Happy Passover and Happy Easter everyone!
I know you were all looking forward to the follow-up to last week’s sweet potato cheesecake recipe to find out what I did with all the extra filling. That will be coming next week. I bumped it a week so I could bring you this post. It’s one I wanted to bring you in a timely fashion, while it was still, you know, timely.
In honor of it being Passover, I wanted to share with you a recipe specifically made for the holiday. For those of you who don’t know, Passover is a Jewish holiday that brings particular challenges when baking. You’re not supposed to eat bread, use wheat flour or leavening, as well as other restrictions depending on your beliefs. I only sometimes keep to these traditions. However, since I love a good challenge when I bake, I thought I would bake a dessert appropriate for the holiday.
To start with I did some research, and I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. Growing up there didn’t seem to be a lot of choices, but when I looked now, I found a bunch of good recipes. There were some flourless chocolate cakes, lots of recipes with nuts, and all sorts of other interesting things. And after looking through them all, I had a brainstorm. Instead of using a new recipe, why not try to adapt an existing recipe to make it Passover friendly?
I decided on my (maybe one day) world-famous millionaire’s shortbread. There are lots of recipes out there that use matzah meal. (Matzah is unleavened bread eaten on Passover. Matzah meal is matzah which is ground up and used like flour.) After some further digging around, I found a matzah meal shortbread recipe.
But I wasn’t out of the woods yet. To further complicate things, I decided to make it parve. That is to say, without meat or milk products. This way it would be kosher (in accordance with the Jewish dietary rules) regardless of what the meal was. (Kosher rules are complicated. A good overview is here.) I don’t normally keep kosher, but I figured that as long as I was making it kosher for Passover, I might as well make it kosher all around.
That meant finding a non-dairy substitute for the butter (margarine) and the sweetened condensed milk (coconut milk), as well as using dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate. No problem. (I did that for the vegan version I made before.) But Passover complicates it again. Depending on your traditions (and believe me there are many), other items are also not allowed. Corn and beans are not allowed by traditions that my family generally follows. So that meant going without the corn syrup, which is something I’ve been considering anyway. But many of the butter alternatives have soybean oil in them. The one I ended up going with was Earth Balance coconut spread. I looked at the ingredients, and it looked okay to me. (I welcome any comments if I missed something.)
I made a couple of other substitutions. I used applesauce instead of an egg. Mainly I did it so I wouldn’t have to get a whole container of eggs just so I could use one. But it also had the added benefit of making the recipe vegan. (Shortbread doesn’t normally have eggs, but my guess is it was added to compensate for the dryness of the matzah meal.) Another substitution I made was using matzah cake meal instead of matzah meal. It was what they had at the store. And while I had never heard of it before this year, it turned up in a lot of recipes I found. It turns out it’s finer than matzah meal, which seemed like a good thing.
At first, I made only the shortbread to see how it would work out. I figured if that worked, it would be okay, as I had done the rest before. The recipe I found was from Australia. It called for a lamington tin. I’m assuming that’s common in Australia, but I had never heard of it. Thanks to the Internet, I found out that it’s roughly the same as a 9 x 13 dish. (Thank you internet!) The recipe also said to cook at 350° C. I know they use Celsius there, but that’s ridiculously hot. No cookies I know of would be happy at that temperature, so I had to assume they meant 350° F.
Before I put the shortbread together, I lined a 9 x 13 dish with parchment paper. I solved the issue of the paper not staying put by using pie weights. (Take that parchment paper!) While I was putting it together, I broke my own bowl rule and got a bowl that was too small. The bowl I started with was dishwasher safe and I was trying to save on cleanup. But I had to go to a bigger bowl anyway. That was mostly because I used a mixer. I don’t normally for shortbread, but I was making enough substitutions in this, so I thought it would be best to do as much as I could of what the recipe said. The dough mixed up well and the texture looked right. I put it into the dish and used my hands to press it into shape. I baked it for 30 minutes at 350° F.
It smelled good while baking. And 30 minutes was just the right amount of time. It was nice and golden around the edges, but otherwise roughly the same color (which was a little darker than shortbread normally looks thanks to the color of the “flour”). It smelled a little like matzah, a little like coconut. I tried a few bits around the edges to see how it was, because I wanted to make sure the shortbread was okay before proceeding. It tasted good. Phew! I let it cool. I had to go out anyway, so I left the rest to do at another time.
When I returned to work on it, I made the caramel. I basically followed the details from the vegan version I had made. I originally thought I was doing one and a half times my regular recipe because of the size of the shortbread. But then I realized it was about double. I had enough butter substitute and brown sugar, but I was a little short on the coconut milk (3 1/2 cups instead of 4). I used the same Earth Balance coconut spread as in the shortbread, good old regular brown sugar, and Goya coconut milk. I also omitted the corn syrup.
