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During Passover, I have limited ingredients to work with. Rice flour is not permitted to Ashkenazi Jews, and many things that are theoretically acceptable for Passover use are not available with reliable certification. I’ve never been able to find agave or molasses for Passover, so I do allow myself small amounts of honey.
There are certain techniques for baking during Passover that most kosher cooks are familiar with. Even for those without health-related dietary restrictions, Passover cooking is different. Matzah meal can be used in baking, but it won’t act like regular wheat flour. Gluten gives baked goods a nice texture, as it stretches out and holds the dough together before baking. But when you’ve got gluten that’s already been mixed with water and baked before being crumbled and used as a cooking ingredient, it doesn’t have those dough-smoothing properties. While just as hard on your body, the gluten is useless from a baking perspective.
Good kosher cooks have learned how to compensate for the lack of gluten in baking. The most popular technique involves separating eggs. Then you whip up the egg whites in a separate bowl until they’re light and foamy. Meanwhile, the other ingredients (including the egg yolks) get mixed in another bowl. The last step is to gently fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture- if you’re too rough you’ll destroy the fluffiness of the egg whites- and then spoon the batter into prepared baking dishes.
I used this technique to make some banana muffins over Passover. I started by mashing a few over-ripe bananas. Then I added the egg yolks to the mixture while putting the egg whites in another bowl. I also added the pulp from the almond milk I’d made earlier in the week. I added some lemon juice and salt to the egg whites and whipped them up. When they were stiff, I blended together the ingredients in the other bowl. It didn’t seem sweet enough, so I added a little bit of honey to the batter. Then I folded in the egg whites and put it into the muffin papers. I’d prepared 12 muffin papers in my 2 foil cupcake tins, and then realized I’d made too much batter for 12 muffins. I was afraid to keep the batter out too long, in case it fell and the texture was ruined, so I put more muffin papers into a rectangular foil pan. The muffins weren’t as round, but it worked fine. The end result was SO light and fluffy that I wondered if they would have come out better without separating the eggs.
I made more banana muffins later in the week. I didn’t have any more almond pulp, and didn’t need to make any more almond milk, so I used ground almonds instead. This batch didn’t need added honey and overall had a better flavor.
I baked a chocolate cake loosely based on a recipe I found in a kosher cookbook. I did the egg-white thing, mixing a few whole eggs into the egg yolk mixture because the yolks broke when I tried to separate them. I also added brown sugar, vanilla, and cocoa powder. I used some oil and tapioca starch to “grease and flour” the cake pan, and mixed the extra bit of tapioca starch into the batter- probably about a tablespoon total, maybe two. The cocoa powder and dry sugar provided most of the bulk for the cake. That came out light and fluffy and delicious.
I tried to bake a honey cake using the tapioca starch for solidity, and only honey for the sweetener so it would be free of refined sugars. It came out horrible- the edges were too dry and crumbly, and the center was gooey like a pudding. Basically, the batter separated before it could solidify, and the texture was awful. I ended up throwing it out. I guess Passover cakes need something more solid than starch to hold them together- the solid sugar helps provide some texture. A cake made with only honey for sweetness would need nut flour to hold it together.
I baked some more almond meal muffins today, even though Passover is over. I started with an overripe pear- I peeled it then mashed it with a fork and added egg yolks. I beat the egg whites until stiff in another bowl, then blended the pear/egg mixture, then added some almond meal until the texture looked right. It seemed kind of watery- I guess pears are more watery than bananas- so I added a little rice flour too. I folded in the egg whites and put into prepared muffin tins.
But I’d prepared 12 muffin tins and only had enough batter for 6 muffins. So I made more muffin batter. This time I mashed up a ripe banana, and I was too lazy to separate out the eggs so I whipped up the banana with whole eggs until fluffy. Then I added the almond meal and put into muffin tins to bake. I didn’t use any added sweeteners in either of today’s muffins.
The banana muffins came out good even without separating the eggs- though they’re denser than the pear muffins. I still haven’t decided if I’ll bother separating eggs when I make muffins again.
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