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Passover holiday treats
Apple strawberry cake, chocolate torte, meringue torte and other temptations
Passover is one of the Jewish holidays closely associated with food. It is also the holiday where special dietary laws are observed.
The Passover story retells the time when Jews fled from bondage in Egypt. They had to leave so quickly that their bread dough did not have time to rise. To commemorate this time in history, you will find no leavening agents in Passover foods.
Passover eating, cooking and baking is dependent on the dietary laws. But with different people’s backgrounds, you will find different interpretations as to what other foods can and cannot be eaten.
The process of making something kosher for Passover is much stricter than the process of making it kosher for everyday use. In many homes, the search for any trace of “chametz” — the mixture of flour and water that has risen — is part of the ritual. So before the start of Passover, those who are observant replace their food products with foods labeled strictly “Kosher for Passover.”
The ceremonial meal, a Seder in the home, begins on the evening of April 2 this year, with second Seder on April 3. Passover dietary laws are then followed for the week.
If you have been to Mercer Island Albertson’s lately, you may have noticed numerous front aisles of products that are marked “Kosher for Passover.” Some shelves have been set aside for basic Passover goods at QFC. But, I have to give Albertson’s a lot of credit and say a big “thank you” to store manager John Gillespie. He has made it a place to shop for “everything” that is needed for this holiday.
At Albertson’s there are rows of store-bought cookies, candies, breakfast cereals, spices, salad dressings and boxes of Matzo, the unleavened bread. Stocked also at Albertson’s are Passover cakes, fresh kosher chickens and frozen kosher turkeys as well as dairy products, all marked “Kosher for Passover” or with the abbreviation, “k-p” or with a U in a circle and P.
There is also Passover cake meal, Passover potato starch and Passover matzo meal. With those ingredients, some strawberries and a little chocolate you can make numerous Passover desserts.
I asked my friend and fellow Mercer Islander Elaine Epstein how she celebrated Passover as a child.
“I grew up in Vancouver B.C. in a traditional family setting,” she told me. “It was more special than words can fully express. I watched how my parents, aunts and uncles all prepared and presented the holidays, caring that all was done appropriately and with meaning. I begin Passover in our home for the first time after my dear dad passed away in 1980. This was a turning point, a true learning and growing experience, personally for me, Eddie, the kids and the close friends we invite to our home,” she noted.
Epstein expressed how lucky she felt to cook for her mom and with her mom during the holidays. “My mom, Fanny, is my best supporter and critic. I hope we continue to do the holidays together in our home for many more years.”
Together, Epstein and I go over all of our Passover recipes each year, selecting favorites and traditional ones and then adding something new to our repertoire. “Desserts can be challenging,” she said. I so agree as I have made perfect sponge cakes and some that were flops!
ELAINE EPSTEIN’S PASSOVER APPLE STRAWBERRY CAKE
This is a keeper and not hard to make. Depending on the size of your pieces, this cake can serve 10 to 12 people generously.
6 large eggs, room temperature
11/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup oil (oil for Passover such as GEFEN brand)
3/4 cup of potato starch
11/2 cups matzo cake meal
5 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin
1/2 cup sugar
1 TBS. cinnamon
1/2 cup strawberry preserves (Passover Manischewitz preserves or Atlas Strawberry spread with no sugar added and marked with “k-p”)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13 inch pan. In one bowl add the apple filling and mix well to combine. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer, beat eggs, sugar and salt until well blended. Add oil and continue beating.
Sift together the potato starch and cake meal. Add to egg batter. Put a little less than one half of the batter into the pan. Add the apple filling and place on top of batter. Top with remaining filling and spread to cover the apples. It all evens out while baking. Bake 55 to 60 minutes, depending on your oven. Check for doneness at 55 minutes.
Elaine put it into a Villeroy Oval Dish and it made a lovely presentation on her dessert table.
RUTH’S CHOCOLATE TORTE
Epstein told me that this recipe was inspired by her friend, Ruth Frankel, who shared her original chocolate torte recipe. Epstein said that she made only a few changes and uses it as a Passover birthday celebration cake. She also likes to give it a special birthday finish by adding a frosting or icing. Serves 10 or more.
5 ounces granulated sugar
5 ounces ground pecans
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
3/4 cup water
8 large eggs, separated
3 TBS. matzo meal
Boil together until thickened in a large saucepan: sugar, chocolate, nuts and water. Stir while boiling. Cool well and stir in the beaten egg yolks and matzo meal. Beat egg whites until very stiff and fold into the chocolate mixture. Bake in a well-greased 9-inch springform pan at 325 degrees for 50 minutes to 1 hour. Cool. Remove the springform ring and serve from the bottom pan. Make one day ahead. This torte will keep up to a week in the refrigerator.
EPSTEIN’S PASSOVER CHOCOLATE FROSTING
Epstein said she likes to use a frosting for the torte as it makes it more attractive when iced. She told me that this cake bakes beautifully but when taken from the oven and cooling, it can begin to sink a bit in the middle. She advises to use a frosting or icing and put more icing in the middle to even out the cake. “This gives it a more finished and professional look,” says Elaine. “The recipe calls for 2 TBS. of brandy, but I used a Passover vanilla instead,” she noted. As another substitution option, when I made the frosting, I used 11/2 TBS. of water instead of Passover vanilla.
4 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate
2 ounces of unsalted butter or margarine
1/2 cup granulated sugar mixed with1/2 teaspoon of Passover potato starch- this is a substitution for confectioners’ sugar.
2 TBS. brandy (Elaine uses Passover vanilla extract; water is OK too)
2 TBS. hot water
In a small Cuisinart, whirl the sugar and potato starch for a while into it becomes a powder. Set aside.
