table, "It's a ground dried berry, so it's super tangy. It doesn't add a ton of flavor, but it adds acidity." Although it's traditionally used to contribute some tartness to savory dishes, Cohen was inspired to incorporate it into desserts as a way to make mid-tier chocolate taste a little more expensive. Nice chocolate tends to have a strong acidic component, and adding sumac to chocolate desserts gives them that acidity without having to spring for the really pricey stuff.

The idea came to Cohen while he was baking brownies for a crowd. He remembered, "I'd be using bags of Ghirardelli chocolate chips — not bad, but not good — and I would add sumac because it made it taste like it was better-quality chocolate."

Sumac can brighten a variety of desserts

Jake Cohen told us that after he discovered the sumac trick with brownies, he started using the spice in all his chocolate recipes, including a flourless chocolate cake he wrote about in "I Could Nosh." He revealed that the sumac is the secret ingredient that makes that recipe soar. "They think they know what a chocolate flourless cake is like, but this takes it to that next level of decadence and intensity, which I love," he said.

Sumac doesn't have to be limited to chocolate desserts — its acidity can enliven any dish that might feel a little stodgy or one-note. Try adding sumac to shortbread — the sour note it contributes will cut through all the richness of the butter, sugar, and flour, making a more balanced bite. A sumac-based fruit seasoning mix can also be a great way to add some complexity to the sweetness of ripe summer melon.

"I Could Nosh" is available today from Amazon and other booksellers.