These little morsels of Passover goodness are simply a delight – we like to call them Jewish Bliss Balls! They can be made well ahead and kept in the fridge (I love to eat them cold and hard) for an anytime snack.
We were so lucky to come across Susan Barocas in our world wide search for recipes for our third book, It’s Always About the Food.
Susan’s story about these Charoset Balls is just wonderful:
If you look closely at the official photos from the past two White House Seders, you can see them. There, sitting on silver serving dishes on the beautifully set table—my charoset balls!
I still get a jolt surprise and pleasure when I think back to my three years serving as the guest chef for the Obamas’ seder. I remember after the first year in 2014, someone remarked that I could check that off my bucket list. Really?? I gotta’ tell you that cooking at the White House was never on any list of mine.
Who could have imagined it for this self-taught cook, teacher, caterer and writer! I’ve been cooking since I was a young child and still have my first cookbook from 1959 when I was seven, Betty Crocker’s Cookbook for Boys and Girls. While I started cooking because I liked it and it was fun, by the time I was 11, family circumstances meant it became my job to fix dinner nearly every week night for my parents and three siblings. When this kind of responsibility is thrust on a kid, I think eventually you face a choice as I did: resent that responsibility, rejecting it as soon as possible, or embrace it and make it your own. I was fortunate because cooking remained mostly enjoyable for me, becoming a positive piece of my identity growing up…and this was way before Food Network!
To this day, I find the kitchen is a place of unending creativity and self-expression. It is also where I connect strongly with my family history and my Jewish heritage, both the Sephardic and Ashkenazic sides, as well as with my now 20-year-old son as he was growing up and still today.
Each year, standing in the compact White House kitchen, cooking all day with the other chefs, the anticipatory nervousness quickly disappeared as the joy of where I was and what I was doing took over.
After the first year, I was able to add a few Sephardic items to the menu, including those charoset balls, which have become one of my trademark dishes over the past 20 years. And each year, as I ground the fruit and nuts mixture, then rolled the balls in uniform sizes, I truly felt that somehow, my parents, grandparents and even unknown ancestors were there with me, smiling and sharing this most unexpected and amazing experience.
Charoset Balls for Passover
- 240 g pitted dried dates 2 cups
- 100 g dried figs about 7
- 160 g raisins or sultanas 1 cup
- 60 g dried apricot halves about 12
- 120 g roughly chopped walnuts 1 cup
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon or to taste
- 2 pinches allspice optional
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sweet red wine or grape juice
- 80 g raw or toasted almonds ground (optional), ½ cup
- Line a baking tray and set aside.
- Using a food processor with the metal blade, pulse and grind the dates, figs, raisins (or sultanas) and apricots coarsely.
- Add the walnuts, cinnamon, allspice and wine (or grape juice) and pulse until the mixture is well chopped (but with pieces still visible) and starting to stick together. Pulse it a few more times until the mixture forms a large ball, taking care not to over process.
- With slightly damp hands, gently roll the mixture into large-marble sized balls and roll each ball in the ground almonds.
- Place the balls in a single layer on the prepared tray and refrigerate until firm, about 3 hours.
- The charoset balls can then be layered in a container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
- Makes approximately 36 balls.