It struck me as I was making these cookies for the first time earlier this winter: They're kosher for Passover! I had come across the recipe for Chocolate-dipped Florentines months earlier and stashed it in my "try sometime" file. The recipe attracted me with its few ingredients, ease of preparation and promised flavors. Nuts and chocolate -- what could be bad?
My invitation to a bring-something dinner with a few other women created the perfect occasion to try it.
I was thrilled with the results -- the Florentines looked like something a fancy bakery would turn out, quite an achievement for a middling baker like me. And they were delicious -- light and crisp, tasting of almonds and chocolate with a hint of orange. Made with ingredients we've now learned are part of a healthy diet, with a modest amount of sugar, they could be eaten with little guilt. The other women oohed and aahed when they saw them and later made sure I shared the recipe.
The fact that the cookies were within the dictates of Passover was, ahem, the icing on the cake. They joined my traditional Passover cookie favorite by not being specifically formulated for the holiday.
Unlike usual Passover baked goods, both of these recipes avoid matzo in any form and require no potato starch. They meet Passover requirements in that they don't include the flours and leavening agents prohibited by the holiday. (They're also, therefore, gluten-free.)
My traditional recipe, Chocolate-Chip Walnut Meringues, I bake and serve to family and friends, Jewish and non, throughout the year. The cookies are always adored. I suspect their appeal lies in their high proportion of nuts to egg whites. Unlike other meringues, which tend to be light and airy, these have the satisfying chew of a real cookie. My first bite, at a meeting at the house of a fellow member of my congregation during Passover many years ago, convinced me the recipe was a keeper. I even brought them to my sons-in-laws when they invited us for Thanksgiving dinner two years ago. I plan to make similar use of the Florentines.
Either or both of these cookies would make a wonderful light finish to the Passover Seder, the commemorative feast held the first two nights of the holiday. They also can be happily noshed throughout the eight days of the holiday when taste buds and digestive systems can balk at an overload of matzo.
1 large egg white, at room temperature
1/3 cup powdered sugar (use kosher confectioners' sugar or superfine or process granulated sugar to make it more fine)
Pinch of salt
Grated zest of half an orange (I used more)
13/4 cup blanched sliced almonds (I found this worked out to an 8-ounce bag)
1/4 cup to 1/3 cup chocolate chips or 2 to 3 ounces chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper brushed very lightly with neutral vegetable oil.
Whisk together egg white, sugar, salt and orange zest. Add almonds and mix all ingredients together. With wet hands or a spoon, place heaping tablespoons of the batter on the cookie sheet.
Keep a small bowl of cold water and a fork nearby and, once you've covered the cookie sheet, dip the fork in cold water and flatten each cookie as much as possible. They will seem like loose heaps of almonds that won't stick together -- but they will! This is when you're creating the final shape of the cookies, so make sure there are no gaps between the almonds or loose pieces coming off the edges.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown. Exact time will vary based on the size of your cookies. (My cookies were large. I got 15 rather than 20 to 25 and baked them a few minutes longer.) To check on doneness, lift the bottom of a cookie with a metal spatula to check and see it's cooked through. The cookies are done when they're brown across top and bottom.
Let cookies cool, then lift with a thin metal spatula and place them on a cooling rack until crisp.
To add chocolate:
Melt chocolate in a clean, dry bowl or on a plate, stirring until smooth. I used the microwave, in short bursts of 20 to 30 seconds to avoid burning the chocolate. Flip the cooled cookies over, and brush the underside of each cookie with a thin layer of chocolate. Alternatively, dip each cookie halfway up in the melted chocolate. Or unleash your inner Jackson Pollock: dip a fork in the melted chocolate and drizzle it over the Florentines in a zigzag pattern.
Let cool in a cool place or the refrigerator until firm. Once firm, store in an airtight container at room temperature.
Makes 20 to 25 cookies.
-- Adapted from David Lebovitz's adaption of a recipe in "Ottolenghi: The Cookbook (Ebury, 2010)
Chocolate Chip-Walnut Meringues
I always double the recipe. Like other meringues, it's probably best not to attempt them on a humid or rainy day.
2 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
4 drops vanilla
Pinch of salt
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1 cup chocolate chips
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with foil, preferably non-stick foil.
Beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually add sugar then vanilla. Beat until stiff peaks form. Add salt, nuts and chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoons onto cookie sheets. Place in oven. Immediately turn oven off, leave overnight.
-- Barbara Richter Kobrin
Elizabeth Boltson Gordon is a writer in Point Breeze: email@example.com.