Posts Tagged almond

Passover Chocolate Orange Almond Tart with Almond Praline

Passover Tart 2

Chocolate, almond, orange - perfect for Passover.

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 Tart 4

No one could possibly kvetch about this tart.

Passover Chocolate Orange Almond Tart with Almond Praline

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Almond Cupcakes With Amaretto Frosting

Almond Cupcakes with Amaretto Frosting

Almond cupcakes with amaretto frosting.

I’ve never had a thing for almonds. Oh sure, an almond shortbread cookie is a welcome change from chocolate chip from time to time, but ask me what kind of sweets I love the most and almond desserts never make the list. I think this may be because too many almond cookies and candies are so heavy on the almond that it tastes like I’m eating a bottle of almond extract. Bakers be warned – some flavors are best served with a dash of subtlety.

But one of my coworkers is a huge fan of almonds, and I wanted to make her very favorite dessert to thank her for some recent help she gave me. And besides, I love a challenge, and I was very excited to see if I could make an almond dessert that everyone could love. After all, I loved the amaretto flavoring in Michelle Obama’s shortbread, so perhaps my poor opinion of almonds was unjustly founded on too many lousy almond danishes?

I decided on cupcakes because, well, I just can’t resist the opportunity to make them. I went back to my old standby – The Cake Bible – because I remembered making Rose Levy Beranbaum’s almond cake many years ago (possibly when I was still in high school) and being surprised how much I loved it (unrelated side note: sometimes I wonder if I sound too much like a Rose Levy Beranbaum groupie. Although, considering how much I love her books and recipes, I guess I kind of am).

Grinding the Almonds

I ground the almonds for the cake by hand after roasting them. It was suprisingly easy.

For the frosting, I decided that there could be no better use for that huge bottle of amaretto I had sitting in my cupboard that was left over from making Michelle Obama’s shortbread. I modified the Magnolia Bakery’s vanilla frosting recipe, making a half batch and adding amaretto along with the vanilla extract.

You should note that Beranbaum’s recipe didn’t perfectly translate to cupcakes – I probably had enough batter left over to make two more cupcakes, if I was so inclined, but I didn’t want the bother. I also had frosting left over . . . although is that ever really a bad thing?

The almond cake was better than I remembered – roasting the almonds before adding them to the batter really brings out the flavor, and the almond extract is light enough that it gently enhances, but doesn’t overpower, the natural flavor of the nuts themselves. The frosting was sweet, and the amaretto adds an almond note that’s subtle and understated, which I just adored.

So almond haters take note – these lovely nuts may deserve a second look. Just keep a light hand with the almond extract.

Almond Cupcakes with Amaretto Frosting

I think I may have to make these again.

Recipe for Almond Cupcakes with Amaretto Frosting

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