Chocolate Matzo Toffee

matzo chocolate toffee with almonds

Jeff hates matzo. Not surprising, really, since there isn’t much to like about matzo. Dry and bland, matzo isn’t meant to be tasty. And yet, we do just about everything we can to make it palatable. Never mind that enjoying it really sort of defeats the purpose, we’re pretty determined to make matzo delicious. And frankly, with enough butter, sugar and chocolate, just about anything is delicious – even matzo.
matzo candy with sea salt

There are some clever things done with matzo this time of year. There’s matzo ball soup, of course. And matzo kugel. Matzo brie is a personal favorite, along with matzo pizza. Some more creative folks make matzo lasagna or matzo sliders or matzo granola. Pretty fancy stuff when you’re starting with a humble cracker, and pretty tasty too. But Jeff won’t touch any of it. All I have to do is mention matzo and he leaves the kitchen.

So when I set out to make a lovely batch of chocolate matzo toffee, Jeff turned up his nose. But the smell of bubbling butter and sugar and the sweet scent of melted chocolate piqued his curiosity. When I handed him a nice big chocolatey piece he took a tiny, tentative, reluctant bite. And then he smiled.
chocolate matza

Yes, even Jeff, the ultimate matzo-hater, approves of chocolate matzo toffee. It’s that good. Sweet, buttery, and crunchy, it’s pretty much everything you could want in a treat. I topped half of my batch with toasted sliced almonds, and the other half with pretty pink Hawaiian salt. I happen to be partial to the combination of salt and chocolate, but you can feel free to use any toppings you like. Chopped dried fruit might be nice, or walnuts. But for the chocolate, I really do like to use the mini chocolate chips – they melt faster.

Happy Passover!

Chocolate Matzo Toffee

5 pieces whole wheat matzo
1/2 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
toasted nuts, flakey salt, or chopped dried fruit for toppings

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. On a large rimmed baking sheet, arrange the matzo pieces, breaking as needed to fit. In a saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together. Pour the butter and sugar mixture evenly over the matzo. Bake until the brown sugar mixture bubbles and darkens slightly, about 10 minutes. Remove the matzo from the oven and sprinkle evenly with the chocolate chips. Allow the chocolate to melt, about 5 minutes, and then use a spatula to spread the melted chocolate evenly over the matzo. Sprinkle with the toppings, and allow to cool at room temperature for 10 minutes, then transfer to the refrigerator and chill until very firm, about 2 hours. Once firm, break the chocolate matzo toffee into pieces and serve.

Published in: on March 27, 2013 at 6:34 pm  Comments (5)  
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Aunt Beth’s Chocolate Farfel Cookies

Let me say right of that bat that these are not cookies.  They aren’t really even close to cookies. So why do we call them cookies?  I have no idea.  Maybe it’s because they kind of, sort of look like cookies (if you squint)? Or maybe because we don’t know what else to call them? Or maybe it’s simply because we always have?

But just because these aren’t actually cookies doesn’t mean they aren’t actually wonderful.  They are really more of a chocolate confection than a cookie, but who cares?  They are yummy. And easy.  These days, I’m into easy. Aren’t we all?  My Aunt Beth is a serious cook, a woman with more delightful signature dishes than I could count, so why have I chosen to share with you only her simplest, quickest, no-cook recipe? Because I like them.I really, really like them.  I eat-them-for-breakfast, snatch-them-out-of-Jeff’s-hand like them.

These make  a great Passover treat, of course.  But you don’t really have to save them for Passover.  In fact, I made these “cookies” today not for Passover Seder, but to bring to Jeff’s grandmother’s house for Easter!

And you can feel free to just break matzo into tiny pieces instead of buying matzo farfel, if you prefer.  You can also get creative with the nuts and fruits.  I like the walnuts, but almonds work too, and pistachios are awesome.  Just be sure to toast whatever nuts you use, for maximum nutty flavor.  As for dried fruit, cranberries are great (especially with the pistachios) and so are cherries. Really, any combination will work.  And I’ve even been considering trying a white chocolate version, just for fun. 

passover recipe dessert candy

Aunt Beth’s Chocolate Farfel Cookies

Makes about two dozen

12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup golden raisins

1 cup chopped toasted walnuts

2 1/4 cups matzo farfel

pinch of salt

Slowly melt the chocolate over a double boiler or in 20-second bursts in the microwave, stirring often. In a large bowl, stir together the melted chocolate and remaining ingredients until everything is well coated with chocolate.  Line two baking sheets or trays with wax paper.  Using a tablespoon, drop dollops of the chocolate mixture onto the wax paper.  This is a messy process, so be prepared to use your fingers (and to lick off the chocolate later)! transfer the trays to the fridge and chill for at least an hour, until the chocolate hardens.  Remove from the fridge a few minutes before serving.  These “cookies” keep for a week stored in an airtight container in the fridge.

