Tag Archives: passover

Chocolate, Apple, Walnut Torte (Nana’s Passover Cake)

This chocolate, apple and walnut torte is the Passover cake my mother and grandmother have made for decades. I have been asked to share the recipe several times — and here it is! Like my great-grandmother’s recipe for Matzo Ball Soup, it is published in an old synagogue cookbook that I still use for traditional Jewish recipes, including many from my family. (By the way, Mower’s matzo ball soup is still surprisingly popular on Pinterest.)

chocolate, apple, walnut passover torte

My grandmother “Nana” had a serious stroke 12 years ago. She doesn’t remember much that has happened since her childhood, and pretty much thinks of herself as a girl. She doesn’t remember me when I visit her memory-focused assisted living, but gets that I am there for her and is as sweet and as pleasant as ever. She even forgets what she said a minute before, and when she finds a good joke, she repeats it. We were only recently a family of four on our last visit to New York and she kept asking how many kids we planned. She would then advise, “Two or three is okay, but more than four is too many.” So of course my husband would tell her we wanted fourteen and she would crack up. This happened about twenty times in the space of an hour.

But memory is a funny thing. She can identify the names of every single plant on the grounds. And she remembers recipes! On my last trip, my uncle gave me her recipe box to bring to the visit. Nana remembered them all and shared stories. I recognized the Passover cake recipe as identical to the one I had made a month before (and every Passover before it since I was a teenager.) I am calling it “Nana’s Passover Cake” but as she reminded me, it was originally the recipe of her friend Bea Glück. “Well, since it was Bea’s recipe, naturally it’s a winner. Natch!”

Nana's Passover Cake

As you may see in the index card, there isn’t a ton of detail to the technique, nor in the version my mom wrote for the cookbook. But I’ve added some tips and my own system for sailing through the prep. You could make it all by hand, but a food processor and mixer will help. Tip: no need to wash the processor between ingredients. I even go ahead and make charoset right afterwards.

A friend in the midst of a Whole 30 challenge, gave me a Paleo-friendly apple and nut muffin that had such a similar taste and texture. Although this a “torte” in the sense that it uses no flour, rather ground nuts and a handful of matzo meal (similar in baking to breadcrumbs), I bet it could be adapted to gluten-free pretty easily. Try using almond meal in place of the matzo and/or more apple. There is no added fat, other than the eggs and nuts, and this Passover torte is not too sweet. My grandmother noted “Red Delicious” apples, but I have often used Fujis with good results.

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Chocolate, Apple, Walnut Torte (Nana's Passover Cake)
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Jewish (Passover)
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
Passed down from my grandmother, this traditional passover cake could easily be confused with a contemporary paleo-ish torte, featuring chocolate, chopped walnuts and apple in a light sponge. It's not too sweet, and everyone loves it!
Ingredients
  • 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, grated
  • 2 apples, cored and grated
  • 1 cup of walnuts, chopped
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • ½ cup matzo meal
Instructions
  1. Preheat over to 350*F. Grease a 9 inch springform pan.
  2. Using a grater, or grating attachment on a food processor, grate the chocolate. Place the chocolate in a medium sized mixing bowl. Without washing or rinsing the food processor, grate the apples. (The apples should be cored but don't peel them.) Add to the mixing bowl. Without washing, take out the grating plate and put the chopping blade into the food processor. Chop the walnuts and then add to the mixing bowl.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until thick (at least 2 minutes on high/fast.) Gently stir into the chocolate, apples, and walnuts and add the matzo meal. In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold into the batter.
  4. Bake in the greased springform pan for 1 hour. Cool in pan.
Notes
The instructions include equipment (such as a food processor and stand mixer or hand mixer) that make the cake a snap. But the cake can also be made by grating, chopping, and beating by hand.

Serving options: I like the cake with whipped cream (or non-dairy whip for Kosher friends) and strawberries. (Strawberries are usually in season for Passover/Spring Equinox/Easter.) My mom's transcription from the 80's suggests sprinkling with powdered sugar just before serving.

The cake is best the first day, but can be baked the morning of a big dinner.

If you like this recipe, please like the Baby Birds Farm page on Facebook, or follow my Jewish Recipes board on Pinterest.

Baby’s First Seder Plate

Last year at Passover our Baby Bird was just starting to eat solids. She loved eating with us and participating in meals. So I wanted to be sure to include her in our seder. She pretty much only ate purées at the time, except for some naturally creamy foods, like avocado and banana, and had just started egg yolks. Here is what I came up with for her:

Ideas for Baby's First Seder on BabyBirdsFarm

  • Lamb Shank → Stuffed Lambie AND Yam (Yam is also an option for Vegetarian adults.)
  • Parsley → Avocado (Still represents the green freshness of spring)
  • Egg → Hardboiled Egg (But for her I chose one of the small eggs laid by our Ameraucana instead of a larger egg)
  • Charoset → Applesauce (Could also do an applesauce and date puree)
  • Horseradish → A puree using beets, as a beet-colored horseradish is fairly common)
  • Matzo → Rice cereal (As I recall it was mixed into the purée)

For comparison, here was the adult seder plate:

seder2

The mango you ask? Well, I didn’t have any oranges.

