Cookies Perfect for Passover

I remember Passovers past at my grandparents’ and parents’ houses were always large and boisterous with at least 25-30 people attending, spread over two or three tables. We always invited friends who didn’t have anywhere else to go, and also the stray Jewish soldiers who were “stuck” at Fort McClellan during their basic training. Occasionally, we had a visiting Israeli soldier or two share the seder with us. I really miss these seders, my grandparents, my great-aunts and uncles, the wonderful food, the family tunes, waiting for Uncle Alfred or Papa to proudly read the last stanza of “Had Gadya” in one breath, ribbing my uncle Don about watering my wine, misbehaving at the “children’s” table (some of who were over 30), and the seder discussions. I must admit that I am more than teary-eyed as I am writing this post.

The seder was always a grand affair: the unveiling of the grand china, crystal, and silver, the beautiful way Alberta plated the individual servings of the haroset, hard-boiled egg and karpas. The lamb that my father carefully slathered with mustard and basted every 30 minutes, the minted peas in lettuce cups, the wild rice mixture or boiled new potatoes, and the pièce de résistance, the matza balls swimming in golden chicken soup. For dessert, Mama’s lovingly-made matza schalet with its beautiful crunchy crust and creamy lemon custard with just the right sourness.

Since moving to Israel, we attend the seder at my cousin’s or their in-laws where we share their seder traditions and variety of food from Poland, Bulgaria and  Russia: gefilte fish, fritas de prasa, and matza blini. The younger generations add their own traditions like rocket and endive salad with walnuts and pears. And, Mr BT and I are bringing new traditions to their seder: Italian haroset and whatever flourless dessert tickles my fancy.

This year I decided to bring a tray of cookies and found two easy and delicious recipes for fudgy chocolate-walnut cookies and a variation of Sicilian pistachio cookies which Mr BT and I enjoyed eating at a bakery in Venice. Both of these cookies were a huge hit. I really liked the salty-sweetness of the pistachio cookies, and the other cookies were a chocolate lover’s delight. I couldn’t find any orange blossom water for the pistachio cookies as I had wanted, but it will add a slight orangey floral note.

Don’t be afraid to add new traditions to your seder table. There is always room for the old and new traditions.

Flourless Chocolate Walnut Cookies

Fudgy Chocolate-Walnut Cookies

Yield: 1-1/2 dozen

320g (9oz or 2-3/4 cups) walnut halves

3 cups icing (confectioners') sugar

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 large egg whites, at room temperature, not beaten

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with a silpat liner or parchment paper.

Spread the walnut halves on a large rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 9 minutes, until they are golden and fragrant. Let cool slightly, then transfer the walnut halves to a work surface and finely chop them.

In a large bowl, whisk the icing sugar with the cocoa powder and salt to combine. Whisk in the chopped walnuts. Add the egg whites and vanilla extract and beat just until the batter is moistened (do not over beat the mixture or it will stiffen). Spoon a tablespoon of the batter for each cookie onto the baking sheets.

Bake the cookies for 16- 20 minutes, depending on your oven, until the tops of the cookies are glossy and lightly cracked and feel firm to the touch; shift the pans from front to back and top to bottom halfway through.

Slide the parchment paper (with the cookies) onto 2 wire racks to cool completely before serving. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Flourless Pistachio Cookies

Pastine di Pistacchio

Yield: 1 dozen

(Flourless Pistachio Cookies)

190g (7oz) pistachios (roasted and salted)

100g (3.5 oz) almond meal

120 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) caster (granulated) sugar

2 egg whites, room temperature, not beaten

1 teaspoon orange blossom water (optional)

A few drops of green food colouring (optional)

Icing (confectioners') sugar for dusting (optional)

Preheat the oven to 170C (325F). Line a baking sheet with a silpat liner or parchment paper.

Grind 90 grams of the pistachios finely and set aside. Chop the remaining 100 grams roughly and place in a plate or flat bowl for rolling.

Put the finely ground pistachios, almond meal, sugar, egg whites, optional orange blossom water and optional food colouring in a large bowl. Mix just until the batter is moistened, do not over beat. If the batter is too moist, add a little more almond meal.

Form one tablespoon of the batter into balls and roll in the chopped pistachios. Place the cookies about 2 centimeters (3/4 inch) apart and bake for approximately 13 minutes. Let cook for 10 minutes before moving to a baking rack. Dust with icing sugar, when cooled.

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Written by Baroness Tapuzina

Michelle Nordell (aka Baroness Tapuzina) was a foodie from the womb growing up in the House of Weird Vegetables, so named by a family friend because all of the unusual and exotic food cooked and eaten there. She loves to change recipes using herbs from her garden and spices from the spice shops she enjoys visiting.