Melt chocolate and margarine in a 2 cup saucepan over medium heat. Remove from the heat and add sugar plus all the liquid ingredients. Beat together until shiny. It will thicken if left to sit on the counter for a while. After you frost the torte, dust it with flaked coconut or finely ground pecans. Put it uncovered in the refrigerator until needed. Bring to room temperature for serving.
ELAINE EPSTEIN’S FROZEN STRAWBERRY MERINGUE TORTE
I asked Epstein for her secret for making this torte so high and fluffy. She added one more cup of strawberries. I told her that I like to add in a mashed banana! Either way it’s delicious. She said that her husband, Eddie, usually slices this torte. “He does it the best and always manages to get the crust out perfectly!” So cut it right in the springform pan and have a plate ready, then drizzle on the strawberry sauce over the frozen piece. Elaine suggests using Manischewitz Strawberry Preserves or Atlas Strawberry spread with no sugar added. It comes with a “k-p” on it.
11/2 cups almond macaroons (Kosher for Passover; you can use chocolate too)
2 TBS. margarine, melted
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 large egg whites (room temperature)
1 cup sugar
3 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1 TBS. lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla (Passover — skip if you can’t find it)
1 10-oz. package frozen sliced strawberries
3 TBS. frozen undiluted orange juice
1 TBS. strawberry preserves (kosher for Passover)
1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
To make the crust, process macaroons, margarine and nuts until the mixture holds together. Press lightly into a greased 10 inch springform pan and bake for 7 to 10 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven. Go on the less side of baking. Cool.
Using a stand-up electric mixer, beat on low speed the egg whites, sugar, strawberries and lemon juice until well blended. Increase speed to high and beat until stiff peaks form (10 to 15 minutes). Pour into the cool crust and swirl the top to make a frosting design. Place in a freezer until firm uncovered (overnight or at least 6 hours). Remove from the freezer. Serve quickly frozen. Can keep for up to 3 weeks in the freezer, but wrap well. Serve with strawberry sauce.
SANDY GOLD’S FROZEN CHOCOLATE ROLL
This recipe came by the way of Sandy Gold, a true foodie in San Francisco. “Yummo!” as Rachel Ray would say. I tested it out in order to teach a class at Whole Foods last week. I forgot to put the damp tea towel on it so don’t do what I did -- read Gold’s directions and it will work out beautifully.
4 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate squares
1/4 hot water
4 eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 pint pareve whip cream (can use Cool Whip during the year)
Grease and line a jelly roll sheet: 15-by-111/2 inches. Hint: Spray the sheet and then the parchment paper.
Melt chocolate in a small bowl with the hot water. Cool slightly before adding to egg mixture. Beat egg yolks and sugar until creamy in a large bowl. Add cooled chocolate and mix well. Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. While beating, add a pinch of salt. Gently fold into chocolate egg mixture.
Pour into lined pan and spread out to edges. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 12 minutes. Turn oven off and leave in for 5 more minutes. Remove from oven. Immediately cover with a damp dish towel that has been squeezed of excess water. Let cool down for at least 20 minutes or move and then remove the tea towel. When cool, whip non dairy cream with sugar to taste. On the jelly roll pan, fill the top with cream. Begin rolling from the wide side of the pan using the parchment paper to help roll it up.
Grab a long serving plate and cover the plate with plastic wrap. Transfer chocolate roll to plate using the plastic wrap. Wrap the plastic all around and cover with foil. Freeze. When ready to eat, dust with shaved chocolate and serve either frozen or slightly defrost and serve as a cake with filling.
ELAINE’S MOUSTACHUDOS (NUT COOKIES)
Makes about 3 dozen delicious cookies.
11/2 cups finely chopped pecans
11/2 cups slivered almonds, finely chopped
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 TBS. honey
2 TBS. orange juice
1 tsp. orange rind
Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl to form a soft, workable mixture. Shape into balls about 1 inch in diameter. Wet hands to make this task easier.
Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes until slightly browned on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil. Allow to cool and harden before removing from the pan.
CANTOR BRAD KURLANDS’S CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL WITH SUPREME MATZO BALLS
Cantor Kurland makes this soup year round as well as for Passover. He taught how to make this soup at the Herzl Ner-Tamid Shabbat Cooking Class for Families. It was an event that Rabbi Rosenbaum organized so beautifully. Everyone who ate this soup claimed that it was the best ever.
4 to 5 Kosher chicken legs, thighs and necks
3-4 stalks of celery with leaves
3 carrots, peeled and cut into medium chunks
2 medium onions peeled and left whole
1 parsnip, peeled and cut into chunks (opt.)
1 small turnip, peeled and cut into chunks (opt.) or rutabaga
4 or 5 cloves of garlic
1 chunk of ginger root
salt and pepper to taste at the end
1 lemon, squeezed, use the juice and put it in at the end
1 cup of matzo meal
4 eggs, large or 8 egg whites
1/4 cup oil (use canola but for Passover use Kosher for Passover oil)
1/4 soda or sparkling water or plain water
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. parsley flakes
Place the chicken into a large pot filled with cold water. Bring to a boil and skim off the scum on top until clear. Add the remaining ingredients. Bring back to a boil and then turn to simmer or medium low and cook for 11/4 hours. Add a splash of lemon into the soup as it makes for an interesting touch. Serve with matzo balls.
Beat eggs, oil and water lightly with whisk. Combine with dry ingredients. Mix well. Refrigerate for an hour as this helps the matzo balls to remain round and fluffy. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rapid boil. Make small balls and drop into the pot. Boil for 20 minutes without raising the lid, then transfer into the soup.
Eileen Mintz can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 232-1984.