November 19, 2018

65 Years of favorite Passover desserts

This year, I gathered together all of the Passover dessert recipes I have made, dating back to our first seder in 1950 — more than 125. This was in anticipation of compiling them into my new project, a Passover dessert cookbook.

I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorites in advance of the book’s publication, with a focus on some individual desserts, as well as an assortment of cookies and candies.

Many people believe that Passover desserts are a challenge because many normal baking ingredients are forbidden, among them flour, grain, cornstarch, baking powder and baking soda. Remember, you can substitute matzah meal, potato starch and versatile fresh egg whites to make many of your traditional favorites. All of these carefully tested delicacies are fairly simple to prepare and will be a welcome addition to your seder dinner, and the family meals served during the rest of the holiday.

For all the chocolate lovers in your family, there are the Passover Brownies With Chocolate Glaze, everyone’s most requested dessert. For another sweet treat, pass a plate of Rocky Road Clusters. These tasty favorites are made with only three ingredients: chocolate, marshmallows and pecans. Simply melt the chocolate, add the marshmallows and nuts, and fill small colorful paper cups with the mixture. This is a great project to do with the children.

Our family loves my Matzah Farfel-Nut Thins, better known as Florentine Passover Wafers. You can mix the batter and keep it in a covered bowl in the refrigerator throughout the holiday. Then, whenever you want to make them, just spoon the batter onto a baking sheet lined with foil or a silicone baking mat and bake.

Cocoa-Pecan Cookies are another perfect project for the kids. Prepare the dough, and set up an area in the kitchen where they can help by dropping spoonsful of the dough onto baking sheets. If you have leftover dough, keep it in the fridge and a fresh batch of cookies can be baked when needed.  

If you’re truly adventurous, try making chocolate-covered charoset. It’s easy to make — just double your favorite charoset recipe, roll into balls, dip them in melted chocolate, and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Then there’s mandelbrot, the year-round favorite of Jewish families throughout the world. Over the years, I have developed a recipe that you can make during Passover. They are the perfect nosh, especially with coffee or tea, and take so little time to prepare. One recipe makes a large quantity — store them in a sealed container, and you will have them available for unexpected company during the holiday. 

PASSOVER BROWNIES WITH CHOCOLATE GLAZE

  • 3/4 cup oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened dry cocoa
  • 1 cup matzah cake meal
  • 2 tablespoons potato starch
  • 1/2 cup strong brewed coffee
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1/4 cup ground walnuts or pecans
  • Passover Chocolate Glaze (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In the large mixing bowl, blend oil and sugar. One at a time, add egg yolks, beating well after each addition. In a medium bowl, combine cocoa, matzah cake meal and potato starch. Beat this mixture into oil mixture alternately with the coffee.

Beat egg whites until stiff enough to hold a peak. Mix 1/4 of beaten egg whites into chocolate mixture to loosen the batter. Fold remaining whites gently, but thoroughly, into batter along with chopped nuts.

Lightly oil an 8-inch baking pan and dust with ground nuts. Pour in batter. Bake 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out dry. Serve plain or glazed with Passover Chocolate Glaze.  

Makes 16 servings. 

PASSOVER CHOCOLATE GLAZE

  • 8 ounces Passover semisweet chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons Passover preserves
  • 2 tablespoons strong brewed coffee

Melt chocolate, preserves and coffee in microwave or on top of a double boiler over simmering water. Add additional coffee to make a smooth, thin glaze or frosting.  

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

ROCKY ROAD CLUSTERS 

  • 1 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup Passover miniature marshmallows or large marshmallows cut in quarters
  • 8 ounces Passover semisweet  chocolate, melted

Place small paper candy cups on top of a large tray; set aside.

In a large bowl, toss pecans and marshmallows together. Add melted chocolate and mix well. Spoon chocolate mixture into candy cups or directly onto a wax paper-lined platter; refrigerate for several hours until firm. Store in refrigerator.  

Makes about 24 servings.

MATZAH FARFEL-NUT THINS

  • 1 cup matzah farfel
  • 1 tablespoon matzah cake meal
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted margarine, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds 

Preheat oven to 325 F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine matzah farfel, matzah cake meal, sugar and salt; mix well. Pour melted margarine over farfel mixture; blend until sugar dissolves. Add egg and vanilla; blend well. Stir in almonds. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes.  

Line a baking sheet with foil or a silicone baking mat. Drop farfel mixture by teaspoonsful onto prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. When cookies are cool, they will peel off foil or baking mat easily.

Makes about 8 dozen.

COCOA-PECAN COOKIES

  • 1 1/2 cups toasted chopped pecans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened dry cocoa
  • 1/4 cup matzah cake meal
  • 1/4 cup potato starch
  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped Passover semisweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 400 F. 

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Combine chopped pecans, 1 1/2 cups sugar, cocoa, matzah cake meal and potato starch in a food processor; pulse on and off until nuts are finely ground. Add 1/2 cup egg whites; pulse to blend. Transfer batter to a large bowl; stir in coarsely chopped pecans and chocolate.

In a separate bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, beat remaining egg whites until soft peaks form. Add remaining sugar and beat until a stiff meringue forms. Using a rubber spatula, mix half of meringue into pecan/chocolate mixture, then fold in the remaining meringue.

Drop batter by well-rounded teaspoonsful, 1 inch apart, onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 8 minutes. Cookies should be dull, but very soft. If not dull, bake 1 minute longer. Transfer parchment paper to a rack;  cool completely, then remove cookies from paper. 

Makes about 2 or 3 dozen cookies.  

PASSOVER MANDELBROT

From “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” (1988) by Judy Zeidler

  • 3/4 cup oil
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup matzah cake meal
  • 1/4 cup matzah meal
  • 2 tablespoons potato starch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • Juice and grated peel of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large mixing bowl, blend oil and 3/4 cup of sugar until light. Add eggs; blend thoroughly. 

In a large bowl, combine matzah cake meal, matzah meal, potato starch, salt and 1 teaspoon cinnamon; blend into oil mixture alternately with lemon juice and peel. Fold in almonds. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour for easier handling.

Divide dough into 3 or 4 portions. With lightly oiled hands, shape each portion into an oval loaf, 2 inches wide and 1 inch high. Place loaves 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets. Bake 30 minutes or until golden brown.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. 

Remove loaves from oven; use a spatula to transfer them to a cutting board. Cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place cut side up on the same baking sheets; sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Turn off oven heat, and return baking sheets to the oven. Leave mandelbrot in oven for 10 minutes per side or until lightly brown and crisp. Transfer to racks; cool completely. 

Makes about 4 dozen.

Judy Zeidler is a food consultant, cooking teacher and author of “Italy Cooks” (Mostarda Press, 2011). Her website is JudyZeidler.com