Cooking with Copy: Passover desserts
The first thing we tried this week in the Copy Kitchen was a matzo apple crisp. Caro made this with Johanna two years ago, and it was a rousing success, eliciting “OMG”s and “yum”s from everyone who tried it. Its filling resembles your average apple crisp, made with the standard though delicious combination of apples, sugar and cinnamon. (And we’re not kidding when we say delicious. We were eating the uncooked sugar-and-cinnamon-covered apples out of the bowl before we realized that if we kept it up, there would be nothing left to cook.) The topping of the crisp, however, trades the traditional flour/oats combo for matzo meal.
In more specific terms, the recipe, which was sort of made up by Caro and Johanna in their desperate search for a kosher dessert during Passover 2010, calls for six apples (preferably a mix of a couple of types of baking apples) to be peeled, cored and cut into about eight wedges each. Move the apple wedges to a large bowl, where you will toss them with a quarter cup of white sugar and a teaspoon of cinnamon. Transfer the cinnamon-sugar-coated apples to a pan, assuming you can abstain from eating them all, and proceed to make the final component: the topping. Use your fingers to blend together one and a half cups of crushed matzo, one stick of butter, two teaspoons of cinnamon and a rounded quarter cup of sugar until the mixture resembles coarse meal in texture. Take all of the topping and press it over and into the apples in the pan. Bake the crisp at 400 degrees for 40 minutes and revel in apple cinnamon glory.While we had high hopes for the recipe based on Caro and Johanna’s prior triumph, this particular crisp fell flat for us. Our first mistake was thinking that we knew our oven. Usually it heats at a lower temperature than it says on its display, which results in us cooking food for longer than recipes specify. Naturally we assumed that cooking this baby according to the recipe would, if anything, leave it undercooked. So, the plan was to take it out after cooking for the stated 40 minutes and then most likely put it right back into the oven to keep going. No such luck. Despite following the instructions to cook for 40 minutes at 400 degrees, when we removed our delightfully fragrant crisp from the oven, the apples had lost all structural integrity. Sadly, what we removed from the oven could be best described as slightly burnt applesauce.
Our other mistake was our decision to make some alterations to the original recipe’s ingredients. For one, due to the unavailability of matzo meal at Millbrook Market, we settled for the Manischewitz Passover Matzo Crackers in stock and crushed them as finely as possible. Next, we used only Granny Smith apples. Lastly, we cut down on the amount of butter in the recipe and added a dash (or one dash too many, but we’ll talk about that later) of salt. We’re not sure if it was the overly cracker-like flavor of the topping, the super-tartness of the apples, some unidentifiable effect of the reduced amount of butter, or the salt, but something was way off. We both agreed that we were disappointed by the baby-food-like texture of the apples, that the flavor resembled that of crackers too closely, that we wished the crisp was sweeter, and, unfortunately, that we would definitely not make or eat this crisp again by choice without some modifications. (Perhaps a return to the original recipe … who would have thought?)
A note: Making this crisp brought us to a heated altercation over the issue of salt. Half of the Copy Kitchen believes that salt brings out the flavors of the topping on an otherwise bland crisp, but the other half is a stickler for directions and, since salt wasn’t listed as an ingredient, wouldn’t put it in. Either way, we’re united on the fact that half a teaspoon should never be added. Less is more.
Thankfully, when we were just about to call it a discouraging day following our apple crisp disappointment, we were lured back to the kitchen by one of our favorite smells: caramelizing sugar. Johanna was creating another one of her inventive kosher-for-Passover treats, and this one happened to be Lauren’s personal favorite. This matzo toffee, made up of three layers—matzo, actual toffee, and chocolate—leaves little to dislike.
First, line a large flat pan with tin foil and lay down a single layer of matzo to cover the entire pan. Then, melt two sticks of butter and one cup of packed dark brown sugar in a saucepan. Clearly, this is leading to great things. The key is to continue moving the mixture around as it caramelizes so that you don’t end up with burnt sugar, which is not delicious to smell or to taste; or to chip off of your cooking vessel, for that matter. Next, pour this delicious melted, buttery toffee concoction atop the matzo and spread it evenly. Then put the whole thing in the oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes and watch to make sure it doesn’t burn. By the time it is ready, the toffee should be extremely bubbly, so do not be alarmed if you peek into the oven and fear that it is about to bubble over the pan. After the 15 minutes, remove the pan from the oven. Almost immediately (Don’t burn yourself!) sprinkle on a cup of semisweet chocolate chips, allow them to melt, and use a spatula to smooth them into the perfect third layer of your candy.
As it sets, the toffee seeps through the holes in the matzo, making it even more delicious. The result is a large, flat slab of crunchy chocolate-covered toffee that, once cooled, can be broken up into bite-sized pieces. According to Lauren, a fan of butter and toffee alike, this is the best thing ever, but Caro—who loves butter above many, many things—was shocked to find the butteriness of this candy to be just too much for her to handle. When we took it into the office to be photographed, though, it was hard to keep greedy hands off, which should speak for its appeal and deliciousness in the opinions of most people.
So there you have it: a couple of options for diversifying your menu over the remaining days of kosher eating. These options are wonderful eaten alone or taken to a seder to share with others. Enjoy and have a happy Passover!