Join me for a trip down memory lane and an updated recipe for gluten-free krembos with pistachios, based on the book Sweet Noshings by Amy Kritzer. This childhood Israeli treat never tasted as good as this!
The rain drips down the back of my neck, slow rivulets making their way into that warm space between the liner of the jacket and the delicate skin of my nape. My fingers shake as I struggle to form them into delicate pincers that would be impervious to the cold air all around us and help me to peel the wrapper from the treat I am holding in my hands. Eventually, the krembo begins to reveal its shape: a dark chocolate dome, frozen around a delicate marshmallow centre that sits, like a king on its pedestal, on a thick vanilla cookie. A slow smile curls the corners of my lips, and my eyes close as I dip my head down to take a bite, filling my mouth with melting shards of chocolate, cloud-like marshmallow and crumbly cookie.
It's 15C, winter in Israel, and I can barely survive long enough to finish the end of my biscuit.
Krembos are a ubiquitous part of every Israeli child's winter. Given as treats at birthday parties, bartered for marbles or the lesser, year-round wafers ("waflot") in the backyard, or stuffed into your pocket by an obliging parent after a visit to a particularly annoying relative, krembos are our one joy in a season of rain, warm jackets and hearty soups.
But here's the truth: I never really liked them.
There was just something about the commercially-produced marshmallow puff, the chocolate cover so thin it crackled in your hands upon the slightest touch, the hard cookie you had to suck on for hours just to get it to an edible state. Despite their mass appeal and the widely held reverence with which my fellow immigrants viewed this asli (bona-fide) Israeli treat, krembos just weren't my thing.
So you just know that as soon as I laid my hands on Sweet Noshings, the first book by superstar Jewish food blogger Amy Kritzer of What Jew Wanna Eat, and saw that there was a recipe for homemade krembos, I just had to try my hand at remedying this childhood treat.
I met Amy at the Harvest Gathering Schusterman Connection Point for Jewish food professionals I participated in last year. She was the loud, fun girl in the bright blue unicorn t-shirt with the big head of blond curls who seemed to find life immensely amusing, and everyone worthy of her undivided attention. Yet she also found the time to run around with three fully assembled bagel halves - with all the trimmings! - and photograph them against the coolest backgrounds. In short, she was the life of the party and the girl EVERYONE wanted to be like.
I knew we would be fast friends.
Which is why it feels immensely satisfying to hold Amy's debut book Sweet Noshings in my hands. Full of glossy pictures and modern renditions on old Jewish classics, this book is the perfect compendium for the typical Jewish millennial. We like unicorns and social media and puns, but we're also deathly attached to our childhood treats: grandma's chocolate babka, mama's chocolate covered matzos, rugelach of all shapes and colours. Amy gets it; she takes our cravings for the old and familiar and updates it ever-so-slightly, making it better, just a bit more ironic, and more Instagram-ready.
Amy's are Jewish desserts for the new generation, and I am loving it.
So let's talk about these gluten-free krembos with pistachio that I made from Sweet Noshings (in Amy's original, the cookie is not gluten-free). In two words, they are The Bomb. It begins with a perfectly crumbly shortbread cookie studded with pistachios. On it you pile (or pipe out) a tower of homemade marshmallow batter, a substance so delicious and simple to make that I will never, ever, ever buy commercial marshmallows again. The whole thing gets frozen and dipped in melted, high quality chocolate, and then sprinkled with pistachios. And then devoured within the span of 30 seconds, because your heart just can't handle all this goodness.
Yeah. Gluten-free krembos with pistachio are that good. So do yourself a favour and make them - or better yet, grab a copy of Amy's book Sweet Noshings and make them along with a host of other modernized Jewish classics.
Gluten-free krembos with pistachios and Sweet Noshings by Amy Kritzer
- For gluten-free pistachio cookie base:
- 1½ cups 213 g GF flour mix (I used a homemade one based on this ratio)
- ½ cup 57 g powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1½ sticks or ¾ cup 140 g chilled unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- ½ cup 50 g unsalted, shelled pistachios, plus more chopped for garnish
- 1 egg
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
For marshmallow filling:
- 6 egg whites
- 1½ cups 300 g granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1½ teaspoon vanilla extract
For chocolate shell:
- 1 package 12 ounce/340 g semisweet chocolate chips
- 3 tablespoon coconut oil butter, or canola oil (coconut oil works best, but use what you have)
- To make cookies, place GF flour, powdered sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse until combined. Add butter, pistachios, egg, and vanilla. Pulse until pistachios are very fine and dough comes together.
- Form a log about 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter on wax paper, using the wax paper to help you mold it. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours. If you are in a rush, freeze for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350ºF/180ºC.
- Cut log into ¼-inch (6 mm) slices, and bake on a parchment paper–lined baking sheet, 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart, until lightly golden, about 15 minutes. Cool.
- While cookies are baking, make your filling. Make sure the bowl and whisk are very clean and dry. Make a double boiler with a pot or heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water (not touching the water) and place egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the top pot over simmering water over medium heat. Whisk for 5 minutes, or until sugar has dissolved. Do not let it boil. Mixture should be frothy, warm, and not gritty. If you have a candy thermometer, it should be about140ºF/60ºC.
- Remove from heat, transfer to a large heat-resistant bowl (or use the bowl it’s already in) and beat with a stand or hand mixer with whisk attachment until thick, shiny, and stiff peaks form, 10 minutes or more. Then beat in vanilla.
- To make krembos, put filling in a pastry bag with a wide tip or a plastic bag with wide tip. Pipe onto cookies in a swirl, about 2 inches (5 cm) high, and freeze for at least 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, to make chocolate coating, melt chocolate and oil over medium heat in a double boiler until chocolate is melted and shiny.
- Then dip chilled krembos in the chocolate (or just get messy and pour it on top) and sprinkle with extra pistachios. The chocolate should harden right away; refrigerate if not eating right away.