Baking for Passover can be challenging, so Flourless Chocolate Walnut Cookies make for a yummy gluten-free Passover cookie treat
The Holiday of Affliction
Growing up, I always anticipated the coming of Passover with a mix of excitement and dread (and a dash of jealousy…I mean, who wouldn’t want jelly beans over matzah!). The excitement was for seeing my extended family (all my aunts, uncles, cousins, and most importantly, my grandparents) at our family Seder (the celebratory meal). The dread, of course, came from having to give up bread, and rice, and beans, and only eat matzah and things labelled “kosher for Passover” (dreaded words, believe me) for the week. Now, I won’t go into all the dietary restrictions that made up Passover in our house, but suffice it to say that they were not something with which to be overjoyed….matzah isn’t called the “bread of affliction” for nothing.
Passover challenges the creativity of many a baker. The constraints against using flour, or being unable to leaven products with baking powder or baking soda, is especially limiting. Oh sure, you can substitute matzah cake flour and provide lift with whipped egg whites with reasonable success, but even those tricks are…uhm…tricky. Clever bakers have come up with all sorts of acceptable items… Chocolate Satin Mousse is perfect for Seder dessert, and Smoffee (aka Salted Matzah Toffee) is quite a treat. This is the one time of year that I truly appreciate flourless cakes and cookies, so having Flourless Chocolate Walnut Cookies on hand for munching fits the bill nicely.
Handy-Dandy cookie tips
There are many recipes for Flourless Chocolate Walnut Cookies, and I zeroed in on these two from Smitten Kitchen and Mamagourmand simply because I had previously pinned their recipes to my Passover Pinterest board (that’s a mouthful!). One helpful hint that both recipes mention is to let the cookie batter rest for at least 30 minutes before baking, thus allowing the batter to dry a bit and creating more of a lifted cookie (like when making French macarons. If you have the time, don’t skip this important step.
The method for making Flourless Chocolate Walnut Cookies is simple, basically one-bowl. You only use egg whites in this recipe (although not as a meringue, so no whipping is required). There are many ways to separate eggs…usually I just dunk my hand into the bowl and fish out the yolks, but when I have a few to catch (and I want to be accurate), I use an egg separator. If you’re careful how you break the eggs, this tool makes quick work of keeping the yolk whole for another use like lemon curd, pudding, or maybe Boston Cream Pie (although after Passover).
I keep saying that these cookies can be eaten during Passover because they’re flourless, but they do use powdered sugar which contains cornstarch. Depending on how observant you are, the prohibition against eating rice, beans, and corn has been lifted, so using powdered sugar might be acceptable. If, however, you want to play it safe, use kosher for Passover powdered sugar, or make your own using the method in the recipe notes.
Flourless Chocolate Walnut Cookies
- 2 3/4 cups walnut halves (10 oz, 280g)
- 3 cups powdered sugar (12 oz, 340g)
- 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (2 oz, 58g), natural or dutch-process
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
- sea salt flakes to finish, optional
- Heat oven to 350°F. Spread the walnut halves on a large rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 9 minutes, until they are golden and fragrant. Let cool slightly, then transfer the walnut halves to a work surface and coarsely chop them.
- Position two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and lower temperature to 325°F. Line two large baking sheets with Silpat or parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, whisk the powdered sugar with the cocoa powder and salt followed by the chopped walnuts. Add the egg whites and vanilla extract and stir with a spatula just until the batter is moistened (do not overmix or it will stiffen; we’re not trying to whip these egg whites as we would for a meringue).
- Spoon the batter onto the baking sheets in evenly spaced mounds (I used a just-over-1-tablespoon small scoop, or #40 scoop. If you can spare the time, letting them rest at room temperature on their trays for 30 minutes (and up to 60 minutes) to achieve a taller dome in the oven, but it’s also fine to bake them right away (they’ll just flatten out more).
- Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, until the tops are glossy and lightly cracked; shift the pans from front to back and top to bottom halfway through to ensure even baking. Slide the Silpat or parchment paper (with the cookies) onto 2 wire racks. Let cookies cool completely, and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Chewy on the outside, soft and fudgy on the inside, with a crunch of nuts and a hint of salt, these Flourless Chocolate Walnut Cookies have a wonderful texture…you’ll never know they’re gluten-free (although I can’t claim them to be guilt-free). Also, I used my bake some now/freeze some & bake them later method so that I could have fresh cookies when I was ready (probably later this week!). I’m even toying with the idea of using them to sandwich coffee ice cream for another Passover treat. Oh, the possibilities…
Happy Passover and Happy Easter to all that celebrate, whether it be with jelly beans or Flourless Chocolate Walnut Cookies!
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!