When I was in high school in a suburb of Washington, D.C., my friend Debbie Weisz gave me a recipe for Passover rolls that she’d written on a three-by-five card. My mother and I were intrigued by the idea of rolls for Passover, and so we made them together. These rolls became part of our family’s Passover recipe repertoire.
The dough for these Passover rolls is fast and easy to make. It’s a cooked dough made by mixing matzo meal or the more finely ground matzo cake meal into a nearly boiling mixture of water, butter and salt, and then cooking it briefly. Last eggs are beaten into the dough off the heat.
That recipe card traveled with me when I moved to Jerusalem, and then to Paris, where I realized during lessons at the Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne cooking school that the dough for our Passover rolls was similar to pâte à choux – the dough used to make cream puffs and éclairs. The only difference was that our Passover dough was made with matzo meal instead of flour, which is forbidden during Passover.
Once I understood that this was a variation of the classic dough, I began to use it to make French pastries for Passover. I prepared Passover cream puffs and filled them with whipped cream, pastry cream, or mousseline cream — pastry cream enriched with butter. Sometimes I drizzled the filled puffs with chocolate sauce to make profiteroles.
Usually pastry cream is made with flour or cornstarch, but since many avoid both during Passover, we thicken our pastry cream with potato starch. Cream puffs filled with coffee walnut mousseline cream, then topped with honey and walnuts have become Passover favorites of ours.
For a Passover appetizer, we prepare savory choux pastry by beating cubes of flavorful cheese into the dough to make gougères, another French specialty. Gougères are delicious filled with a mixture of sautéed mushrooms and leeks or with ratatouille, but you could instead fill these cheese puffs with popular American sandwich fillings like egg salad or tuna salad.
And for a Passover brunch, you might like to fill plain puffs with that ever-popular Jewish American combination — lox and cream cheese.
Faye Levy is the author of five books on Jewish cooking, including “1,000 Jewish Recipes” and “Jewish Cooking for Dummies.”