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Baking

Passover Treats
April 14, 2011 • Posted by Jennifer Perillo

Next week is the start of Passover, and I’ve been thinking about what dessert I’ll serve for a while now. Not having been raised Jewish—I’m an Italian-Catholic gal who married a Jewish-Italian guy, I don’t have staple recipes that were part of my holidays growing up. My mother-in-law is not much of a cook either, so I don’t have the benefit of learning alongside her in the kitchen (though my husband often tells me his grandmother was a pretty good baker). Still, I try to do my best hosting the Jewish holidays to instill the traditions and memories of my daughters’ roots.

A few years back, I came across a recipe that seemed a perfect marriage of my Italian food history and the restrictions from using flour and butter in kosher Passover desserts. While I know nothing I prepare is technically kosher since I’m not Jewish, I try to follow the kosher laws for cooking as a sign of respect to my mother-in-law. It is the one connection, perhaps the only way, we can really relate to each other. After 15 years, I’ve come to learn it’s more important to focus on what unites us since she gave me the greatest gift of all—my husband.

So, what is this magical dessert you’re wondering, right? It’s my spin on a classic Passover treat. Coconut macaroons are quite popular, but I wanted something a bit fancier. My inspiration came from the Northern Italian Cookbook by Francesco Ghedini. It’s a hybrid of sorts, combining both elements of a classic soft French macaroon and a crisp meringue. The crisp exterior is meringue-like, yet the center is tender, with a subtle chew. Ghedini’s recipe, which I’m including for you below is for almond macaroons, and reminds me of cookies a pastry shop near my house sells. I decided to put my own spin on things, and made an espresso version too. Regardless of which one you make, remember cooking is an extension of our hearts. And in this case, it really is the thought that counts.

Almond Macaroons
Makes 24

Adapted from Northern Italian Cooking by Francesco Ghedini, Hawthorn Books. Copyright 1973.

1/4 teaspoon salt
2 egg whites, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup sliced almonds
1 teaspoon almond extract

  1. Grease and flour two baking sheets, or line with a nonstick liner (such as a Silpat). Set aside.
  2. Combine salt and egg whites in the bowl of your Cuisinart Stand Mixer. Beat until frothy using the whisk attachment.
  3. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until the mixture forms stiff peaks, about five minutes in total from the time you start adding the sugar. Gently fold in the almonds and almond extract. Drop onto the sheet by heaping teaspoonfuls, leaving about 1-inch between each mound. Let stand on tray for one hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Bake for 12 minutes, or until golden. Remove from oven and set tray on a wire rack to cool completely. The cookies will continue to crisp as they cool.

Espresso Macaroons
Makes 24

1/4 teaspoon salt
2 egg whites, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
4 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  1. Grease and flour two baking sheets, or line with a nonstick liner (such as a Silpat). Set aside.
  2. Combine salt and egg whites in the bowl of your Cuisinart Stand Mixer. Beat until frothy using the whisk attachment.
  3. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until the mixture forms stiff peaks, about five minutes in total from the time you start adding the sugar. Gently fold in the espresso powder and vanilla extract. Drop onto the sheet by heaping teaspoonfuls, leaving about 1-inch between each mound. Let stand on tray for one hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Bake for 12 minutes, or until golden. Remove from oven and set tray on a wire rack to cool completely. The cookies will continue to crisp as they cool.

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