A lot of people dread the week-long holiday of Passover because of its slightly restrictive dietary rules. In all honesty, it’s really not all that bad. Sure, if you eat a lot of matzo all week long, you may end up being so bloated you resemble a matzo ball. But in reality there are many foods that you’re still able to eat during the holiday, not involving the dreaded matzo.
The key is to find recipes that you make during the year that happen to involve all ingredients allowed on Passover. The fewer Passover substitutions, the better. For example, potatoes are fine, as are eggs, meat, fruits and veggies..or your favorite flourless chocolate cake recipe ;) If you have a recipe that involves a scant amount of flour, replacing it with matzo flour (see below for description) or potato starch is fine. Obviously trying to bake a regular cake wouldn’t work, as flour is a primary ingredient. Catch my drift?
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the holiday, Passover commemorates the story of the Exodus, in which the ancient Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt. When Pharaoh freed the Israelites, it is said that they left in such a hurry that they could not wait for bread to rise. In commemoration, for the duration of Passover no leavened bread is eaten. Matzo (flat unleavened bread) is the primary symbol of the holiday.
Thus, many passover foods revolve around this dry (and not very tasty) cracker. Although you can’t use flour during the holiday, the way of getting around this is to use something called Matzo Flour/Matzo Meal which is simply ground-up matzo in a powdered/coarsely ground form. Again, this is only recommended in recipes in which there is not a HUGE amount of flour, but for the most part, it should work.
Which brings me to one of my favorite recipes ever: Apricot Chocolate Torte. This recipe actually calls for regular flour and is not a passover recipe at all, but when the simple matzo flour substitution is made, it tastes identical to real thing. This is one of my all time favorite desserts and I often find myself making it at Thanksgiving as well. My mom has been making this for years and I had no idea where it came from (and I’m not sure if she did either) but when I googled the title, it turns out she must have found it on the back of the apricot box :)
Apricot Chocolate Torte
Recipe adapted from the back of the apricot box!
11 oz. dried apricots, chopped
1-1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
3 Tablespoons matzo CAKE meal-not matzo meal (or regular flour)*
Juice from ½ fresh lemon
3 oz. Unsweetened chocolate
2 cups whole walnuts
1.5 cups matzo CAKE meal (or regular flour)
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted margarine, chilled, cut into pieces **
2 tablespoons cold water
2 teaspoon vanilla
1 oz. shaved semi-sweet chocolate for garnish
Combine all ingredients in heavy saucepan. Bring slowly to a boil over low heat. Reduce heat & simmer, stirring frequently and mashing any large pieces of apricot, until mixture resembles thick jam – about 25 minutes.
Preheat oven 350°F
Place chocolate in bowl of processor and chop roughly. Add nut and chop coarsely. Add flour, sugar & salt then blend. (Bits of chocolate and walnut should be clearly visible). Add butter & process to blend. Add water and vanilla then mix, pulsing the on/off button of your food process until mixture is crumbly.
In an 8 or 9 inch Springform pan, pat 2/3 of dough into the bottom and 1 inch up the sides. Add filling. Crumble additional dough over the top to cover. Bake 40 minutes. Let cool.
Decorate top with shaved chocolate if desired.
*Feel free to use regular flour in place of the matzo flour and use this recipe all year long!
**Use butter in place of margarine when not making for Passover.