Taxes done? Just in time for Passover treats


Tonight ends another glorious episode of number crunching for the income tax deadline, just as Passover begins. What a perfect time to offer some Jewish comfort food: Passover desserts. Although they are mostly a tradition enjoyed in the Jewish faith, these treats are delicious to serve any day, for anyone. They can be a little challenging to make because flour and leavening agents are not allowed on Passover. You can substitute potato starch for matzo meal, which is made from ground matzo. This is available in most major supermarkets. Whichever recipes you try, I bet you won’t wait until Passover comes to make them again.

Brown sugar almond crisps

These crisp and chewy meringue-based cookies have a distinctive caramel flavor. They can be stored in an airtight container for several days or frozen. Recipe from “Fast &Festive Meals for the Jewish Holidays” by Marlene Sorosky; makes about 36 cookies.

3 large egg whites

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (optional and not used if adhering to strict Passover)

1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar (put through a sieve to remove lumps)

1 1/2 tablespoons potato starch

1 1/2 tablespoons matzo cake meal

1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped almonds

Place rack in upper third of oven; preheat to 300 F. Line two cushioned baking sheets* with parchment paper; set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat egg whites, salt and vanilla with electric

mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add sieved brown sugar, continuing to beat for 3 to 5 minutes, or until stiff peaks form. Sprinkle potato starch, matzo cake meal and almonds on the meringue; mix on low speed for 3 to 4 seconds until combined. Drop by heaping teaspoons into 2-inch mounds, about 1 1/2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes; do not over-bake. Turn off oven; leave cookies in oven another 15 minutes. Edges will be crisp but insides will be soft. Cookies will firm as they cool. Remove from oven; carefully peel off parchment paper. Cool to room temperature.

Flourless chocolate cake

From Kona Beth Shalom’s “SHALOHA” Cookbook comes this perfect Passover dessert; makes 8 servings.

Cake:

2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter (for pan)

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups sliced almonds

5 ounces melted semi sweet chocolate, cooled

5 eggs, separated

1/2 cup sugar

Generously brush a 9-inch cake pan with a tablespoon of melted butter. Line bottom with a round of parchment or waxed paper; brush with remaining tablespoon of melted butter and sprinkle with a little bit of sugar. In a food processor fitted with a knife blade, cream the butter. Add almonds; beat until mixture comes together. Add melted chocolate; blend well. Add egg yolks, one at a time; continue blending until smooth and fluffy. In a large bowl beat egg whites with an electric mixer until foamy. Add sugar; beat until smooth and firm. Fold a third of the egg white mixture into the egg yolk mixture; fold in remaining egg whites gently but thoroughly. Spoon batter into prepared cake pan. Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 250; bake 1 hour and 30 minutes or until cake is crusty on top and toothpick inserted in center comes out dry. Cool on rack, then invert onto large plate, peel off parchment and invert onto a cake plate. Pour chocolate glaze over cake and spread or tilt cake until completely covered.

Chocolate glaze:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine

3 tablespoons honey

1/4 cup water or coffee

6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

In a heavy saucepan, combine butter, honey and water or coffee. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and add chocolate. Beat until stiff enough to spread or drizzle over cake. If glaze is not thick enough, return to heat and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, mixing constantly.

Fudgy coconut macaroons

These have a moist, chewy texture; the secret is in not over-baking them. Macaroons can be refrigerated up to a week or frozen. Recipe from “Fast &Festive Meals for the Jewish Holidays” by Marlene Sorosky; makes 36 macaroons.

15 ounces regular or low-fat sweetened condensed milk

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

2 cups shredded coconut

1/4 teaspoon instant coffee granules, dissolved in 1 tablespoon boiling water

Dash of salt

1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease or spray a cushioned baking sheet*; set aside. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, microwave milk and chocolate on high power for 3 to 4 minutes or until melted and smooth. (Don’t overcook; mixture may become granular.) Stir in coconut, coffee, salt and nuts. Drop batter by teaspoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until bottoms are set. They will be very soft, but will firm up as they cool. Remove from oven; immediately transfer to waxed paper-lined trays to cool completely.

*If not using a cushioned baking sheet, place one baking sheet on top of another to create a double pan.

Mandelbrot

These sliced nut cookies are simple and addictive. Recipe from “The New Jewish Holiday Cookbook” by Gloria Kaufer Greene; makes about 40 cookies.

4 large eggs

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup canola or safflower oil

2 cups matzo cake meal

1/3 cup potato starch

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 cup coarsely chopped almonds or walnuts

1/2 cup sugar

1 or 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Put eggs, 1 1/2 cups sugar and oil in a large bowl; beat until well combined. Stir in matzo cake meal, potato starch and lemon juice until completely moistened. Add nuts and stir. Chill dough a few hours or overnight. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease two large baking sheets. Divide dough into fourths and form each piece into a log about 10 inches long. Use a very small amount of extra matzo cake meal, if needed, to keep dough from sticking to your hands. Place logs lengthwise on prepared pans. Bake about 35 minutes or until golden. Cool logs for 5 minutes, then cut them on the diagonal with a serrated knife, into 3/4- to 1-inch slices. In a small dish, combine 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon. Coat both cut sides of each slice with the cinnamon sugar; stand up slices on baking sheets and return to oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted and firm. Be careful that slices do not burn. Cool completely and store in airtight containers.