a Macaroon Epiphany

Until the gluten free movement put the flavor back into flourless foods, Passover bakery goods tasted like sawdust. For forever, the only Passover-approved cookie available at the grocery was an almond macaroon. Like a beloved family tradition, those icky sweet orbs have been passed off from one generation to the next as the holiday’s go-to sweet. Falling into the ancestral way, I’ve been serving almond nuggets for over 30 years, until this year, when I experienced a macaroon epiphany.

Ever so sick and tired of the packaged cookie, I turned to my cookbooks for a macaroon review.

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A 1913 recipe for a Cocoanut Macaroon called for 1 grated cocoanut, 1/2 its weight in sugar, and the white of 1 egg. A mixture like a paste was to be worked into balls the size of a nutmeg and baked fifteen to twenty minutes in a slow oven.

While a perusal of recipes from later decades provided a tad more direction, apparent was the macaroon is no newcomer when it comes to the homemade treat scene.

More of a surprise is the simplicity of ingredients that are a modern macaroon.

You’ll Need:  14 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

The Mixing Directions:  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees
Combine the coconut, condensed milk, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whip the egg whites and salt on high speed until firm peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture.
Using 2 teaspoons, take generous dips into the mixture and drop onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper. Don’t smooth or compact into neat cookie “balls.” Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Cool, then store airtight to maintain freshness.

Step it up a notch: After cooling, dip 1/2 of a macaroon into melted dark chocolate; then place on a parchment covered cookie sheet. To harden the chocolate, set sheet in the freezer or refrigerator. Store airtight.

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The resulting cookie is a Passover game changer. Irresistibly yummy, it’s impossible to eat just one, so smarten up from the get go and double the output.

It would seem no contest between a delectable macaroon and a macaroon with a shelf life

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of two years, but not so, according to my tradition-besotted husband. Each bite of almond, macaroons_cannister in cupboard www

he says, is a sensory memory trigger, taking him back to a time when his parents were alive and as a family, they gathered at the Passover table.

His response gave me pause.

Perhaps when it comes to tradition and our holidays, a tastier macaroon isn’t necessarily better.

xx EllynAnne

Setting the Table

The Seder is a meal of ritual.  While there can be some playing around with the menu, sacrosanct are the serving of matzo ball soup and the absence of flour in any recipe.

Never a fan of the matzo ball, I handed off this part of the meal for many years to a friend’s mother, who was delighted to bring her specialty to the table. Sadly, Sibi died and with her went the BEST matzo ball soup in the world, this according to my family. Sibi’s replacement soup provider arrives with two pots still bubbling from her stove, as well as her own ladle. Such preparedness is my own little prayer answered.

Baking a flourless dessert is, thankfully, not the hassle of years ago.

This recipe from Country Living magazine is my go-to. It’s a cake so delicious as to deserve an appearance more than once a year.

Chocolate-Almond Torte

Special equipment – a spring form cake pan

2 sticks unsalted butter cut into small pieces

9 ounces good quality dark chocolate, chopped

6 large eggs, separated

2/3 cup superfine sugar

½ cup fined ground almonds

· Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10” spring form cake pan.

· In a heatproof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, melt butter and chocolate together. Stir until smooth. Set bowl aside to cool.

· In another bowl, whisk egg yolks with sugar until pale and fluffy. Gradually pour melted chocolate mixture into egg mixture, stirring constantly. Now, fold in the almonds. Set bowl aside.

· In a large bowl, using an electric mixer set on medium speed, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture until just combined.

· Pour this mixture into the spring form pan and bake for 35 minutes. (torte will be very moist in the middle).

· Cool in the pan about 1 hour. Then undo spring form. Now you have the torte on the pan bottom. Slide a spatula (or long piece of dental floss) to loosen the torte from the bottom. Then use the spatula to push/slide the torte onto a serving plate.

In a corner of the dining room is the dessert table. The torte offers a wonderful landscape for a plop of whipped cream with a sprinkle of blackberries and raspberries.


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For those who believe fruit is dessert – a peach compote with a side of macaroon. Fresh mint is a pretty topper for both desserts.