Oranges?? Why would there be an orange on a seder plate?

Being a good feminist I always put an orange on my seder plate! The urban legend goes that an old, conservative rabbi once said that “a woman belongs on the bimah [the podium from where the rabbi leads the congregation] like an orange belongs on a seder plate.” Another meaning is that by eating an orange and spitting out the seeds, all of the participants are rejecting homophobia.

I also make sure to have my prettiest crystal filled with a glass of water for Miriam (Moses’ brother who followed him down the river to protect him).

Anyway, these are just my ideas and opinions. I believe that a seder should be a ritualized tradition, but that it is an organic and changeable one. We find our own meanings, as we create and define them for our families.

And just for fun, here is a link to the full episode of the Rugrats Passover.

Mower’s Matzo Ball Soup

This is my great-grandmother’s recipe for Matzo Ball Soup. It was transcribed at one point by my mother for a synagogue cook book. I still use the tattered book, lined with my notes over the years in pencil. I have updated it minimally by using fresh herbs, instead of dried (which I imagine is probably closer to how my great-grandmother, Mower, made it.) Mower likely started from whole matzo rather than matzo meal, but I like to believe she would approve of the modern convenience. They are light, fluffy and flavorful, and simply the best. I can rarely eat a restaurant matzo ball as they just can’t compare.

My Great-Grandmother's Matzo Ball Soup Recipe

Passover is by far my favorite Jewish holiday. It is all about a big dinner party! Although I am not particularly observant, I love to celebrate Passover by hosting a seder. Apart from our favorite family recipes (it’s like a 2nd Thanksgiving!) I do love the message and the story of freedom.

Passover starts this year (in North America) on the evening of Monday, March 25th. But I wanted to share this recipe ahead of time. The “secret ingredient” to Mower’s Matzo Balls is schmaltz, or chicken fat, in which onions are slowly caramelized. As there is a lot of cooking for Passover, I like to make the chicken broth and schmaltz the weekend before. There are at least two methods of preparing schmaltz. You can render the chicken fat by cooking down the fat and skin. Here is a how-to post with step by step pictures. I find it simpler, however, to just make a homemade broth and then skim off the fat layer that congeals at the top when cooled.

Skimming the fat for a quick schmaltz

Some tips and tricks for getting the best matzo balls:

  1. Don’t make them too big. The balls will nearly double when cooked, so start off with a small walnut-sized ball.
  2. Really let the onions slow cook and caramelize in the chicken fat and don’t skrimp on the schmaltz.
  3. A light touch when forming the matzo balls is key. Don’t over handle them.
  4. The broth and schmaltz can be made a week ahead of time. The onions can be cooked the day before and stored in the fridge. But don’t let the batter sit more than 1 to 3 hours or it will get too dense.
  5. And don’t cook the matzo balls too far ahead of time or let them sit in soup. Just before the seder, cook them the first 10 minutes. They can wait for the length of a seder, then just before serving, cook the final 10 minutes in broth.

Making Matzo Balls on BabyBirdsFarm

Mower’s Matzo Ball Soup Recipe

Serves 6 (Easily doubles)
For the matzo balls:

  • 2 Tablespoons chicken fat
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 heaping cup of matzo meal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • handful of chopped fresh parsley and thyme
  • 1 Tablespoon of chicken broth

For the finished soup:

  • 2 quarts prepared chicken broth (recipe follows)
  • 1 carrot, very thinly sliced, or shaved with a vegetable peeler
  • reserved, shredded meat of 1/2 chicken

On medium low heat, sauté the onions in fat in a covered pan until golden and very soft. Cool onions. (Can be stored in refrigerator 1 day in advance.) Beat together the eggs until light and fluffy. Add the matzo meal, seasoning, herbs and tablespoon of broth. Cover and refrigerate 1 to 3 hours. Roll into approximately 16 to 18 balls about the size of small walnuts (use a teaspoon to scoop up batter and dust hands with extra matzo meal to combat stickiness.) Drop balls into a pot of boiling water and cook for 10 minutes. Then transfer to hot broth with the carrots for another 10 minutes before serving. Add the chicken just at the end to reheat.

My Family’s Chicken Soup

  • 1 whole chicken, in pieces
  • 1-2 onions (leaving the skin on will add a dark color)
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 2-3 carrots
  • 1-2 parsnips
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 4-5 peppercorns
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • filtered water or water plus prepared chicken stock

Place washed chicken in a large pot and cover with water. (You can cheat and  intensify the flavor by using a little prepared chicken stock or broth.) Bring to a fast boil and skim off any scum that rises to the top. Rough chop the onion, celery, carrots, and parsnip and add to the soup with garlic, pepper, salt and bay leaf. (If you are using a prepared stock, consider skipping added salt.) Simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the chicken is just cooked. Remove just the chicken. Remove the meat from the bones and set aside. This helps prevent over-cooked meat. Put the bones, fat and bits back into the pot and continue simmering for 2-3 hours. Keep the water level just covering ingredients. Strain the soup through a sieve, discarding all solids and chill to congeal fat on top. Store in the fridge up to one week or freeze.  Jewish Penicillin!!