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On Cooking Southern: Holy Week Recipes

Almond Amaretto Cake

High and mighty dishes bring savory sweetness

By Laurie Triplette



High and Mighty: Someone who’s acting like they’re better than everyone else, whether it’s true or not. Destined for a big fall, like a sittin’ duck. Leave it to the big teams and don’t go there, Rebs. Just remember, your mamas raised you right!


This week The Old Bride thought our readers needed a little nosh of sweetness to savor along with the incredible Rebel victory in Nashville this past Sunday. It seemed only appropriate to whip up something sort of kosher in anticipation of our upcoming Passover and Easter holy days. The matzo crackers and matzo cake meal came from East Memphis, as there’s none to be had in Oxford; more’s the pity!

Chocolate Matzo Crack(ers)

matzo-crack-croppedDSCN3604This “Passover-acceptable” dessert is called crack for the obvious reason – you can’t eat just some of it. I first ate a version of this about 25 years ago at a Long Island estate auction being held during Holy Week. Other versions abound in both the Jewish and Christian vernacular, with graham, Country Club, or saltine crackers serving as the crack(er) foundation for the toffee and other bits.

4 to 6 sheets of matzo crackers (or approximately 40 saltines)
1 c (2 sticks) salted butter, room temperature
1 c packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/2 c semisweet chocolate chips
1 c combined chopped roasted & salted almonds plus shelled pistachios

Pre-measure all ingredients. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line an 11-by-17-inch baking sheet with the new double-sided aluminum foil and parchment paper, parchment-side up. Line up matzo crackers in the pan, all sides touching, to fill the pan. Break pieces to fill in spaces around the edges.

Set timer to 3 minutes but do not start it. Melt butter and brown sugar in a medium saucepan, stirring, over medium heat until it begins to boil (edges). Start 3-minute timer, and stir continuously with a wooden spoon, making sure to scrape sugar off the saucepan sides. As soon as timer beeps, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Quickly pour caramel syrup over the crackers. Spread out evenly over the crackers with spatula before caramel completely sets up.

Bake for 7 to 10 minutes, until caramel is completely puffed and bubbly. Be sure to remove from oven before cracker edges turn dark. Immediately upon removing from oven, sprinkle entire surface with the chocolate chips. Don’t worry about the chocolate looking skimpy. Let it stand about 2-3 minutes until the chocolate begins to melt, then use soft-sided spatula to spread softened chocolate evenly across the caramel. Sprinkle with chopped nuts while still warm and lightly press into the surface. Cool tray about 30 minutes; stick into fridge for 15-30 minutes to set up the chocolate. Remove from fridge, bring back to room temperature, and break crackers into pieces. Store, sealed, in a metal container.

Shiksa Variation: Reduce chocolate bits to 1 cup, add 1 c broken mini pretzels; and instead of the original nuts, add 1/3 c chopped peanuts and 1/3 c M&M candies.

Almond Amaretto Cake

1 c (4-1/2 oz) sliced almonds
1/4 c matzo cake meal
1/4 c potato starch
1/4 plus 2 T sugar
1/4 tsp salt
5 large egg yolks
1/2 c extra light olive oil, plus more for pan
3 T Amaretto liqueur
4 large egg whites at room temperature
Pinch of salt
1/2 c sliced almonds
Fresh raspberries for serving

Heat oven to 325˚F. Grease bottom of a 9-inch spring-form pan with some oil, then line bottom with parchment and lightly coat with oil. Toast almonds in baking sheet for about 10 minutes, until a shade darker.  Cool nuts for 10 minutes. Combine the toasted almonds, matzo meal, potato starch, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Pulse until the almonds are fine-ground. Whisk egg yolks, olive oil, Amaretto, and half of almond mixture in a large bowl until combined. Whisk in remaining dry mixture. It will be thick.

Beat the egg whites on medium speed with a pinch of salt in a medium bowl until they just hold soft peaks. Increase speed to high, beating until meringue holds stiff glossy peaks. Gently fold meringue into batter with whisk, mixing in only one direction until completely blended. Pour batter into prepared pan. Smooth out the top. Bake approximately 40-45 minutes, or until cake is golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove pan to rack to cool and run very thin knife around edges while still warm, to loosen from sides. Cool approximately 1 hour, or until it is possible to loosen spring-form without cracking cake. Slide cake off pan bottom onto rack to continue cooling.

Before serving, invert cake onto parchment paper long enough to remove original parchment, then flip back upright onto cake plate and sprinkle top with almonds or with powdered sugar. Serve with fresh berries and whipped cream.

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