With the meal in hand, I can revel in setting the table with an heirloom embroidered cloth, not of my own inheritance, but of a purchase at a second hand store. Cast off by one family, it is a part of my family’s holiday table.

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Such beauty reminds me of the importance of remembering those who once graced our tables at holidays and how filling their seats with new families and friends is a testament to their memories…like a good matzo ball, gone but never forgotten.

Whether searching for the Passover matzo or a golden Easter egg, may this year’s holiday be beautifully blessed.

xx EllynAnne

Hide & Seek at Passover and Easter

This week-end celebrates Passover and Easter, which is especially exciting news for the egg industry. Poultry farmers are ringing up sales as the hard boiled egg is featured within both holidays.

For Passover, the egg is a symbolic food, as well as a key ingredient to a flour-less torte dessert.
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For Easter, the egg provides one of childhood’s happiest experiences:
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Growing up in the South and the only Jewish family in the neighborhood, our parents allowed my siblings and I might participate in the fun of Easter through dyeing eggs and holding our own egg hunts in the backyard.

With our little record player on hand, we sang along to the one Easter song permitted, as we colored dozens of eggs.
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When our friends returned from church and sat down to their Sunday dinner, my brothers and I were playing Peter Cottontail to our three little sisters, hiding the eggs over and over and over in the tall grass of the backyard.
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I have wonderful memories of those days and wanted that same fun for my own little boys.

As one of a handful of Jewish families in our town, my husband and I did as my parents had done and sanctioned the egg hunt. To every hunt advertised, our boys were there, running about with their little baskets, gathering eggs and candies and having the most fun.

It’s been decades since those days, and with children no longer about, so has there been no egg coloring nor hiding nor hunting.

As I was setting the Passover table last night, and placing the ceremonial hard boiled egg into its spot on the Seder plate, I suddenly thought about a particular someone and whether her Easter might use a bit of whimsy and surprise.
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So today, I purchased a bag of jelly beans, filling a vintage egg holder to overflowing.  Adorable, yes, but missing something…

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                                  Ta Dah!
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Holidays like Passover and Easter are so very rich in tradition. Whether matzo ball soup or a baked ham, hiding the matzo or hunting colorful eggs, what’s important is as we celebrate, not a seat at the table is empty.

Chocolate Almond Torte – recipe from Country Living magazine
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2 sticks plus 2 T                     1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter
unsalted butter cut                       a 10-inch springform cake pan.
into small pieces

9  oz good quality                   2. In a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering
chocolate, chopped                    water, melt butter and chocolate together.
                                                  Stir until combined. Set aside to cool.

6 lg eggs, separated                3. In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks with
2/3 cup superfine                        sugar until pale and fluffy. Gradually pour
sugar                                          melted chocolate into egg mixture, stirring
                                                  constantly. Fold in almonds. Set aside.

1/2 cup almonds,                   4. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer set
finely chopped                           on medium high speed, beat egg whites
                                                 until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites into
                                                 prepared pan and bake for 35 minutes.

Torte will be very moist in the middle. Transfer torte to a wire rack and
cool completely in the pan, about 1 hour.  Serves 10-12. Nicely topped
with whipped cream and fresh berries.

Tie One On…an apron, of course!

a Passover Rescue by Country Living Magazine

Raised in a southern Reform Jewish home, I’m a tad wanting when it comes to the exactness of the culinary requirements for the strictly traditional Passover meal. Knowing this about myself, our seder guest list always includes someone who grew up in a more traditional Jewish home and therefore, knows how to make matzo ball soup, without which a Passover seder simply cannot occur.

Alas, my most honored and eldest invitee for this honor passed away last year, and with her, the best matzo ball soup ever, according to Gideon, my youngest. So this year’s matzo ball soup fell to me. I, who do not eat grits because of the texture, haven’t actually eaten a matzo ball either…again, a texture thing.

