Tuesday, April 03, 2012

A White House Passover Recipe, Served At President Obama's Seder: Apricot Sponge Cake

Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses' spiced jelly roll is a perfect Seder sweet...
UPDATE: CLICK HERE for the post about the 2012 Presidential Seder
President Obama and First Lady Obama will welcome family and friends for a Seder on the first night of Passover, this Friday, April 6. For the President's three previous Seders at 1600 Penn, the chefs cooked  traditional meals, with dishes that included Chicken soup with matzoh balls, braised beef brisket, potato kugel, carrot soufflé and matzoh chocolate cake.  They primarily used old family recipes provided by the invited guests, so the White House has never released a special Passover Recipe...until now. In addition to other desserts, Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses made Apricot Sponge Cake for last year's Presidential Seder, and he says that he will be making it again this year.  Below, Yosses' recipe. (Above: Holding a Maxwell House Haggadah, the President and guests dip fingers in Passover wine)

The foods served at the Presidential Seders are "not strictly kosher but kosher style," according to the White House. Yosses' recipe creates a jelly roll cake, and, of course, uses no hametz--leavenedingredients. Instead, it is made with matzo cake meal and potato starch, egg whites, and a dash of aromatic spices, including cardamom. The filling is a nod to the Middle East:  It's a puree made from dried apricots and fruit juice, and includes ground roasted hazelnuts. (Above: Yosses and his top pastry assistant, chef Susie Morrison)

If you have never made a jelly roll cake--which requires actually rolling up the cake with filling--there are many tutorials available online (Google it); this recipe has no tips for novice rollers. A 17” x 12” jelly roll pan is required, and the apricots must be soaked overnight. If, like Yosses, you are ambidextrous when using a whisk and can actually hand whip egg whites into a meringue, go for it. Otherwise, use an electric mixer for that step. Yosses says that a teeny bit of cream of tartar added to the egg whites helps get good, stiff peaks, but the recipe does not call for it.

The President's White House Seders continue a tradition he started on the 2008 campaign trail, when he joined aides for an impromptu and private Seder in a hotel basement during the crucial Pennsylvania Primary.  At the White House, the President and his guests use the Maxwell House Haggadah as their text, a plain-language edition that has been in use for more than 70 years in America.  About a dozen guests attended the Seder last year, and the guest list will be slightly larger on Friday.

Passover is getting extra attention from the White House this year: Last week, Yosses and acclaimed Jewish cooking authority Joan Nathan spoke at a special Passover Cooking Lesson and discussion at the White House, demonstrating one of Nathan's recipes and a recipe for a pear and apple haroset. One of Nathan's recipes was also included in the White House Passover Recipe Collection created in 2011, when acclaimed chefs were invited to offer their healthy Seder recipes as part of the Let's Move! campaign.

White House Passover Apricot Sponge Cake

12 oz dried apricots

2 Cups hot water

Juice of one orange

6 egg whites

1 Cup sugar

1/3 Cup apricot juice

1/4 Tsp ground ginger

1/4 Tsp cardamom

1/2 Cup Matzo cake meal

1/4 cup potato starch

1/8 Tsp salt

3/4 Cup ground hazelnuts, roasted lightly

Powdered sugar, for sprinkling

1. Combine apricots, fruit juices, and water, boil, then soak overnight. Puree this mixture into an apricot puree.

2. Grease 17” x 12” jelly roll pan; preheat oven to 350 degrees.

3. In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites, salt, and sugar. When fully developed into a meringue, add ground ginger and cardamom, and beat until it forms frothy ribbons.

4. Gently fold in matzo meal and potato starch.

5. Pour into jelly roll pan, cover with parchment paper, and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

6. Remove cake from oven, transfer onto a cooling rack and cool, covered.

7. Remove cake from pan. Spread the apricot puree over the top of the cake, sprinkle ground hazelnuts, and roll the cake up.

To serve, sprinkle with powdered sugar.


The video of Yosses and Nathan discussing demonstrating Passover recipes and discussing Jewish food and traditions:

*Both Seder photos taken the Old Family Dining Room of the White House, March 29, 2010, by Pete Souza/White House
; chef photo by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama