When the Israelites left Egypt more than 3,300 years ago, they were in a bit of a hurry and didn’t wait around for their bread to rise. Observant Jews still commemorate their exodus by skipping the leavening, and during the eight days of Passover, regular flour is not used in food preparation for fear that it may have come into contact with water, thereby activating the rising process. I see baking without flour made from grain as an opportunity for creativity. In that spirit, here are two historic Jewish recipes and a modern Israeli one that comply with the special rules of Passover.
One of the oldest recipes for nut flour cakes comes from the Piedmont region in Italy. Italy boasts the longest continuously residing Jewish community in the world. The first Jews arrived in the 2nd Century BCE. Italian Jews adopted local ingredients to prepare dishes for their holidays. Here is a traditional hazelnut cake recipe that is perfect for Passover.
Adapted from Sweet Artichoke
- 2 cups ground hazelnuts
- 2 eggs, separated
- 5 tbls. butter
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- Preheat the oven to 355 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Line a 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper.
- Mix the butter, sugar, egg yolks, salt, and ground hazelnuts.
- In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they are stiff.
- Fold the egg whites into the hazelnut mixture.
- Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.
- Bake for 40 minutes.
- Allow the cake to cool completely before inverting it onto a serving platter.
Judeo-Spanish recipes have been preserved in the communities of North Africa and the former Ottoman Empire since the expulsion of the Jews from the Iberian Peninsula in 1492. Here is a wonderful Passover cake that is still baked by Turkish Jews, which traces its origins to Spain.
Adapted from The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden
- 1 1/2 cup ground almonds
- 2 navel oranges
- 1 1/2 cup sugar
- 6 eggs
- 2 tbls. orange blossom water
For the orange puree:
- Place the oranges in a pot.
- Cover the oranges with water.
- Bring to a boil.
- Lower the flame, and simmer for 2 hours.
- Drain and allow the oranges to cool.
- Cut oranges in half, remove and discard seeds and puree in a food processor.
For the cake:
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Place the orange puree and all the other ingredients in a large bowl.
- Mix well.
- Pour the batter into an oiled 9-inch cake pan.
- Bake for 60 minutes.
- Allow the cake to cool completely.
- Turn the cake out onto a serving platter.
Israeli food has been influenced by Jewish communities from around the world. This delectable chocolate cake was inspired by the pastry chefs of central Europe. The first time it was baked in Israel was in a kibbutz kitchen for the collective Passover Seder.
Adapted from Bel Alfandari
For the cake:
- 6 eggs, separated
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 tbls. Dutch cocoa
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler.
- Beat egg yolks with 1/3 cup sugar and the salt.
- Mix in the melted chocolate.
- In a separate bowl, whip egg whites with the remaining sugar.
- When the egg whites are stiff, fold into the chocolate mixture.
- Oil a cookie sheet and cover with parchment paper.
- Spread the batter evenly over the cookie sheet.
- Bake for 15 minutes.
- Remove from the oven, and cover cake with two clean, damp kitchen towels.
- After 5 minutes, remove the towels and cut around the edges of the cake with a sharp knife.
- Invert the cake over a new piece of parchment paper.
- Remove the parchment paper that the cake was baked on. Sprinkle one tablespoon of cocoa over the cake.
- Roll the cake with the parchment in place.
- Allow to cool completely.
For the filling:
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 3 tbls. vanilla sugar
- Whip the cream with the vanilla sugar.
- Unroll the cake, unpeeling the parchment as you go.
- Spread the whipped cream evenly over the cake.
- Roll it up like a jelly roll and carefully place on a serving platter.
- Garnish with more whipped cream, strawberries and chocolate shavings.
If you are intimidated by the idea of making a rolled cake, you can just bake the batter in a 9½ inch pan for 35 minutes. After the cake has cooled completely, top it with the whipped cream, strawberries and chocolate shavings.
Published in The Shuttle