It’s a special time of year when once again, holidays collide. Last time it was Christmas, this time it’s Easter. We Christians know that Good Friday and Easter are way more important than just another chocolate covered holiday. It’s right up there with Christmas, maybe a bit higher in my book. Another important event is celebrated this week by another faith – Passover. Being freed from years of tyranny is something to remember. In that remembrance, they eat special foods that were part of that world. Many I’m not familiar with. One of them is called Matzo.
Over the Christmas holidays I came across, and made, a toffee that was very different than what I was used to seeing. Toffees are labor intensive treats that usually involve a technique that is only shared between the recipe keeper and their relatives or appointed subordinates. Sure they’ll tell you what’s in it and then giggle as you ruin pounds of sugar and butter, along with assorted band-aids for caramel burnt fingers. You’ll spend hours trying to figure out just how to get that certain texture. Only to find that you can’t because you live in Florida – the land of humidity! (water and sugar are NOT always BFF’s) But they knew that.
This little chocolate covered wonder is crunchy by means of an unusual ingredient – Matzo. Matzo are crackers much like saltines, but are thinner and come in very flat sheets the size of the box. Typically, they’re found in the Ethnic Food section of the store with the other Jewish specialties. Speaking of Jewish, this recipe comes by way of Chef Andrew Zimmern. Yes, the guy who eats everything! Turns out, when he’s not eating fried grasshoppers in Indonesia, he’s coming up with other really good things and has shared this through the Food & Wine site. Since Mr. Zimmern happens to be Jewish he knew all about the crunchy qualities of matzo and was kind enough to share this little tidbit with the rest of us. Yumm!
(Note: I’m not entirely sure if all of these ingredients are Passover approved. ??)
2 Sticks of butter
5 pieces of Matzo (I used the lightly salted version)
1 Cup Brown Sugar
2 Cups Chocolate Chips – good quality!
1 Cup Almonds, Pecans toasted
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350deg. Get a large shallow pan or dish about 15 x 17, I used my cookie sheet. Line it with foil and brush it with butter. Line it again with parchment and brush it with butter also. This sounds odd, but it makes it much easier to deal with later. Just be happy you won’t have to wash the cookie sheet afterward.
Step 2: Melt the butter (I used this to brush on the pan and then added the brown sugar), and the brown sugar. Over med/low heat, stir or whisk continuously until it comes together into a toffee (about 5 min – see Step 4). In the meantime, use another cookie sheet and pop them into that heated oven for a couple min. to get the nuts toasted. Remember, if you can smell them, they’re burnt.
Step 3: Now, break out that matzo. I didn’t even know what matzo was. It’s basically a saltine, only thinner and more dense. I can see how this will work now, and I wouldn’t substitute. Line the pan with it, breaking it when necessary.
Step 4: Here’s your toffee. Mmmm, smells so good!
Step 5: Now pour the toffee over the matzo sheets and smooth out with a silicon spatula (no sticking). Pop it into the oven for 5 min or so, until it’s bubbling. Keep an eye on it.
Step 6: Get that hot pan out and sprinkle on the chocolate chips. The toffee is like sugar napalm – don’t touch it! The chips will be melty in no time. Then smooth them out.
Step 7: Sprinkle on the nuts. Go and find that flaky sea salt you’ve got hiding somewhere. This stuff is so good, and can be found at both health food, gourmet stores, and online. Careful, a little goes a long way. When you sprinkle it on do it from high over the pan and it will land more sparsely. We’re not covering pretzels here.
Step 8: Let the whole thing set now. Since I’m in Florida, it’s like 80deg in my kitchen so I parked it in the fridge. It doesn’t take long to set. Get it out and break it up. The double lining makes it slide out and isn’t a sticky mess to deal with. Fold it over it break it up so the chocolate doesn’t melt with your hands.
Finale: This is awesome! Salt and toffee and chocolate – why, yes please! The matzo is still crunchy with all that sticky mess and it holds it all together. If you use good chocolate (don’t be afraid to spend a bit for Valhrona or Guittard) this is a treat you can feel confident to give away as a gift.
Enjoy – When I made these at Christmas, I packaged them up and gave them as gifts to the neighbors, lovely AND tasty for both the gentleman and lady of the house. I’m sure there’s a chocolate covered holiday coming up sometime soon that you’ll need to set out something unusual and that pleases everyone.
(Thank you for the recipe, Mr. Zimmern – but you can keep the fried grasshoppers)
- 2 Sticks of butter
- 5 pieces of Matzo (I used the lightly salted version)
- 1 Cup Brown Sugar
- 2 Cups Chocolate Chips – good quality!
- 1 Cup Almonds, Pecans toasted
- Sea Salt
- Preheat the oven to 350deg.
- Get a large shallow pan or dish about 15 x 17, I used my cookie sheet. Line it with foil and brush it with butter. Line it again with parchment and brush it with butter also.
- Melt the butter (I used this to brush on the pan and then added the brown sugar), and the brown sugar. Over med/low heat, stir or whisk continuously until it comes together into a toffee (about 5 min – see Step 4). In the meantime, use another cookie sheet and pop the nuts into that heated oven for a couple min. to get them toasted.
- Line the pan with matzo.
- Now pour the toffee over the matzo sheets and smooth out with a silicon spatula (no sticking). Pop it into the oven for 5 min or so, until it’s bubbling.
- Get that hot pan out and sprinkle on the chocolate chips. When they melt, top with the toasted nuts and some flake sea salt.
- Let it sit to cool (or park in the fridge). Break it up and serve - or put in bags to give.
- This is a beautiful snack style dessert. Or serve along with vanilla ice cream! Something both men and women will love, it's also a creative gift idea. How many neighbors do you have that would want some ?