I ended up making two desserts this year for Passover. Although I've had a pretty good track record in the previous years, I like the challenge of trying something new, particularly on this flour-challenged holiday, and went with Gourmet's crunchy pecan cookies and Patricia Jinich's flourless chocolate-pecan cake.
The pecan cookies were very easy to make (and you really wouldn't suffer eating them any time of year). They contain no flour or matzo meal, just sugar, pecans, cinnamon, potato starch and egg whites. The nutty cookies, enlivened by the cinnamon, are thin, light, and crisp.
The recipe indicates that you can make them in advance and store them for up to a week. I made them the same day as the seder, but I would actually recommend baking them earlier. After a couple of days, the cookies lost any chewiness and became completely crunchy (which I preferred).
Jinich's cake is a surprising variation of the ubiquitous flourless chocolate cake: a Mexican take on the dessert topped with fresh berries, lime, and sugar.
The recipe was a winner. Unlike other flourless chocolate cakes I've eaten, this one wasn't dense or overly rich, which is usually the case.
Preparing the cake was shockingly simple (once you melt the chocolate, everything can be combined together in a blender or food processor). And, the topping is incredibly delicious: tangy from the lime juice and zest, and sweet from the blackberries, strawberries, and piloncillo sugar (or brown sugar, which I used). This flavor combination would be amazing as a sorbet or the basis for sweet-tart cocktail
I did run into some confusion about how long to let the fruit macerate in the sugar and citrus juice. The recipe, did not indicate exactly how long was appropriate. If I combined it too early, would it be too soggy? Or, did the topping need some time to draw the juice out of the fruit and become something closer to a sauce and less like a fruit salad.
Amazingly, I was able to reach Jinich via her blog, Pati's Mexican Table, catching up with her while she was riding a train through the Copper Canyon in Chihuahua, Mexico. She wrote in an email that the topping may be mixed as far as 12 hours in advance (but not more, lest it get mushy): "I like it best just a couple of hours before, so some juices come out and the fruit absorbs flavors from lime peel, juice and sugar or piloncillo. Consistency should still be firm and give you a bit of a crunch."
While I had her ear, I also asked her about how finely to grind the pecans (I think I could have ground mine finer). "It becomes fluffier the finer they are," she wrote. "I like it better like that. But some people like to feel the crunch of the pecans, and have it with more texture. You can play with it!"
Nana José's Chocolate Pecan Cake
By Patricia Jinich
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or pareve margarine
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 cup pecans
6 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
Dash of salt
3 tablespoons grated piloncillo sugar or brown sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 lime
Juice of 2 limes (approx. 1/4 cup juice)
1 pint strawberries, washed, hulled and halved
1 pint blackberries
Whipped cream, optional.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper and grease with 1 tablespoon butter.
2. Using a double boiler or pan over simmering water, melt together chocolate and remaining 1/4 cup butter. Set aside to cool.
3. Using a blender, chop pecans finely (to taste). Add eggs, vanilla, sugar, salt and melted chocolate mixture, blending until smooth. Pour batter into pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes; cake should be moist but not wet. Allow to cool.
4. For the topping: In a large mixing bowl, combine piloncillo or brown sugar, lime zest and lime juice. Add strawberries and blackberries, and toss gently (this may be done up to 12 hours in advance; keep refrigerated). Just before serving, toss again and spoon on top of cake. Serve with whipped cream (optional).
Recipe published with the permission of the author.