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.