Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had a thing for florentine (lace) cookies. With chocolate, they’re even better. And now, I’ve got a version that is Passover-friendly. In fact, these Passover Chocolate Florentine Cookies are so good, I may never go back to the original florentines.
Why have Passover cookies at all? Why not just eat “regular” cookies?
It’s all about the Passover rules on what observant Jews must avoid. Observant Jews do not eat chametz during Passover. That word, chametz, refers to leavened wheat, barley, rye, oats or spelt. Matzo flour remains unleavened because it is kept dry and baked in fewer than 18 minutes, the time it takes wheat to ferment and rise. Whether it is in the form of sheets of matzo, or crushed into matzo meal, that is the only wheat flour observant Jews use during Passover. (By the way, you can use baking soda or baking powder on Passover, as long as you use them with matzo meal or matzo cake meal, rather than “raw” flour.) Of course, gluten-free folks can continue to eat their nut flour cookies, but for me, Passover is a special time and deserves its own foods.
This particular Passover adventure started with a recipe that I got from my friend and electrologist, Mona. She and I bond over food. We talk about her chicken soup, my Hamilton gingerbread, her bone broth, and whatever I’ve been making at the time. One day we got on the subject of Passover food. She gave me her matzo ball recipe, which I am anxious to try, especially with chicken soup. I mentioned that part of my usual contribution to the first Seder is dessert. That’s when she gave me the recipe for her friend’s Passover cookies.
Called “Debra’s Lacy Thin Farfel-Nut Cookies,” the recipe contained a note saying it was like a fancy, thin oatmeal cookie. I read the recipe, mentally made a few changes and I was off to the races. I liked the idea of a lacy, oatmeal cookie. But I knew it lacked one essential ingredient – chocolate.
As an afterthought, the recipe suggested chocolate chips or dipping half the cookie in melted chocolate, but those alternatives are hardly putting the chocolate front-and-center. The chips idea struck me as misplaced. After all, this is is not be a chocolate chip cookie. And dipping half of it in chocolate means you don’t get chocolate in every mouthful. Instead, I doubled the lace cookies with chocolate in-between. As sandwich cookies, these Passover Chocolate Florentine Cookies retain the delicacy of lace cookies, but have chocolate all the way through. And the crunch!!
A few notes on these cookies (especially matzo/Passover-related ingredients):
- Farfel – One of the main ingredients in the cookie is matzo farfel. Basically, it’s just tiny pieces of matzo. You can buy farfel ready-made in a box. Or you can crush up matzo yourself. Your choice. Comparing the price of farfel to that of matzo, you will probably opt for the latter. But matzo farfel is a tradition and every once in while I buy a box, just for old time’s sake. Besides, I have a soft spot for Streits. If you have extra left over from these cookies, use it for matzo granola.
- Matzo cake meal – What is it and do I need to buy a whole can for the 1 tablespoon called for in this recipe? Matzo cake meal is finely ground up matzo. If matzo meal is the consistency of fine bread crumbs, matzo cake meal is the consistency of flour. You can DIY matzo cake meal by putting matzo meal in a high speed blender or food processor to break it down to a finer, more powdery consistency. Matzo meal is the main ingredient in Passover rolls as well as savory matzo muffins. So, if you’re making either of those, you can just set aside (and grind) a small amount of that matzo meal .
- Patience is key. Great make-ahead dessert – These cookies do not take much time to make. But they need time to rest at two points. First the dough rests in the refrigerator freezer for 15-30 minutes. Then, after the cookies bake, the chocolate needs time to set. Be patient and don’t skimp on those resting times. These cookies do keep well in a tightly covered container and you can freeze them too, so plan to make them at least several hours before you want to serve them.
Passover Chocolate Florentine Cookies
Crunchy, chocolaty and so good that you'll want to make and eat them even if/when you're not celebrating Passover. They are a sandwich cookie featuring two lacy, thin sides with dark chocolate in the middle.
- 1 cup matzo farfel 2 ounces
- 1 tablespoon matzo cake meal
- 1 cup granulated sugar 7 ounces
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup ground almonds or almond meal 2 & 1/2 ounces
- 1/4 pound butter (or margarine), melted 4 ounces
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds, lightly chopped or crushed 1 ounce
- 8 ounces dark (bittersweet or darker) chocolate
Combine the farfel, matzo cake meal, sugar, salt, and ground almonds or almond meal. Mix until well combined.
Add the melted butter (or margarine.) Mix the melted butter or margarine into the dry ingredients and then add the egg and extract(s). Mix again to make a slightly loose batter.
Add the chopped or crushed almonds and mix again. At this point, the dough is gloppy. Chill the dough in the refrigerator or freezer for 15-30 minutes, until the dough is stiff.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line 2 half sheet pans with parchment.
Using two teaspoons or your hands, portion out small balls of dough, less than 1-inch in diameter. I prefer to put my dough in the freezer so it gets fairly stiff. Then, I use my hands to make neat balls, but you really cannot guarantee that they will retain their perfectly round shape during baking.
Set on the baking sheets about 2-inches apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the edges are a deep golden brown. Watch carefully as the cookies burn easily. (See note)
Once the cookies are fully baked, let them sit on the pan for at least 5 minutes to cool down. While they are cooling, melt the chocolate, either carefully in the microwave, or by placing the chocolate in a double-boiler on the stove. (In the top of the double-boiler, the chocolate never touches the water or the direct heat.) Stir occasionally until the chocolate is fully melted and glossy. (See note.)
Once the cookies are cool, using a pastry brush, brush the wrong (flat) side of one cookie, then another and gently press them together. I like to add a tiny extra dab of chocolate in the middle of one of the flat sides to assure a good seal, but that's not absolutely necessary. Put the cookies on a wire rack to dry and let the chocolate harden. (See note.)
I like the extra almond kick that the extract provides. However, it is optional as the cookie has plenty of flavor even without it.
If you bake one pan at a time, they will be done in less time- probably closer to 8 minutes than 10. If the ones in the back are getting brown before the ones in the front, open the oven and quickly rotate the pan.
To make a full batch using 2 pans you will need to use each pan twice. Cool the pan down between each use. You can do this by taking off the parchment and running the pan under cool water, then drying it before replacing the parchment. (Parchment can be re-used for the second go-round.)
Here is an explanation for how to create a double-boiler to melt the chocolate
Once you put the chocolate between cookies and leave them on a wire rack, they may need at least an hour or two for the chocolate to harden, sealing the cookie "sandwich." How long it takes depends in part on how hot your kitchen is and how thick the chocolate layer inside the sandwich.
I hope you enjoy munching these cookies so much, you won’t even miss bread and pasta for a week. Chag Sameach.