A KosherEye Chat with Lisa Koonin

KosherEye "Foodie" Friend & Baker Extraordinaire


We are continuing our chat with Lisa Koonin as she shares her tips for successful Passover baking.

What do you look for when first deciding on a Passover recipe (baking)?
I like to create my own Passover recipes.  I look for non-Passover desserts that could be adapted easily to a Passover dessert—and also desserts that would be something unexpected for Passover.  I look for recipes that have flour as a minor ingredient, and/or mostly relied on chocolate, eggs, fruit, or nuts as the major ingredient.  I figure that I can substitute small amounts of matzo meal or matzo cake meal for the small amounts of flour in adapting a regular dessert to a Passover dessert.  I also look for a dessert with a lot of flavor, by the end of the Seder, most people are full and only want a sliver of something sweet—so it has to be good!

What are your favorite Passover Baking ingredients?
Eggs, nuts, vanilla extract, chocolate, Passover confectioner’s sugar, and organic lemons (because I use the peel) are my favorite ingredients.  I use Kosher for Passover margarine to bake many of my desserts and can’t figure out why it is so hard to find in the stores!

What are your favorite kitchen tools?
My favorite tools are probably found in most kitchens.  I couldn’t make my Passover desserts without my Kitchen Aid mixer (to whip egg whites and blend batters), a food processor (to finely grind nuts), a Microplane (to shred lemon zest), and springform baking pans.

Please share some of your favorite Passover Kitchen Secrets/Tips.
I try to bump up the flavors in my Passover desserts—here are a few of my tricks:

•  Use Passover vanilla sugar to substitute for up to 1/4 cup white sugar in cakes—it has great flavor.  Vanilla sugar is also good for dusting a cake pan after greasing it and before pouring in the batter.

•  Add a few tablespoons of strongly brewed black coffee and 1 tsp. of vanilla to any Passover cake with chocolate as a main ingredient—the coffee and vanilla will boost the chocolate flavor.

•  Toast nuts before using in a recipe (like the Pecan Bars) to bring out the full flavor of the nuts.

•  Roll lemons on the counter to soften them before juicing.  But remember to remove the zest of the lemons before juicing them (as in the Lemon Meringue Pie). 

•  To prevent over baking, watch cakes carefully as they get to the end of the baking time.

•  Finally, use the best quality ingredients that you can find—your desserts will improve as the quality of your ingredients improve.

•  Also, at the end of each Passover, as I am washing, wrapping and putting my cooking utensils, dishes, and pots away, I make myself a list of things that I need to get for next Passover, utensils that will make it easier next year, and hard to find ingredients that I remind myself to get in March when the grocery stores first put out the Passover food.

What is a little known fact about Lisa Koonin?
I don’t think that many people know that Sam (Lisa's husband) and I have three bunnies as pets (Bunya, Lucy and Ethel).  They are wonderful pets and make us laugh a lot.

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