Toffee and Chocolate Mazto Bark with Sea Salt, Orange Zest, Pistachios

Spring, Sweet Recipes • 6 Apr 2015

Spring is here, at long last, though drowsily understated. The cold this winter was relentless, a real nasty beast, and held on by its craggy claws. As the warm sun peaked through adamant clouds, still flinty grey and plump with winter’s secret, my eye caught a glint of bright green twinkling below a rusty pile of fall leaves.

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We spent this Passover weekend with my family in Upstate New York, where it barely felt like spring. The wind tore through my grandmother’s yard while my son roamed around looking for slimy worms and gooey mud and new crocuses. I stood shivering, admiring his boundless energy and commitment to getting dirty. My mother and aunt cooked and prepped and we searched through my grandmother’s record collection, snuggled under her vintage dusty pink crochet blanket and took turns hiding marshmallow-filled chocolates, shaped as frogs and locusts, from my overzealous sweet-toothed son.

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My grandmother is on the cusp of 93 and she still contributes the most important dishes to our holiday table: this year, brisket and matzo ball soup. For years our strong and steadfast matriarch did everything, soup to nuts. In spite of our protests and begging, she tenaciously refused any help. With the fanfare suppressed and the inevitable progress of time, she has acquiesced, our holidays resembling a potluck.

Even though I begged to contribute more, I had been sick and was met resistance. My mom said “don’t even think about it” followed by my aunt’s plea to take it easy. Of course I couldn’t arrive with empty fists but with a neatly glowing little box filled with crispy, crackly, chocolate matzo bark.

Underneath drizzled melted chocolate is a base coat of buttery brown sugar toffee. The toffee, made from a boiled mixture of brown sugar and butter, makes the matzo extra brittle and intensely crisp. Each bite leaves sticky, beautifully stubborn remnants in my molars and tiny smudges of chocolate on my sugar-coated buttery lips. The bark would be too rudely sweet for my taste buds if not for the earthy, dutiful pistachios. I also throw on a handsome dash of sea salt, crumbly and granular and savory, which contrasts to the extremely sweet sugariness of the whole thing and seems completely compulsory given the sugar content. Oily strips of orange rind do the same, standing up to the sugar, blanketing the toffee and chocolate with a gorgeously heady aroma and freshness.

It was worthy of our Passover table, but I’m hoping next year it will just be the tip of the iceberg and I’ll be back to my old, overzealous ways.

Toffee and Chocolate Mazto Bark with Sea Salt, Orange Zest, Pistachios

4 unsalted matzos
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips or chunks
Orange zest from 1 orange
1/2- 3/4 cup pistachios, toasted and roughly chopped
Sea salt to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil and grease well with butter. Place matzo on the baking sheet in one layer, broken slightly to fit on the sheet.

2. In a medium saucepan, heat the butter and brown sugar over medium heat until the mixture boils. Reduce to a simmer over medium-low heat and continue to boil for about 2 minutes, stirring, until thick and gooey. Remove from heat, add the vanilla, stir until the bubbles subside, and pour over the matzo, spreading with a spatula.

3. Bake for about 15 minutes until bubbly and brown. Check after 10 minutes to make sure the matzo isn’t burning. Remove pan from oven and immediately sprinkle the chocolate over the matzo. Allow the chocolate to melt and then spread evenly over the matzo. Sprinkle with salt, orange zest and toasted pistachios. Cool in the refrigerator and break apart pieces.

Yield: Anywhere from 20-40 pieces, depending on how you break them.

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