My friend Sharon emailed me recently asking for a Passover recipe that is not in my book, Fast & Festive Meals for the Jewish Holidays. She was already making three recipes from the book that she could travel with and they were all chocolate. The criteria was that it had to freeze, be sturdy enough to take on a plane and be anything but chocolate.
When I was growing up, my parents celebrated Passover with the same traditional seder every year. We read or sang every word of the Haggadah and dinner was always a hard boiled egg in salt water, chicken soup with matzah balls, brisket and sponge cake. The food was always delicious, but for me, it got boring. When I grew up and began having my own seders, I tried different recipes every year.
I think that cooking is a good barometer of our personality. I always want to do and try something new. I don't like cooking the same thing twice and I don't thrive on repetition. Sometimes trying new recipes on company works great, but then there are the other times that I wish I could have crawled under the table.
This brings me to creating a new Passover dessert for Sharon. It is challenging to come up with new Passover desserts that don't contain gluten. I also set the bar high. I love the challenge of seeing what I can come up with that will taste different from all the other Passover desserts out there.
I am not sure whether the dessert I came up with is a cake or a pie. It is somewhere in the middle. I began by copying the filling from my favorite apple blackberry pie, and the crumbs from a Passover crisp. In the apple recipe, I substituted 2 tablespoons of potato starch, which is allowed at Passover, for 2 tablespoons of cornstarch, which isn't. I precooked the apples, because by cooking them in the microwave first, they don’t shrink in the cake, which allows you to pack more of them in. They also are able to absorb more of the brown sugar and other flavors that they are precooked in. I took the almond macaroon and sponge cake crumbs from my crisp and pressed half of them into a crust on the bottom of the pan. I then layered the apples on the crust and topped them with more crumbs.
I was so eager to taste the cake when it came out of the oven that I set the timer for 2 hours, which is the minimum amount of time a cake needs to cool before you can remove the sides of a springform pan. I cut myself an enormous piece and must have devoured it in less than 2 minutes. I am a sucker for apple pie and this dessert is so full of apples that it leans toward being called a pie. But then the apples are ensconced in so many crumbs that it seems more like a cake. Whatever you call it, it definitely won't taste like any other Passover dessert you've had.
The easiest way to remove the sides of the springform are by placing the cake on a bowl that is smaller than the circumference of the springform. Run a knife around the inside edge of the cake, loosen the clasp and let the sides of the springform drop down. This keeps you from wearing a springform bracelet.
You can make it now and freeze it or make it a couple of days ahead and refrigerate it. Serve it either warm or at room temperature. If you want to travel with it, I suggest packing it frozen. I hope it brings a smile to the lips of all who taste it and from my home to yours, I wish you and your loved ones a very happy Pesach.
PASSOVER APPLE BLACKBERRY CRUMB CAKE
By precooking the apples in the microwave, they don’t shrink in the cake, which allows you to pack in more apples. They also are able to absorb more of the brown sugar and other flavors they are precooked in. If you have an apple peeler-corer-slicer this is the time to use it.
2 cups Passover sponge cake crumbs (about 1/2 of a 9-inch cake)
2 cups almond macaroon cookie crumbs (about 18 canned soft-style macaroons)
10 tablespoons. (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted non-dairy margarine, melted
4 to 5 pounds tart apples, such as Pippin or Granny Smith (approximately 9 apples)
1 cup fresh or frozen blackberries, not defrosted
1/2 cup packed golden brown sugar
2 tablespoons potato starch
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Scant 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup sliced almonds
Vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt, optional, when dietary restrictions allow
1. To make crumbs, preheat oven to 375°. Tear cake into small pieces, put them into a food processor and process into crumbs. Measure 2 cups and remove them to a rimmed baking sheet. Break macaroons into pieces, add to processor and process into crumbs. Add to cake crumbs and mix with your fingers until thoroughly combined. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, stirring every 3 minutes until golden brown. Cool 30 minutes. Add melted margarine and toss with hands until evenly coated.
2. To prepare apples: While crumbs bake, peel, core and thinly slice the apples. In a large microwave-safe bowl mix the brown sugar, starch, cinnamon and salt. Add apple slices and blackberries and mix with your hands until apples are thoroughly coated; they will be a little wet. Microwave on high power, stirring every 3 minutes with a rubber spatula, until slices are turning translucent and liquid has thickened slightly, 16 to 18 minutes. The apples should be tender, but still have a little crunch. Cool 30 minutes.
3. To assemble: Layer 2 1/4 cups crumbs in bottom of a greased 9-inch springform pan; press down firmly with the bottom of a 1 cup measure. Layer apples with juices; pressing down firmly after each layer. Mix almonds with remaining crumbs and sprinkle over top of cake; press down firmly.
4. To bake: Preheat oven to 375°. Place springform pan on a baking sheet and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the apples are tender when tested with a toothpick. If the top get too brown, cover loosely with foil. Remove from oven to a rack and cool at least 2 hours.
MAKE AHEAD: When thoroughly cool, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze up to 1 month. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.
5. Before serving, reheat cake at 400 degrees for 5 minutes, if desired. Place cake on a bowl that is smaller than the circumference of the springform. Run a sharp knife around inside edge of cake and let the springform sides fall down. Lift cake to a platter and cut into wedges.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.