My windows are open today in central Ohio, and I’m breathing in spring. My crew at home has weathered pneumonia, a sinus infection, two eye infections, laryngitis and a molar extraction since my last post. Spring break in California was mostly rainy, but one sunny afternoon the six of us made up half the crowd at my big brother’s joyful, intimate wedding ceremony at my parents’ house. We returned to Ohio late at night and awoke to find the grey-brown landscape had sprouted and bloomed in our absence. The world here is suddenly bright green, with soft white blooms like cotton balls on twiggy trees.
And I’m back in time write about just the holiday you’d expect from a blog called chinese grandma: Passover. I know it’s weird. There’s an Easter-egg tree in my yard, I’m writing about a Jewish holiday (for the second time!) and I’m a California-born Chinese girl married to an Irish-Catholic Ohioan. I may be confused. I may be enlightened. Or I may just be hungry.
Whatever your spring traditions, this recipe is reason for celebration. It’s simple for even the most novice cooks. You can make it days in advance. You probably have all the ingredients already: butter, brown sugar, crackers, chocolate chips.
Part cookie, part candy, this confection is born from a humble cracker. Matzoh is necessary for Passover, but otherwise soda crackers or graham crackers work as well. Some people crunch up odds and ends in their pantry – cereal, pretzels, crackers – and use that as a base. Soaked with caramel and spread with chocolate, it all tastes good.
The original recipe was created by baking guru Marcy Goldman as a Passover treat. During the week-long Passover holiday, leavened grains are not allowed. But Goldman takes matzoh, the traditional unleavened bread of Passover, and transforms it into a drool-worthy sweet that can hold its own against the lightest cakes or pastries.
This recipe welcomes experimentation. More chocolate, less chocolate, no chocolate. Nuts or no nuts. White chocolate, dried fruit, flaked coconut. David Lebovitz featured this recipe a few years ago, adding sea salt and vanilla. Smitten Kitchen added more chocolate. Next time I’m adding a crushed pretzel topping for the kids.
Start with a baking pan lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil for easy cleanup. Here I have both, but one would have been sufficient.
Line up crackers in a single layer.
Melt butter and brown sugar in a pan. Add a big pinch of sea salt if your butter is unsalted. Or omit salt if your crackers are salted.
Cook three minutes, stirring, until it looks and smells deliciously caramel-y.
Pour over crackers and spread.
Bake for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Wait five minutes for chips to soften, or if you are impatient, put the tray back in the oven for one minute.
Here I’m testing less chocolate on one half (Goldman calls for 3/4 cup; Levbovitz uses 1 cup) and more on the other (Smitten Kitchen uses 1 1/2 cups; my friend Justine’s mom Shirley throws on a whole 12 oz package, 2 cups).
I think we need a closer look at those gooey chocolate chips…
Spread chocolate evenly. The lighter-chocolate side covers completely in a thin layer. The double-chocolate side is more like frosting.
I added nuts for the grown-ups. On the double-chocolate side.
Now the hard part: waiting for it to cool. If you can fit it in a refrigerator or freezer, it takes about 30 minutes to cool completely.
And if it’s too big for your fridge, you might start nibbling a bit here and there and soon find it’s small enough to fit. Really you’ve done everyone else a favor, because they might have to wait hours for it to cool at room temperature.
Cut or break into pieces. I scored down with a knife to separate nuts from no-nuts. After that, breaking was more fun.
In the end, I think less chocolate makes for better balance of caramel, chocolate and crunch.
But you’ll have plenty of takers any way you make it.
This is a great recipe for making ahead. The only problem is keeping it safe until you need it.
I’m making this for Easter. With matzoh. Why not?
Chocolate Caramel Matzoh
An inspired use of matzoh or soda crackers. Blending candy and cookie, salty and sweet, this dangerously easy confection by baking expert Marcy Goldman and adapted by David Lebovitz is a certain crowd-pleaser.
- 4-6 unsalted matzoh boards (or soda crackers, eg Saltines, or graham crackers)
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
- 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- Pinch sea salt (if using unsalted butter)
- 1 cup chocolate chips (or coarsely chopped chocolate) – milk, semi-sweet or bittersweet
- 1 cup chopped nuts
- Sprinkle of sea salt
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Line rimmed cookie sheets completely with foil or parchment paper, covering sides and bottom of the pan. Line bottom of pan evenly with matzoh boards, cutting extra pieces of matzoh, as required, to fit any spaces on the cookie sheet as evenly as possible.
- Combine butter and brown sugar in a 3 quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Continue cooking 3 more minutes, stirring to bring sugar and butter together. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Add a pinch of salt if your butter or margarine is unsalted (or leave out salt if using salted crackers). Stir well and pour over matzoh.
- Bake 13-15 minutes, checking every few minutes to make sure mixture is not burning. If it seems to be browning too quickly, remove from oven, lower heat to 325 F and continue baking.
- Remove from oven and sprinkle matzoh boards immediately with chopped chocolate or chips. Let stand 5 minutes (or put back in oven for 1 minute) to melt, then spread melted chocolate. Top with chopped nuts or a sprinkle of sea salt if desired. Chill in refrigerator or freezer until set, about 30 minutes. Cut or break into squares or odd shapes. Makes a great gift (stores well for several days) if you can keep from eating it all.
- For Passover you may use Passover margarine and/or omit the vanilla.
- Be as creative as you like with toppings – crushed pretzel, flaked coconut, dried fruit.
- Marcy Goldman variations: white chocolate (melted and swirled with dark), raspberry (a few tablespoons of jam swirled with melted white or dark chocolate), or simple caramel (skip the chocolate).
Here’s the link to a printable version.