Welcome to the early spring edition of My Cooking Magazine. Spring brings memories of hope with cherry blossoms beginning to sneak out of their hidden winter branches, and the first of the tulips are starting to sprout from the ground. This year especially, we all need the added hope that spring brings.
It is hard to believe it has been a year since lock down, and although the vaccines are more available, at age 60 I have not yet been given a date. The anticipation of celebrating Passover, St Patrick’s Day, and Easter (we are a blended family) is a little less joyous, as our Seder will be only two of us, and on Easter we will not be able to attend the Tonini family Easter Egg hunt and cookout. St Patrick’s Day will be my husband and his sisters- take out, I being the only one who has not yet been vaccinated, but again the spring if filled with hopefulness that soon I can see more relatives and play with our grand nieces and nephews and cook for my girlfriend gatherings.
Since Covid I have gained 20-plus pounds, but I live in Florida most of the year so at least I’m able to walk and get fresh air. I have although immersed myself in baking and starting a cottage bakery for local businesses and friends. I have also immersed myself in reading my cookbooks and cooking magazines and dreaming of indoor dining and supporting those restaurants that have struggled so hard just to stay on.
But spring is bringing hope, and we slowly will get back most of what seemed lost, just a little longer. So our team dedicates this issue to hope. Soon we will gather at the table and eventually we will begin new travel. But just like a chef that wears a hat in the kitchen, we must stay with our masks on. It is no political statement, but consider it the same feeling of bringing fresh daffodils and strawberry pies to those we love and soon will gather with again.
This salty-sweet, Passover-friendly treat is colloquially referred to as chocolate matzo crack, and for good reason. In the process of making this batch, my roommates and I kept coming back for bite after indulgent, snappy bite, despite our best intentions toward moderation. Delighted as they were to share in this addictive toffee, by round four of “just one more bite,” they were cursing my name.
Dangerously buttery, salty, sweet, and crisp, this candy requires no candy thermometer or other special equipment, unlike the majority of toffee- and brittle-like creations. Yet somehow it magically mimics the best toffee, thanks to the light texture and snap the matzo imparts. Proceed with the recipe at your own risk: you’ve been warned.
In honor of the coming of hope and spring, I share this salty, toffee-laden Matzo treat that I begin making for Easter and continue on for Passover. Perhaps this year I will call it Matzo Hope!
• 4-5 unsalted matzos
• 2 sticks (1 cup) salted butter
• 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
• 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
• Sea salt
• 10-12 oz. bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
• 1 cup chopped walnuts
• extra sea salt, for sprinkling
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, making sure it goes up the edges, and top with parchment paper.
- Spray parchment with cooking spray or use your butter wrappers to lightly grease.
- Cover entire bottom of baking sheet with a single layer of matzos, breaking to fit when necessary. (Note: Although matzo is perforated and looks like it would break along nice even lines, it doesn’t necessarily break cleanly like you’d expect. This is the bread of affliction, people; it’s not here to make your lives easier…)
- At this point, start preheating your oven to 350 degrees and make your toffee layer:
o Add butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and just a bit of sea salt to a medium saucepan.
o Cook over medium heat and whisk constantly until mixture comes to a boil, then continue cooking and whisking for another 3-4 minutes until toffee mixture is thickened, begins to get foamy, and pulls away from the sides of the pan as you stir.
- Turn off your burner, pour toffee over the matzo layer, then spread evenly with a small rubber spatula. (Caution: This is approximately the temperature of molten lava when you first pour it, yet will harden quickly and become very difficult to spread. Get this layer done immediately, carefully, and quickly.)
- Now bake your matzo-toffee concoction at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.
- Your toffee layer should be bubbling all over when ready, and be careful not to overcook.
- Remove from oven and immediately pour chocolate chips over the top. (I used Enjoy Life mini chips because that’s what I had handy, but any semi-sweet chips should do.)
- Let these sit for a few minutes until softened and melting, then use your spatula to spread the chocolate layer evenly across the top.
- Top with chopped walnuts and a little sea salt.
- Refrigerate for about 40 minutes, placing the hot cookie sheet on oven mitts or a towel to avoid the chance of cracking a glass refrigerator shelf.
- When chocolate is hardened, lift the whole Matzo Crack out of the pan using the foil edges and break into pieces.
- Store leftovers (ha! ha!) refrigerated in an airtight container.
If you are making Matzo Crack for Passover, leave out the vanilla extract (or use a substitute) and ensure that the brown sugar and chocolate you use are labeled Kosher for Passover. I also used unsalted matzo since that’s traditional and the sale item we have here this week; if yours happens to be salted, you might want to use unsalted butter.