Riding the Baking Edge #2: Lorraine’s Passover Biscuits
by Susanna Crossman
This is the second in a weekly baking series dedicated to Leonora Carrington, the beasts of the forest, sumptuous feasts and all sorts of cake.
Lorraine’s Passover Biscuits
Borges wrote, “I owe my first inkling of the problem of infinity to a large biscuit tin that was a source of vertiginous mystery during my childhood.” Biscuits as stars, asters guiding our nights, spring biscuits made at Easter, Passover, Holi and elsewhere because as Gertrude Stein wrote, “ All who make cake are welcome.”
My Passover biscuit recipe came from my late mother-in-law Lorraine, passed along baking hands with long, red painted nails. The nails were always painted. Her hair set and sprayed. Lorraine came from a London East End family of cabbies, tailors and hairdressers – she gave Vidal Sassoon scissors, taught him how to cut. On her Bulgarian honeymoon, Lorraine wore black cat-eye make-up, a lime green suit and a Mary Quant asymmetric bob.
Once baked, Lorraine would place these biscuits in cavernous Tupperware boxes, or lay them on lace beds of curling paper doilies on serving dishes triple-wrapped in cling film to take to a neighbor. Give to a cousin, a friend, a customer. A son. A mountain of Passover glory.
You cannot eat just one of these tiny biscuits. Their delicate size and taste, similar to a French petit-four, means you need to nibble two, four or five. Like Behrir Moroccan pancakes, or Indian Khasta Thekua these delicacies can’t be made by the brace, the dozen or a score, but are conceived by the myriad (which originally meant 10,000) but I aim to bake around 100. There can never be enough. They should be served alongside a feast of cakes. The beasts will talk in sundry places. The spread should weigh down the table, a reconciliation of contraries, of coincidentia oppositorum, a gathering of planets in a baking cosmos.
Set aside a couple of hours to bake these biscuits. The bake requires repetitive hand-rolling, making tens of little delicious spheres to place in the celestial field of your culinary day. Small children may love to get involved. Encourage them.
Ingredients (for each batch of approximately 20):
½ pound of either ground walnuts, hazelnuts, powdered almonds, or desiccated coconut
2 egg whites
4 oz. caster sugar
(If you like whole almonds or hazelnuts for decoration, you can use them like studded jewels.)
Whisk or electric hand mixer
Bountiful spring love.
Heat oven to 150°c.
Line baking trays with parchment paper.
Listen to Rai music, Philippe Katherine or Lee Scratch Perry. Alternatively, if you want to channel Lorraine, put on Yma Sumac and swing your hips to Mango. Dance in your kitchen. Feed your joy.
Take your egg whites and whip them into peaks, until they resemble glossy snowdrifts.
Slowly fold in the sugar and the powdered nut (or coconut) of your choice.
Wet your hands. If you have a small or large helper, they must wet their hands too.
Take a piece of the mixture the size of a walnut; roll it into a little ball. Place on the baking tray. Repeat. Keep 5cm between biscuits.
Laban, the Swiss contemporary dancer, mathematician and philosopher, described the body as is a living architecture, classified movement by: Effort, Space, Time and Flow. Roll gently and evenly, movement is an awakening of the soul.
If you wish, decorate the biscuits, pressing a whole nut into each one.
Bake for 25 minutes in the oven until the biscuits bottoms are golden. Laugh as they cook, & make the second batch.
In an idle moment, make yourself a hot drink, sit down, taste one of your creations. Natalia Ginzberg wrote, “after a certain point in life a person has to dunk her regrets in the morning coffee, just like biscuits.” Following the philosophical meanderings of Mircea Eliade in the “Eternal Retour”, these biscuits could be seen as a repetition of “the cosmogonic ritual, whereupon the unknown territory, Chaos, is transformed into Cosmos.” Eat. Sip. Bliss.
About the Author:
Susanna Crossman is an Anglo-French fiction writer and essayist, winner of the 2019 LoveReading Very Short Story Award. She has recent/upcoming work in Neue Rundschau, S. Fischer (translated into German), Repeater Books, The Creative Review, 3:AM Journal, The Lonely Crowd and more. Nominated for Best of The Net (2018) for her non-fiction, her fiction has just been short-listed for the Bristol Prize and Glimmertrain. Co-author of the French roman, L’Hôpital Le Dessous des Cartes (LEH 2015), she regularly collaborates on international hybrid arts projects. Currently, she is showing the multi-lingual prose film, 360° of Morning, with screenings and events across Europe and USA. She lives in France. @crossmansusanna.