This excerpt from A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking has been
reprinted with permission from the author. The book will be available in
September, 1998, from Doubleday.
"Kosher For Passover"
Stocking Up the Passover Baking Pantry
By Marcy Goldman
"The day I see `Kosher-for-Pesach' white sliced bread, then I
will know the messiah has arrived"
- A Conservative Rabbi
Used to be, Passover baking ingredients were pretty slim pickings
- chocolate and nuts and those citrus jellies and coconut
embalmed marshmallows. Recipes for Passover reflected the simple
ingredients - matzoh meal or potato starch based sponge cakes
accounted for most cookbook offerings. A couple of weeks before
Passover stores that feature kosher products for their clientele
will usually dedicate whole displays, in some cases, at least in
major centres, whole aisles of products that are "kosher-for-
Passover". I have even seen "Passover" warehouses, chock full of
interesting "Pesach" products. These are specialty kosher
products that are manufactured for this unique holiday. But even
dairies in major centres, will relabel their milk and cream
products with the "special for Passover" label in deference to
their Jewish customers.
These days, there is very little you cannot obtain. One of the
nicest evolutions in this market are the many new baking products
- such as brown sugar, cocoa, Passover vanilla sugar, Passover
confectioners sugar, and Passover unsalted margarine that have
made baking for Passover that much easier.
Before you begin baking for Passover, it is wise to stock up with
your "foundation" ingredients. You don't want to run out in the
middle of baking to get an item. Here is a list of "must haves"
for the holidays. Some of these items seem self-evident (such as
nuts and chocolate) but others are equally important and helpful.
PASSOVER VANILLA AND OTHER EXTRACTS
Vanilla, since it is an extract made with alcohol, a fermented
substance, is generally not recommended on Passover. Artificial
vanilla powder mixed with sugar is now widely available. It
comes in packets or envelopes of better yet, 12 ounce tubs that
have a little measuring spoon inside. "Kosher-for-Passover"
Vanilla Powder or Vanilla Sugar does not compare at all to real,
pure vanilla BUT....... it is an approved and oh-so-helpful
ingredient for Passover. Look for brands such as Haddar,
Lieber's, Rokeach, or Itkowitz (check sources in back of book).
If you have any vanilla sugar leftover after Passover passes, you
can add it to your regular sugar jar. Serve the vanilla scented
sugar with that special mug of coffee. There is also almond and
rum extract for Passover. You can add these where ever you like.
However, they are less widely available and can be omitted if you
do not have them.
If you choose, a substitution of one teaspoon regular pure
vanilla extract would replace the one to two tablespoons
"Passover Vanilla Powder" referred to in this recipe collection.
UNSALTED PASSOVER MARGARINE
When it is not Passover, a "non dairy" or "pareve" fat can be
either regular "pareve" margarine or good old Crisco, or any
other brand of a non animal fat or neutral shortening you may
prefer. At Passover, look for an unsalted or sweet margarine. I
recommend Migdal's brand because it has the most innocuous taste
in baked goods. Some unsalted Passover margarines are just
unacceptable in taste and are to be avoided. If the item you are
making is not being served with a Seder meal, certainly, you can
replace the margarine with unsalted butter. One thing is certain,
do not use a salted, whipped margarine for baking with. Results
will not be good. Depending on what you are serving or what you
needs are, you may not require a non-dairy fat in your Passover
baking. In this case, feel free to substitute unsalted butter
for the unsalted Passover margarine. This is particularly good
advice in the case of during-the-week of Passover inbetween meal
treats such as cookies and brownies. When you can, use less
PASSOVER BAKING POWDER; PASSOVER BAKING SODA
Passover baking powder and Passover Baking Soda? My grandmothers
would have had kittens! It seems to fly in the face of what
Passover symbolizes. Technically, however, it is leavened goods
that are the result of fermentation (as with yeast baking) that
are forbidden on Passover. If you are not sure, ask a rabbi -
there are many written debates on whether or not "Passover baking
powder and baking soda" should be permitted. Baking soda, and
baking powder are chemical leaveners so they are not in the
regular category of "leaven" goods, if one is going to abide by
technicalities. Also, Passover baking powder is made without
cornstarch, a carrier in baking powder products, so there is no
dispute there. HOWEVER...... my personal feeling is that I can
appreciate whipped egg whites to aerate my Passover cakes but
somehow once baking soda and baking powder, even okay-for-
Passover ones, are introduced, the spirit of the holiday is
compromised (never mind that all the big kosher packaged goods
companies include these leaveners in their cookies and cakes -
just check the ingredient list). Passover cakes that use these
products, even though they have no regular flour, approach
regular baking, at least in style. Incidentally, if you have
always wondered why these packaged items "taste almost normal" it
is because they are using these leaveners. In any case, I have
not included these them.