Published in: on April 6, 2012 at 8:40 pm  Comments (9)  
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Peanut Butter Balls

chocolate peanut butter candy

Over the weekend, in New York, I had a delicious wholesome lunch with two wonderful childhood friends.  There’s nothing like spending time with people who have known you your whole life over quinoa salad and sautéed brussels sprouts.

And there’s nothing like indulging in a chocolate truffle after filling your belly with organic veggies. Which is why, after taking a leisurely, sunny walk through Soho, I made a stop at Kee’s Chocolates (Kaffir lime infused dark chocolate truffle!) and then another at Jacques Torres (did you know they sell chocolate covered Cheerios?) and a final stop at Chocolate Bar (spicy milk chocolate!). 

I adore the beauty of a chocolate shop.  From a cozy corner confectionary serving steaming cocoa in china tea cups to an over-the-top high-end boutique with truffles displayed like jewels.  I love the smell of chocolate, the symmetry of each pretty little square.  How do they get each and every truffle, each caramel, each cherry cordial to shimmer with perfection? Every corner of every strawberry creme is an exact 90 degree angle, every morsel of cashew bark a slim parallelogram. 

And while I well never turn down a beautiful bon bon from the latest and greatest chocolatiers, I am just as content to enjoy a homemade, lopsided confection.  I’ve had dreams of opening my very own chocolate shop, but the dream vanishes when I remember that every truffle would have to be identical and perfect, over and over.  Perfect is simply not in my nature.  I like messy.  I like my jeans ripped and my wine glasses unmatched. I like my oddly shaped truffles and fingerprints in my turtles. 

These peanut butter balls (also called buckeyes) are perfect in their imperfection.  If they are slightly different sizes, so much the better.  If they aren’t perfectly round, that just makes them easier to bite.  These are homey chocolates.  These are chocolates that have no place in a velvet-lined glass case but every right to join in on Sunday dinner.  Peanut butter balls are beyond easy to make, and are ideal for kid kitchen helpers.  And no matter how awkwardly shaped they turn out, they will still be delicious.  How can you go wrong with peanut butter and chocolate?

These peanut butter balls would make a great addition to your Easter dessert spread.  They are also fantastic for Passover, if it’s your family or community tradition to consume peanuts on Passover.  Peanuts are a strange gray area.  As a nut, they would be generally considered acceptable Passover fare, but as a legume they come into question.  In any case, you can certainly substitute almond butter for the peanut butter if that works better for your needs.

chocolate buckeyes

Peanut Butter Balls

Makes about 5 dozen

1 cup crunchy peanut butter

1/4 cup salted butter, melted

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups powdered sugar

24 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

In a medium sized bowl, stir together the peanut butter, melted butter, vanilla, and sugar until well combined.  The mixture should be soft, but firm enough to form into balls (if too soft add a bit more sugar). Roll the mixture into 1-inch balls and arrange on a baking sheet lined with wax paper.  Refrigerate the balls for at least an hour.

Melt the chocolate very slowly over a double boiler, or in 20-second bursts in the microwave, stirring often whichever method you choose.  Dip each peanut butter ball in chocolate, carefully tapping off the excess. (Although messy, I find this easiest to do with my hands. You could use a fancy dipping spoon, or simply pierce each ball with a toothpick and use that to neatly dip it in the chocolate.  But hands are most fun!) Place each chocolate coated peanut butter ball on the wax paper lined baking sheet.  Refrigerate until the chocolate hardens.  Remove from the refrigerator a few minutes before serving.  They will keep in a container in the fridge for up to a week.

Published in: on April 1, 2012 at 6:33 pm  Comments (14)  
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Blackberry Almond Breakfast Clafoutis

clafoutis

I wanted to share my grandmother’s Passover brisket recipe with all of you.  But no matter how many times I fiddle with the proportions, or adjust the oven temperature, it still doesn’t taste like Nannie’s.  While I’ve happily tweaked some of Nannie’s recipes, including her Hanukkah Latkes and her Chocolate Zucchini Loaf, the brisket is sacred. I have a few more tricks to try, and as soon as I get it right I promise to share. But in the meantime, a breakfast treat.

Rich and saucy brisket may be the iconic Passover seder dish, but after two nights of brisket, potato kugel, charoset and macaroons, even deliciously iconic gets old. And matzo for breakfast for eight days? No, thank you.

berries

This sweet and hearty clafoutis breaks up the days in which oatmeal, toast and cereal are off limits. A typical French clafoutis is a light, fruity and eggy dessert, but anytime I can swing dessert for breakfast, I go for it. And why not? Eggs, berries, almonds… sounds like breakfast to me.  You could serve this for dessert, if you like, with a bit of gently whipped cream.  But at breakfast, a dollop of Greek yogurt does the trick.

