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April 10, 2014

Passover Chocolate Pecan Thumbprint Cookies

It's almost that time again. Passover. As you can imagine, I'm not particularly enthusiastic about anything that tries to take my carbs away from me. I'm not even sure what the rules are anyway, so if somebody wants to explain them to me that would be lovely. As far as I know, I'm not allowed to have any flour or leavening. Just matzo. But you know what matzo is? Flour and water. So why can I eat flour in the form of matzo but not flour in anything else? This has always confused me, as has the restrictions on leavening. Apparently I can't use chemical leavenings (like baking powder or baking soda), but did the Jews way back in the time of Moses have baking powder and baking soda? I've heard I'm allowed to use whipped egg whites as a leavening agent, just as I would for an angel food cake if I could use flour. But isn't that technically leavening, which defeats the point of Passover? I'll quit my rambling now and just focus on what I can eat, because sometimes it can actually taste pretty good.


I've noticed a spike in popularity over the last few days for my Passover almond thumbprint cookies. I decided to make a variation of that recipe because they are really easy to make and can be adapted to suit most tastes (but don't try it if you have a nut allergy). The one thing I always want to eat, especially when I can't have carbs, is chocolate, so I decided to take out the last bit of anything remotely healthy in this recipe--the jam, which does have an iota of fruit--and replace it with chocolate. Since I'm not having carbs, I'm pretty sure those calories can be transferred to chocolate, so I use lots of it. You can dip the bottoms of the cookies in more chocolate and/or drizzle some on top if you really want to celebrate. A white chocolate drizzle would look great on top of the giant core of dark chocolate.


Now for the base of the cookie. It might seem difficult to make cookies without flour or leavening. There's recipes everywhere for gluten-free anything, but those require leavening. Most shortbread, including my ever-popular white chocolate cranberry cookies, don't use leavening, but they do have flour. See my conundrum? It's really difficult to make Passover desserts. However, I found this cookie recipe and I'm sticking with it. It uses a combination of nuts and the secret ingredient, matzo cake meal. I'm not exactly sure why using nut flours (which is basically a fancy name for ground up nuts, something you can make in a food processor in seconds) works so well, but it does. The matzo cake meal is glorified ground up matzo, and it has this powdery, sandy texture that feels pretty awesome if you run your fingers through it. Since matzo is made from flour, it acts as flour would in a cookie recipe, although again I'm not entirely sure why you can't just use regular flour.


Once you add an egg and some melted butter to the dry ingredients, you have your cookie dough. You should form them into thumbprint cookie shapes as fast as possible after adding the butter because they are significantly easier to shape and they don't crumble as much. It's a fairly dry cookie dough, and you'll get much prettier cookies if you form them before they absorb the butter entirely. The dough only stays moist and pliable for a few minutes, so work quickly!


I was a little concerned the chocolate would burn or leak out of the core during baking, but I wanted chocolate, so I risked it. Luckily, it turned out pretty well. I just stuck a few chocolate chips in the thumbprint crater and they melted perfectly while baking. Since mine held their little chip shapes, I took an offset spatula (or you could use a small knife) to swirl the chocolate around and break up the chips. They were molten inside, but they needed to be broken up to make that beautifully smooth core. To reduce the sadness of being carbless for a few days, I brightened up my cookies with some rainbow sprinkles, which are a totally optional decoration but they do make the cookies look just a little more special.


1 Cup Pecans, Toasted
2/3 Cup Matzo Cake Meal
2/3 Cup Sugar
1/4 tsp Salt
1 Stick Butter, Melted
1 Egg
3/4 tsp Vanilla
1/2 Cup Chocolate Chips


Heat oven to 350F and line cookie trays with parchment.

Pulse the pecans, cake meal, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor until fine. Whisk the egg, butter, and vanilla together, then fold into the nut mixture.

Quickly scoop the dough into balls. Place on the prepared tray and make a small indentation in the center of each. Spoon a few chocolate chips into the dent and bake for 8-10 minutes.



Makes 20
Recipe Adapted from Gourmet


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