Quick: Passover is only two days away and you’ve been invited to a seder. What can you bring for dessert?
That question can be challenging enough for cooks who were raised in the Hebrew tradition and understand all the dietary restrictions on flour and leavening associated with this celebration of the Jews’ escape from Egypt in biblical times.
For the rest of us, there’s matzo crunch. This addictive treat pairs bland and brittle matzo–an unleavened bread that could qualify as the poster food for Passover–with the caramel and chocolate flavors of toffee. It’s crisp, sweet and impossible to resist. Only the most self-disciplined can eat just one piece.
Best of all, you can throw it together in minutes and no one will guess how easy was. There are only four ingredients–matzo, butter, brown sugar, and chocolate chips. You can add toasted sliced almonds, if you want, and a sprinkle of sea salt is a great addition. But neither is really necessary.
If your hosts keep strictly kosher, you may need to substitute Passover margarine for butter and make sure you buy kosher brown sugar and chocolate chips, such as those made by Guittard.
You may be familiar with this sweet treat if you’re Jewish. It’s been making the rounds of Jewish kitchens for a couple of decades. Cookbook author Marcy Goldman first published the recipe in the 1998 edition of “A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking” (republished in paperback by Whitecap Books, 2009). She likes to tell the story of a neighbor giving her a faded photocopy of the recipe, then laughing off Goldman’s comment that she developed the recipe.
I stumbled across the recipe last year about this time on David Lebovitz”s great blog. If a renowned pastry chef was making it, I figured it must be good. Even then, I was amazed by how terrific it was.
Since then, I’ve found the recipe in myriad minor variations all over the web. Some cooks follow Goldman’s recipe to the letter. Others add vanilla and increase the chocolate chips dramatically. I like it best with bittersweet chocolate chips in double the amount called for in Goldman’s recipe.
I also bake it at a little lower heat because my first batches came too close to burning. And I wait until the candy has totally cooled before I break it into pieces.
This confection is so good, I now eagerly await Passover season–when boxes of matzo appear on the shelves of ordinary grocery stores–just so I can make several batches. Some recipes suggest you can use saltine crackers instead of matzo in a pinch, but that sounds too salty for me.
You don’t have to be Jewish to adore matzo crunch.
4-6 unsalted matzos
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter or unsalted Passover margarine
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1½ cups bittersweet chocolate chips
1 cup toasted, sliced almonds (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a rimmed 12-inch by 17-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, overlapping the rim. Place a sheet of parchment paper over the bottom. Alternatively, spray the foil with baking spray or use easy-release foil.
Line up sheets of matzo in a single layer along the bottom of the baking pan. You will need to cut some of the matzo to fit. I’ve found a long serrated knife works best for this job. The bottom should be entirely covered.
Slice each stick of butter into 4 or 5 pieces and melt with brown sugar in a 3-quart, heavy-bottomed pot set over medium-low heat. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, and cook for 3 minutes. Remove mixture from heat and slowly pour syrup over matzo in a zig-zag pattern, covering completely. Use a spatula to spread syrup evenly over the matzo.
Place baking sheet on middle shelf of oven and lower heat to 325 degrees. Bake for 15 minutes, rotating pan about halfway through.
Take baking sheet out of oven and place on a heatproof surface. Immediately sprinkle with chocolate chips. Wait 3-5 minutes for the chocolate to melt, then spread evenly over the caramel and matzo. This is the time to sprinkle sliced almonds or about 1 tablespoon of good sea salt over all, if you wish.
Let candy cool until the chocolate has set thoroughly, which may take a couple of hours. Or chill it in the freezer if you’re in a hurry. When firm and crisp, break into chunks and store in an airtight container.
Adapted from Marcy Goldman