I love the big, juicy blackberries here.  But feel free to change it up with other fruits, or even a mixture of fruits.  Early spring strawberries would be lovely. 

passover recipe clafoutis

Blackberry Almond Breakfast Clafoutis

Serves 2

nonstick cooking spray

1 cup fresh blackberries

2 eggs

1/4 cup half and half

1/4 cup almond meal

pinch of cinnamon

3 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Coat a small baking dish with cooking spray.  Beat the eggs until frothy.  Beat in the cream, almond meal, and cinnamon.  Pour the mixture over the berries and sprinkle with the sugar.  Bake until puffed, brown, and set in the center, about 35 minutes. Serve warm, with Greek yogurt if desired.

A note on the baking dish: you can double the recipe and bake in a 9-inch square pan, if you prefer.  To prepare the recipe for just two servings, feel free to use whatever small oven-safe dish you have on hand. This is a very forgiving recipe!  But the larger the dish, the more the batter will spread out, and the less cooking time you will need. So keep an eye on the clafoutis as it bakes.

Published in: on April 14, 2011 at 7:55 pm  Comments (20)  
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Baking for Passover

chocolate meringue cookies

I suppose that for some folks Passover is a miserable stretch of deprivation.  But Passover has always been my favorite holiday. and while I am one of the few nuts out there who actually enjoys matzoh, it’s not just because of the crackers.  Well, ok, it’s partially because of the matzoh (egg matzoh spread with good butter and a sprinkle of salt).

fresh mangoEvery year I tell myself that I’ll lose a few pounds at Passover, what with skipping all that leavened goodness.  But that never seems to happen, in fact quite the opposite. I adore Passover food.  Jeff and I have a running joke that all Jews eat is bagels and fish (Jeff even made up a song about bagels and fish – no joke).  But even Jeff has to admit that with no bagels allowed, we pull out all the stops and put out a pretty irresistable spread. I can’t say no to brisket or potato kugel. And my mom’s matzoh brei (matzoh dipped in egg and fried in chicken fat) is the stuff of dreams – well, my kind of crazy food-obsessed dreams, anyway.  Given that flour is off-limits you might think that Passover desserts are not an issue, but you’d be wrong.  Oh, I’ve had my share of icky matzoh-meal brownies and sandy angel food cakes.  But then there are the fabulous flourless chocolate cakes, and the coconut macaroons, and the matzoh brittles, and the cheesecakes.  And, of course these lovely egg-white concoctions. 

mango pavlovas

I don’t know why I don’t make meringue cookies more often.  They are light and  delicious, and in the grand scheme of cookies, relatively healthy.  And these mini pavlovas are so easy and yet so impressive that they would be the perfect dessert for a back-yard garden party.  If you have never made pavlovas, they are truly heaven.  Pillowy meringue topped with creamy goodness and sweet fruit.  What’s not to love? The key with both the cookies and the pavlovas is quality.  With so few ingredients, each one really counts.  Use great chocolate for the meringue cookies (you all know my fondness for Green & Blacks) and be sure you have a perfectly ripe mango for the pavlovas.  You won’t be sorry.

 

chocolate meringue cookies

Chocolate Meringue Cookies

Makes 2 dozen

cooking spray

2 teaspoons matzoh meal (or all-purpose flour)

3 egg whites

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup finely chopped dark chocolate

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.  Coat two baking sheets with spray, sprinkle with matzoh meal and shake off the excess.  In a very clean bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar with an electric mixer until soft peaks form.  Add in the sugar and continue to beat until glossy.  Fold in the chocolate and vanilla.  Drop tablespoonfuls of the batter on prepared cookie sheets. Bake for one hour and then turn off the oven and let sit for another hour.  Cookies will keep a couple of days in an airtight container.

mango pavlovas

Lemon-Mango Pavlovas

Serves 6

2 egg whites

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons potato starch (or corn starch)

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup sour cream

1 large mango, diced

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until soft peaks form.  Add the sugar and beat until glossy.  Sprinkle the potato starch over the egg whites, add the lemon zest and juice and the vanilla and fold gently to incorporate.  Spoon the egg whites into six mounds on the parchment, creating a slight indentation in the middle of each mound.  Bake 50-60 minutes, until slightly golden, and then carefully transfer to a rack to cool.  Once fully cooled top each meringue base with a dollop of sour cream and some of the chopped mango.  Serve with plenty of napkins as these can get messy!

Published in: on March 26, 2010 at 8:23 pm  Comments (26)  
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