When spring finally arrives, stores fill their shelves with Easter treats. Chocolate bunnies, jelly beans and Cadbury Cream Eggs line supermarket and specialty candy shop aisles from mid-February through March and April.
EHChocolatier, located in the Observatory Hill neighborhood of Cambridge, offers their own takes on classic Easter candy, of course. What chocolate shop wouldn’t take advantage of the holiday?
But about five years ago, Elaine Hsieh, co-owner of the shop, saw a real need for chocolates and other treats for Passover.
Today, they offer three kinds of chocolates: Chocolate Matzah Almond Toffee, Coconut Almond Chocolate “Macaroons” and Dark Chocolate Matzah Bark. And new this year is a flourless chocolate cookie.
Elaine and her business partner, Catharine Sweeney, were inspired by the nuts, fruits and traditional foods of Elaine’s own seder meals, including coconut macaroons and chocolate-and-caramel matzah.
Elaine calls Passover the “out-of-the-park” holiday, in terms of food.
“I love to eat. Everything growing up was about food. For me, Passover is one of the best holidays of the year.”
While Elaine never converted herself, her husband is Jewish. And they raised their twins in the faith and culture of Judaism. She attends temple, and as she puts it, tongue squarely in cheek, “I’m relatively comfortable with most of the traditions. I don’t know as much about the nitty-gritty.”
Elaine’s parents emigrated from mainland China, and she always saw similarities between the traditions of her own family and that of Judaism, especially in the emphasis on food.
“That’s one of the things that draws Asians and Jews together is the [importance of] food. There’s the education part, then there’s the family part and then there is the food part.”
When it comes to cooking, in fact, Elaine loves a challenge, and Passover affords her the opportunity to get creative and to experiment.
“Everyone will tell you I love a challenge. I love when guests come and tell me, ‘I can’t have this, that or the other thing.’ I know people don’t like that, but for me it’s a great opportunity. You kind of have to work with what you have. The goal is to make something exceptionally delicious even if you can’t use certain ingredients.”
“For me,” she continues, “not having any leavening is actually sort of a plus because I have to be creative, which is kind of awesome.”
She loves to get creative with her seder meals. “Passover is a great opportunity to try different things. We’ve done traditional Passover in terms of dishes and we’ve done a non-traditional Passover in terms of food.”
But in hosting her own Passover celebrations, Elaine noticed a lack of really great candies.
Her own candies came about, in part, because of her husband’s Uncle Elliot. “Uncle Elliot really likes to bring over Mashuga Nuts.”
They’re also inspired by the fundraiser candies her temple makes. “At our temple, they would make something with matzah and chocolate. But none of it was particularly good,” she says. “Which is fine because during Passover it’s more about tradition. They have to eat matzah and do something with that matzah, so I don’t think they’re trying to achieve nirvana.”
But, of course, Elaine and Catharine are. They specialize in improving on old classics, and Passover was the perfect chance to do that.
“Catharine and I have a real nostalgia for the candies we grew up with. For us, it’s a big part of how we do candies. It’s about revisiting something and making it in line with our aesthetic and our taste.”
For instance, their best-selling caramelized peanut butter cups are a new twist on Reese’s cups.
“It’s kind of fun for us to take something we loved when we were little—that we would never eat now because it’s so sweet—and make it better.”
And this is exactly how they looked at their candy offerings for Passover. For their Chocolate Matzah Almond Toffee and their Dark Chocolate Matzah Bark, they tasted dozens of different kinds of matzah until they found the perfect one: a lightly salted variety that they have to order online direct from the manufacturer.
Despite not having a kosher kitchen, Elaine says their Passover candies have been gaining popularity year after year. And they’ve gotten great feedback.
Customers have told her that the chocolates are amazing, and they appreciate the fact that it’s something a little bit different.
Until now, most of their sales have been online. But just this year, she and Catharine opened their first brick-and-mortar store, and they’re eager to see how their chocolates do there.
EHChocolatier’s Passover candies are available at their chocolate boutique located at 145 Huron Ave. in Cambridge, or you can order them online. Their flourless chocolate cookies are only available in their store.
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