I’m not surprised it smelled like coconut while making it. I was using coconut instead of butter and milk. It took about an hour to make. I was prepared for that, as it took a while last time I used coconut milk. I was able to do it at a reasonable heat, and it didn’t bubble up too much. I tasted a little bit. It was not the best tasting caramel I ever made, but it was okay. I poured it over the shortbread and used a spatula to smooth it out.
Next step, the chocolate. Easy, except for one thing. I didn’t have enough cause I was making a double recipe. I thought I had some extra chocolate around that was suitable, but I didn’t. So I put the shortbread/caramel away in the fridge.
I picked up some chocolate while I was out the next day. It wasn’t as easy as I thought. Finding dark chocolate was easy, but finding dark chocolate that didn’t have soy (soy lecithin, an emulsifier, was in a bunch of them) or that wasn’t made on equipment that also processed wheat or milk products, was much harder. (As I said, lots of rules.) I ended up with half really nice chocolate (Green & Black’s) that I had already purchased, and half what I managed to find at Duane Reade, which was store brand, but seemed decent.
I now had 400 grams of chocolate. I only needed 380. So I broke off what I needed and melted it in the microwave. I pulled the shortbread covered in caramel out of the fridge and poured the chocolate over it. I used a spoon to spread it around evenly. I did the little cleanup I needed and by that time the chocolate was already mostly cooled, as the shortbread/caramel was pretty cold. I put it in the fridge to finish setting.
And now for the 64 million(aire) dollar question. How did it work out? First impression: not the best millionaire’s shortbread I’ve ever made. But I’m kinda impressed it worked at all given the restrictions. The shortbread was okay, but a little dry and crumbly, not soft and a little crumbly like shortbread should be. Maybe it should have been cooked a little less? Maybe it already dried out? Or maybe that’s the way the (shortbread) cookie crumbles given the ingredients.
The caramel tasted kinda like caramel. In some bites, it didn’t taste much like caramel, but in some bites it totally did. The caramel also tasted a little bit like coconut. It wasn’t overpowering, but it was noticeable. The chocolate itself was fine. Nothing special, just decent chocolate.
By the way, this was one of the messier ones to cut. I figured out where I wanted to cut the chocolate, and cut notches in it to mark the spots. But when I went to cut, the chocolate broke where it wanted to break, not where I wanted to cut it. I tried to pre-cut some of the lines to see if that would help, but it didn’t. I thought maybe if the chocolate cooled, it would be easier. It wasn’t. It still broke apart, with the added issue that the caramel was also oozing. So it wasn’t the prettiest looking shortbread, but it finally got cut. I cut it 6 by 9 to end up with 54 cookies. I brought 36 of the nicest looking ones to the seder that my parents were hosting.
What did others think of them? I may have been a little bit too harsh on myself. Everyone enjoyed them. Some people thought they were good. Some people thought they were great. Even some people who weren’t keeping kosher for Passover tried them and liked them. So I guess they turned out better than I thought.
One other thing I’ll mention is that they are a little meltier than usual. The chocolate and shortbread are fine, but the caramel melts more quickly. The caramel doesn’t melt completely, but it starts to ooze, and the cookies fall apart because the caramel is in the middle. It’s best to keep these refrigerated and bring them out a little bit before you’re going to eat them.
So now that you’ve heard my tale of Passover baking, I’d love to hear yours. What did you bake? Was it a Passover original or an adaptation of a non-Passover recipe? How did it turn out? And if you get a chance to try this recipe, I’d love to hear about that too. Let me know in the comments below.
Normally this is where I would just link to the original recipe. But since this is a frankenstein of three different recipes, and I’ve made a lot of changes, I think it’s best to write it all out and link to the sources.
Original Matzah Shortbread recipe courtesy of Solomon’s. Original Vegan Millionaire’s Shortbread recipe courtesy of The Every Day Veggie. Original Millionaire’s Shortbread recipe courtesy of Allrecipes.com. (Also thank you to Allrecipes.com for the cup to gram conversions I used.)
For the shortbread:
200g Earth Balance coconut spread
1/3 cup applesauce
2 cups matzah cake meal
For the caramel:
227g Earth Balance coconut spread
220g brown sugar
4 cups coconut milk (I only used 3 1/2, but it should be 4)
For the chocolate topping:
380 grams dark chocolate
To make the shortbread, use a mixer to mix together the coconut spread and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Mix in the applesauce. Stir in the matzah cake meal until combined. Line a 9 x 13 baking dish with parchment paper. Spread evenly into the bottom of the dish. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.
To make the caramel, add the coconut spread, brown sugar, and coconut milk into a saucepan. Cook until it’s boiling. Then reduce heat to medium and stir. Keep stirring till it thickens into caramel. (For me that was about 1 hour. YMMV.) Pour over the shortbread and spread evenly.
To make the chocolate topping, break the chocolate into small pieces and put into a microwave safe dish. Microwave for 1 minute and stir. Keep microwaving it in 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until it’s smooth. Pour over the caramel, and spread evenly.
Chill until firm. Remove from dish, peel away parchment paper, and cut into squares. Enjoy!