Warning: All Desserts!
Well, don’t look now but It’s Here: Pesach! So much thought, care, money and work go into this holiday that it’s no surprise that so many of us are obsessed with the holiday. I have literally been thinking for the last several months about Pesach, buying tickets and clothes, thinking about guest lists and menus and shopping lists, wondering how all this is going to come together.
I can put it off no longer: Today I do the menus! But my job is a little easier because, from year to year, I keep my menus in my Pesach notebook. Not only does this provide me with a ready menu. It also provides me with an idea of what people liked or didn’t like, what was too much work and what was easy.
And from all of this, I can tell you one thing: Elaborate desserts to be eaten on the night of the Seder can really be a waste of time and effort. At our house, we’re planning to serve fruit ices, cut fruit and cookies that I’ll make before the holiday starts. I always try to make desserts that will keep well and then bring them out throughout the week. My Pesach dessert favorites are Meringues, Biscotti, Chocolate Chip cookies and Eje Matzo (like Passover Baklava). What was it Marie Antoinette said? If there's no bread, let them eat cake? Here we go!
(c) 2009 Debby Segura. Debby Segura holds an AB in Design from UCLA. She designs dinnerware and she teaches and writes about cooking. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and children. Visit her at http://www.debbysegura.com
adapted from an L.A.Times recipe, thank you Sheri Lester
2 egg whites, room temperature
1 ½ cups superfine sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon vinegar or strained lemon juice
4 teaspoons potato starch
4 Tablespoons boiling water
1 quart fresh fruit such as berries, sliced mango, kiwis, diced pineapple
½ cup sugar, optional
1 pint ice cream or sorbet
1 cup heavy cream
garnish: mint leaves, toasted slivered almonds or spun sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Tracing a dinner plate, draw a 10" circle for a large pavlova (or 8 to 10 small circles for individual pavlovas) on the back of a sheet of baking parchment. Line a large, sideless baking sheet with the parchment and spray lightly with Pam.
Place all meringue ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on high speed until mixture is very stiff and glossy, about 7 to 10 minutes. Working quickly, spread mixture over the circle(s) with a spatula onto prepared parchment, swirling edges of meringue into free-form peaks and creating a valley in the center(s).
Bake in the center of the preheated oven for 10 minutes at 350 degrees, and then reduce heat to 250 degrees. If using electric oven, bake 45 minutes longer, if a gas oven, one hour. Allow pavlova to cool in the oven with the door ajar. Peel parchment off the bottom of the pavlova. (Pavlova shell may be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.)
One hour before serving, sprinkle fruit with sugar, if desired, and allow to macerate. Whip the cream and allow the ice cream or sorbet to soften. Just before serving, fill the pavlova with the cream, and then the ice cream or sorbet. Decorate with the fruit. Garnish and serve immediately.
adapted from The Classic Cuisine of the Italian Jews
Yield: about 60 biscotti
1 1/3 cups sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
3 cups matzo cake meal, about
1 cup whole almonds (or ½ cup almonds, ½ cup raisins)
1 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
egg wash (1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water)
cinnamon sugar (optional)
Beat the sugar, salt, oil and extracts until creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add enough matzo cake meal to make a soft but manageable dough. Fold in the almonds, and/or raisins and zest. Spoon dough onto oiled work surface and divide into thirds. Oil hands. Shape dough into 3 15"-long cylinders. Place on greased baking sheet, brush the top with and egg wash, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, and increase the temperature to 450 degrees. Cut each cylinder diagonally into about 20 slices. Lay the slices flat on the baking sheet and bake 8 to 10 minutes.
Cool biscotti thoroughly before storing in an airtight container. And they freeze well, too!
Pesach Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yield: 60 cookies
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup margarine
2 teaspoons Pesach vanilla extract
1 tablespoon water
1 ½ cup potato starch
1 ½ cup matzoh cake meal
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together the sugars and margarine until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and then add the vanilla and water. Combine. Add the potato starch, cake meal, salt and potato starch and mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips and the walnuts (if desired). Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Or, better still, line the cookie sheet with baking parchment and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Place the cookie dough in teaspoon-sized balls on the prepared cookie sheet, at least 1" apart. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until the cookies begin to brown around the edges. Cool on a rack before storing in an airtight container. May be frozen, up to 2 weeks, double wrapped in foil.
1 ½ cups matzo meal
1 ½ cups chopped walnuts
3/4 cup water
1 dash cinnamon
1 dash cloves
½ cup, plus 2 tablespoons oil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients, except 2 tablespoons oil, and mix until well combined. In a large, oven-proof skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil until hot but not smoking. Carefully add the batter and smooth the top. Lower the heat to a medium low flame. Soon the batter will start bubbling at the edges. When the bubbling reaches the center of the eje, carefully place the skillet into the center of the preheated oven and bake for 1 hour. While the eje bakes, make the syrup:
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup water
juice of ½ lemon
Bring the sugar and water to a gentle boil over medium low heat. Add the lemon juice and continue simmering 4-5 minutes or until slightly sticky.
Remove the eje from the oven and pat off the excess oil. With the eje still in the pan, slice it into 2" diamonds and pour the hot syrup on the hot eje. To serve, remove each diamond, invert it, and garnish it with a whole nut if desired. May be kept, well covered and refrigerated, for 1 week.