After another unintentional vacation… Passover. Before it’s Shavuos.
Everyone has horror stories of Passover desserts. The from-mix honey cakes that defy the laws of physics with their denseness, the macaroons that are really just glued-together super-sweet plastic shavings, the mandelbrot that’s left over scrap from the lumber yard. It’s a good thing everyone’s too full from the seder dinner to want a big dessert, especially as it’s too early in the year for much of a fruit selection.
The restrictions are something out of a food show challenge – no flour, no yeast, nothing with corn syrup or fermented grains… now make something tasty.
The best answer to that, near as I can figure, is to find recipes that just happen to be pesadik – flourless chocolate cakes and cookies, anything with a lot of nuts – and go from there. Bonus points for anything that doesn’t require the careful application of matzo meal, since no matter how well you disguise it, it’s still matzo meal. With the new fetish for gluten-free and other allergen-free recipes, it gets easier every year. (Also, there is an ever-increasing range of pesadik products that mimic what is temporarily verboten, but that’s sort of cheating.)
This year, I went for a chocolate something, a nut something, and a fruit something. All three came off well, I thought, with room for improvement if I choose to make them next year.
I actually had two competing recipes for flourless chocolate brownies and I ended up going with the one with no matzo in it. This came one from Nigella through an intermediary, who suggests that these be kept in the fridge and served cold. It’s a recommendation I wholeheartedly endorse, in part because it keeps them firm and fudge-like; if I wanted to make a “squidgybellied” dessert, I’d just make my Turkish chocolate pudding.
As you can see, there is really no bad here.
Like regular brownies, it’s a one-pot affair, except that you also need something to grind the almonds if you don’t buy them already processed.
These were… sinfully good. Basically, fudge with a kind of sandy element (in a good way) and a crust. Cut them very, very small because a little goes a long way. And keep them in the fridge, well-wrapped.
My usual ‘nut thing’ is to make almendrados, which are spiffy, easy, tasty, and fast. But my cousin doesn’t like cookies rolled in sugar, so I went in a slightly different direction this year – hazelnut thumbprint cookies. These do have matzo meal in them, but it’s really very well hidden.
When Deb made these, she used chocolate discs and, if/when I make these again, I shall endeavor to try that or something else to up the chocolate ratio just a tad, since I thought it was a little off with just three chips per cookies. I was tempted to half-dip these in chocolate to correct that, but I came home from work the day of the first seder to find my father with his hand literally in the cookie jar and, well, he obviously thought they were fine. And I also had a fruit cobbler to start, so these were not dipped. But next time, a little more chocolate. Because then they really will be a tiny bite of solid nutella.
The third thing I made was the aforementioned cobbler – properly, an apple-and-sour-cherry kuchen from A Treasure of Jewish Holiday Baking – but I took no pictures because it was a mere couple of hours before the seder when I started peeling apples.
Okay, I lied, I took one picture, then I realized that I was terribly short of time. There are no pictures of the final product because it was still too hot to touch the pan when I had to wrap it in dishtowels and put cardboard underneath to carry it to the car to go to the seder. Also, it was not pretty.
I’d delayed because it was a fruit-heavy dish and I didn’t want it to get soggy waiting around overnight, which was probably the right move… if I hadn’t had to go to work that day and could have started it a few hours earlier. As it was, I was running around a bit and doubting the recipe and instructions – five large apples, is she sure? Did it say large? It did? And she wants it in what sized pan? Why does it need a springform if it’s not getting unmolded? The springform leaks if you don’t hold it right! Wait, why does she say smooth paste and I’ve got potting clay? – and had no time to think through any changes I might have wanted to try. Or sufficiently re-calculate the cooking time for the pan size difference.
All that said, I think it came out pretty well. I liked what I got even if it wasn’t what I was supposed to get. (Maybe it was; there were no pictures in the book for it.) I’ve never actually made an apple pie, so this was a bit of a novel experience. I sliced the apples too thick, for one. Also, finding a can of sour cherries was harder than expected; I found a can hidden in the Passover section of the supermarket – apparently only observant Jews eat them.
Also, since I make it every year and seem to make more of it every year: charoses.
Or, how this…
… becomes this.
… and from here on out, hopefully a return to regularly scheduled service.