So I turned to the internet, where I discovered the shiska and her recipe for matzo ball soup success: the boxed soup mix by Manischewitz; then, on to my trusty issues of Cooks Illustrated and the Test Kitchen results for the best boxed chicken broth: Swanson’s Certified Organic. Following the directions for both, I placed a brimming pot of mb soup in the refrigerator and shut the door.

The Seder meal takes days to prepare. The pot of soup joined the already-refrigerated dessert, a compote marinating in champagne (actually, the fruit was resting in a prosecco bath, because I had a bottle on hand and was loathe to pop a Moet and Chandon for peaches).

A day to my seder, and the mail delivered the May issue of Country Living. With tons still to do, I nonetheless plopped down and immediately began flipping through one of my favorite magazines.


And on page 119 was a photo of a Chocolate-Almond Torte…a flourless dessert, and therefore, perfect for Passover! Because I knew my compote was a bit lackluster, this Torte was the answer. And at only 5 ingredients!!

The instructions call for melting butter and chocolate in “a heatproof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water.” And I would have followed this to the letter, except that I have an ancient double boiler inherited from a premiere baker, Else Geisel, my mother-in-law:

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While the mixture melted and melded, I moved on to the next step, “…whisking egg yolks with sugar until pale and fluffy.” Rather than using a modern whisk, I instead chose to incorporate the mixture using an initialed, sterling fork that had belonged to another superb baker, my grandmother Birdye.
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Using the utilities of these women, I felt their guidance and a sense of happiness, as if they were with me on this torte journey.

The CL recipe notes a working time of only twenty minutes. The mess I created took a lot longer to clean up.

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With the torte in the oven, I went outside to cut some lilac blooms, and there she was – a bright yellow butterfly. Racing back into the house for a camera, I knew, just knew, she would be gone upon my return. But, no! I promise, this is not photo-shopped.

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I took the butterfly as a sign, that despite my insecurity and lack of actual know-how, I was going to pull this seder together, especially with dessert.

My Prince Charming, who’s eaten a life-time of mb soup, proclaimed my version THE BEST HE’S EVER SLURPED and the CL Chocolate Almond Torte delicious beyond yummy. DSCN7124 [640x480]

Holidays like Passover and Easter are so very rich in tradition and the foods served are as much a part of that as any ceremonial recitation.

Whether matzo ball soup or a baked ham, what’s important is we celebrate our heritage with not an empty seat at our table.


Tie One On…an apron, of course!

A Happy Birthday Sedar

When I awoke yesterday, I anticipated the first birthday greeting of the day fromy my prince charming. Instead, morning, noon and early afternoon passed without so much as an indication of awareness that it was my birthday. As the Duke game played out, so did I act out, only to learn that Sunday was March 28th, not the 29th…my birthday. So strange to have the wrong day for one’s own birthday, but so I did.

In a much better mood did I greet today, Monday, March 29th, and my card, propped where I didn’t stand a chance of missing it:

Sunday, birthday or not, was a day of preparation for tonight’s Passover sedar. I enjoy hostessing a sedar, although my southern background leaves a bit to be desired with adhering to all the rituals of this meal. But I get the high points covered, and that’s good enough.

As of an hour ago, the kitchen is clean and countertops covered with the table settings,

for which I was congratulating myself for being so on top of things. With guests due to arrive at six, I figured I had time to frou frou around, write a blog…important things of that ilk. Then my eyes opened to what I’ve conveniently become used to over the past month: every

surface in the living and dining rooms is covered with the visual stimuli of the tons of stuff that

will become the new exhibit. With two hours to go before the doorbell rings, I’m not quite in panic mode, just a bit hyper-ventilat-y. I figure I’ll pile everything back into the plastic bins and haul those into the sun room and throw pretty tablecloths over the whole kaboodle. Out of mind, sort of out of sight. Good enough.

The ray of sunshine in this whole thing is the dessert I baked yesterday for today’s sedar is now also my birthday cake. It’s from this month’s Bon Appetit (page 2). It’s actually a maccaroon torte, a huge reach on my part, and one I hope tastes as good as it looks.

Still to do: iron my Passover apron.

Tie One On…an apron, of course!