If you’re really looking to rile up your Jewish friends, ask them about their most detested Passover desserts. We got into just such a discussion at my book club this weekend, and our Jewish members were quick to trot out a litany of complaints. Cakes made with matzoh meal are coarse, sponge cake is dry, cookies taste weird without flour – the kvetching went on and on.
Now, as some one who really likes to show off at the holidays, I feel a great deal of sympathy for Jewish bakers. It’s really difficult to bake something delicious – or even halfway tasty – without two of the most basic ingredients in baking – flour and leavening. Matzoh meal just doesn’t have the same properties as cake flour and, no matter how finely it’s ground, it never will.
Still, with a little bit of planning, some high quality chocolate, and a love of almond flour, you can make a Passover dessert that’s both impressive and delicious. This tart is an adaptation of a recipe for a chocolate torte, which I found in Joan Nathan’s excellent Jewish Cooking in America. The recipe originally calls to bake the torte in a buttered springform pan, but I baked it in a tart shell made from ground almonds and flavored with sugar and orange zest. I also added orange juice and zest to the dense filling, which compliments the intense flavor of the chocolate. Finally, to help dress it up for the holiday in appropriate style, I topped it with a chocolate glaze and pieces of homemade almond praline. FYI: while the tart contains no leavening, it does use butter, so it can’t be eaten with a meal where meat is served.
Yes, the glaze and praline aren’t exactly necessary – but they add a note of grandeur to an otherwise fairly simple dessert. And, for those who like to impress, the extra half an hour of work is well worth it.
Passover Chocolate Orange Almond Tart with Almond Praline
Adapted from Epicurious, “The Cake Bible,” By Rose Levy Beranbaum and “Jewish Cooking in America,” By Joan Nathan
For the almond orange tart crust
6 oz almonds
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp orange zest
5 tbs butter, melted
Butter a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a food processor, grind almonds with sugar and orange zest until finely ground. Add butter and process a couple pulses more, until the butter is evenly distributed (you may need to stir a couple times with a small spatula). Pat almond mixture into bottom and sides of tart pan. Bake for 10 minutes, until the nuts are lightly toasted, then remove to a rack to cool.
For the chocolate orange almond filling
1/2 cup butter
8 oz bittersweet chocolate
5 large eggs, separated
3/4 cups sugar
2 tbs orange juice
2 tsp orange zest
1 cup almond flour
Melt butter and chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave or over a double boiler, stirring occasionally. Let cool to room temperature.
Whisk egg yolks with sugar until until they become pale yellow. Whisk in cooled chocolate mixture until evenly combined. Whisk in orange juice, orange zest, and almond flour.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat egg whites until they are stiff, but not dry. Fold 1/4 of whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten. Then fold in the remaining 3/4 egg whites, until evenly combined.
Pour filling into the almond tart shell and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the filling is puffed and set in the center. Remove to a rack to cool.
Because the egg whites will cause the filling to puff up irregularly, you will need to level the top of the tart before glazing. Use a serrated knife to slice a thin layer off the top of the tart to make an even, level surface. Brush off all crumbs.
For the almond praline
1 cup sugar
1 cup sliced almonds
Line a baking sheet with a piece of foil.
In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt sugar until light gold, stirring with a fork until the sugar dissolves (it will clump, but just continue to stir to let it dissolve evenly). Let color to a deep caramel color. Add the nuts and stir for one minute, until fragrant.
Immediately pour caramel mixture onto baking sheet, spreading with an offset spatula into a thin sheet. Let cool, then peel off foil and break into irregular pieces.
For the chocolate glaze
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6 tbs unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup hot water (120°F)
In a small bowl melt the chocolate in the microwave on low power, stopping to stir every 30 seconds. Remove just before all the chocolate is melted and allow the residual heat to finish the melting process.
Add the butter, a tablespoon at a time, stirring until blended. If necessary, you can heat the chocolate/butter mixture gently in the microwave – but don’t let it get too hot, otherwise the butter will separate.
Add the hot water all at once and stir until combined.
Assemble the tart
Note: remember to level the top of the tart with a serrated knife before glazing.
Generously ladle the glaze over the top of the tart and use offset spatula to spread the glaze to the edges. Delicately place pieces of praline onto the glaze in a decorative, irregular pattern. Let glaze set for two hours.
Gently remove tart from pan and place on serving platter.