18 thoughts on “Cookies Perfect for Passover

  1. These recipes sound wonderful, and I love that both are made primarily of nuts. In Venice were the pistachio cookies flavored with orange flower water and were they somewhat salty?

    It’s funny, the chocolate ones look very much like some brownie-like chocolate cookies that we loved to buy at a bakery just outside Jerusalem’s Mahaneh Yehudah shuk. And I’m sure yours are even better.

    1. Thanks Faye. The pistachio cookies in Venice were a bit salty, but they did not contain orange flower water. I have seen some Sicilian recipes with the addition of orange or lemon zest. The addition of orange flower water was from a Syrian recipe I found. I thought it would be interesting to try it, but I looked a three different stores and couldn’t find any. I will probably find it in Tel Aviv in Shuk Levinsky.

  2. Yes, memory tends to turn to those childhood seders when we sat surrounded by people we now know we loved deeply. I tried to sing “Ve hi she’amdah” as my Dad used to but broke down. Recovered in time to drink another glass of wine, though!

    The cookies look excellent – another BT recipe to keep!

  3. Michelle, I just baked the chocolate cookies and they turned out wonderfully. I’m always grateful to find fast and easy recipes for Pesach. This year, i made the Leite’s Almond cake and the Mock Chestnut Chocolate cake that’s made with sweet potatoes and some coconut macaroons. I made the cakes ahead of time and froze them, then defrosted them in the frig over a period of two days. The problem was that they were too moist. It didn’t matter that much with the chocolate cake, but the Portuguese Almond cake did not have the right texture. My problems are time and strength. I can’t leave too much for the last two days, so I look for things that will freeze well. Have you ever frozen the almond cake? Do you have any suggestions for desserts that defrost well? Already thinking ahead for next year–pu, pu, pu!
    –regards, Gaby

    1. Hi Gaby,

      I am glad you enjoyed the chocolate cookies. They are good and I think you could make these ahead and freeze them. As for the almond cake, not I haven’t tried freezing it. Most of the nut cakes and sponge cakes do not freeze well at all. As you described, they get moist, almost wet and lose their original texture. The only thing I know of that you can make ahead and freeze is meringue. My mother has a recipe that she always made that had meringue layers. I will ask her for the recipe. I think it is a dairy dessert.

  4. I still vividly remember the Seders from my childhood too, the food, the aroma and the family members who are not with us anymore… Both cookies look wonderful and easy to make, I’ll start with the pistachio one, I’ll let you know how they turn out. Thank you!

      1. They are, well, I should say they ‘were’ fantastic! Everyone loved it, thank you so much for sharing this recipe, it’ll definitely become a Passover staple from now on though my husband thinks it’s so good it should be made year round. I’ll try the chocolate one too.

      2. Hi Megi,

        I am so happy that everyone enjoyed the pistachio cookies. I know they will enjoy the chocolate ones too.

  5. Is the Italian haroset Mr. BT’s famous haroset, and have you written about it? I tried to search to the recipe and didn’t find it.

    1. Yes, It is Mr. BT’s haroset. I haven’t posted the recipe because he won’t part with it. I have tried on several occasions to ask him if I can post the recipe, but he always says, “I will think about it.”. Hmmm.

  6. Thanks. I’ve come across chefs like that. One chef who often taught at La Varenne commented on this attitude, saying he doesn’t see why not give recipes, because he knows he’ll always come up with more. But I can also understand Mr BT because now so often a recipe that you developed over the years and that you love, gets reproduced without credit.

    Are the cakes that Gaby referred to in her comment recipes of yours? I tried to find them but couldn’t. It’s not easy to say why a certain recipe won’t freeze well, but I think that dense, solid cakes freeze better than light, airy ones. An easy solution for her would be to make Passover brownies, which I think are always delicious but don’t know whether they are “elegant” enough for her taste. Of course, they can be frosted with
    ganache (made with almond milk if someone doesn’t use soy on Passover).

  7. Faye, Michelle, the Mock Chestnut Torte is from My grown children ask for it every year. I do put a different glaze on it, however.

    French Chocolate Glaze
    3 oz. Elite Bittersweet
    2 T. granulated sugar
    2 T. water
    2 T. butter or margarine, at room temp.
    Chop choco and put in double boiler. Add sugar and water. Stir till smooth. Remove from hot water and stir in marg. till really smooth and glossy. Let stand 1/2 hour, stir again and pour over cake.

  8. I love the sound of these. I have already copied them and can’t wait to try them. Being GF I get excited to try new things using my almond meal (I make my own) I will have to send you my pound cake recipe. I made it for Passover but in mini muffin tins. Great and Kosher for Pesach. xoxo, Dionne

    1. Thanks Dionne. I would be very interested to have your pound cake recipe.


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