PASSOVER CONFECTIONERS' SUGAR OR ICING SUGAR
This product is more recent and is a combination of potato starch
and sugar, pulverized into a state that resembles regular
confectioner's sugar. If you require a glaze, you can use this
product along with some liquid, such as water, coffee, or orange
juice. For a frosting consistency, use it as you would regular
confectioners' sugar, with unsalted margarine or butter, and a
touch of liquid to make a whipped icing. I have found this
product in one pound canisters.
When it is not Passover, a more typical starch would be
cornstarch. But this corn and corn products (i.e. corn starch,
corn syrup) are on the "no" list, potato starch is what Passover
recipes rely on for to add a bit of tenderness to baked goods.
A ground up matzoh product used in Passover cake baking. There
are many brands to choose from but most are about the same.
CAKE MEAL (MATZOH CAKE MEAL)
A finer granulation of matzoh meal, this sandy fine powder is
used in most cakes. It works best in combination with matzoh meal
and potato starch for the most optimal balance (all things
considered) between body and tenderness in the finished cake.
Many brands are available, but some brands are finer granulation
than others. A medium granulation works better as it tends to dry
out a cake less than a fine granulation.
A more recent addition to the Passover line, brown sugar adds
much needed extra flavor to Passover cakes. Great in Passover
Spice Sponge Cakes, cookies, and squares.
Maple table syrup is also available and this is another sweetener
that offers a unique flavor along with its sweetening power.
Ground nuts are used in many Passover cakes to replace the flour
and work with matzoh meal and cake meal to give the cake flavor.
They are often the starring flavor and character if the cake. So
stock up on all your favorites: walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts. Most
important, make sure they are fresh, fresh, fresh. Rancid nuts
will destroy a cake (and never assume they are fresh - taste,
taste, taste). Toasted nuts (toast first, then grind up) lend
the most flavor. Store toasted, ground nuts in the freezer. Do
remember that young children and those with nut allergies must
avoid nut based desserts. Refer to some nut-free recipes to give
these sort of Seder guests a choice or replace the nuts with
COCOA AND CHOCOLATE
Another prime ingredient in Passover cakes, although semi-sweet
is usually what is called for as it contains no dairy solids.
Look for kosher, quality chocolate. You will be using it in
every fashion - shredded, melted, shaved, and chopped. Also,
chocolate chips are easily available and very helpful when adding
a bit more decadence to Passover cookies and brownies (or plain
snacking on). Cocoa is a boon at Passover as it is flavor rich
and very convenient, easily converting a vanilla sponge into a
At Passover, you might as well buy a hen house or rent a kitchen
near one. Passover cakes rely on eggs for their leavening which
is why sponge cakes are synonymous with Passover. Honestly, buy
lots and lots of eggs. They last for a couple of weeks. So,
instead of buying two dozen - look for a good egg sale, and come
home with alot. One less thing to run out for. Also, separate
eggs when cold but work with the egg whites, once they are warmed
up. The difference in volume is remarkable.
Fruit lightens up the modest treats of Passover - they are fresh,
flavorful and colorful. Orange and lemon zest perk up so many
recipes, and slices of citrus, or strawberries, raspberries,
mandarin orange slices boost taste and eye appeal. Fruit salads,
an afterthought at many other occasions, do alot to revive a
tired, after-the-Seder-meal palate. Also, not everyone can eat an
egg rich cake, or chocolate, or a nut laden square so fruit is a
wonderful and appropriate alternative.
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