A moist and light walnut torte for Passover
One of my favorite songs in the Sephardic music repertoire begins with this verse:
“Purim, Purim, Purim lanu
Pesach, Pesach a la mano”
Tortes and pastries made with ground nutmeats (almonds and walnuts, pistachios and hazelnuts) are common in the Passover menus of Jewish communities around the world given the prohibition against foods that are considered leaven. Grains such as rye, spelt, wheat, barley, and oats, which can ferment, cannot be used to make baked goods to be eaten at Passover. Ground nutmeats, and potato starch, are then used instead.
This cake is simply made with ground walnuts, a small amount of matzo meal, no shortening, and a relatively high amount of eggs. The result is a moist sponge cake that can be enjoyed at the end of the Seder meal or with afternoon tea and coffee. The walnut taste is intense thanks to the long baking time at a moderate temperature, which toasts the nuts and brings out their flavor. There are many variations on this basic type of cake, such as those made with a mixture of walnuts and almonds and flavored with orange juice and zest, or by using toasted hazelnuts in place of the walnuts.
From the original recipe by Florence Kreisler Greenbaum
In: “The International Jewish Cook Book: 1600 Recipes According To The Jewish Dietary Laws…”, 1919—USA
1/2 lb shelled walnuts
1/2 lb sugar
9 eggs, divided
2 tbsp fine matzo meal
1 pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 300° F (150° C). Line an 8-in cake pan with aluminum foil and generously grease with almond oil (or olive oil).
Grind the walnuts with 2 tbsp of sugar until fine and set aside. Beat the yolks at high speed until pale yellow and fluffy, then add the remaining sugar 1 tbsp at a time until the mixture is light. Mix in the ground walnuts, salt and the matzo meal and beat at high speed until well mixed. Take care to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula once in a while. Beat the egg whites until firm peaks form and add a small quantity to the walnut mixture, mixing well to lighten it. Add the remaining egg whites by hand, gently folding them in with a spatula, making sure they are well distributed (the walnut mixture tends to stick to the bottom of the bowl). Pour the prepared batter in the pan and bake for about 55 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean (not less than 45 minutes anyway).
Make sure not to open the oven door before 45 minutes, or the cake might collapse.
Take the cake out of the oven and leave it in the pan on a rack to cool for about 5 minutes. It will slightly sink and shrink from the sides. Unmold it and let it cool completely on the rack.
This year the Festival of Passover, the celebration of the Exodus from Egypt, from slavery to freedom, begins at sundown on Saturday April 19.
Chag Pesach Sameach!!