Passover’s Just Desserts

Baking desserts during Passover is a challenge. No leavened foods may be used — nor any leavening ingredients, such as flour, grains, cornstarch, baking powder or baking soda. The baker must substitute matzah meal, potato starch and egg whites to obtain a high-rising dessert.

Lemon Meringue Pie. Photos by Dan Kacvinski

Dietary laws covering Passover are strict, and some of them make baking complicated, but the good news is that it is not difficult. Hopefully, these recipes will be a welcome addition during the eight days of Passover, which begin this year on Friday, April 6.

Today’s Passover desserts and confections are more exciting than the predictable sponge cakes and macaroons we remember from our childhood, and these updated versions of old favorites are also perfect for snacking and dining throughout the Passover holiday.

All of these recipes produce delicious results and are fairly simple to make. They will be a welcome addition to your seder, as well as to family meals, and to the brown-bag lunches that many 9-to-5ers will carry during the holiday.

Some Jewish households do not use matzah meal or cake meal, so I have developed a Spicy Almond Sponge Cake that rises to great heights with the help of egg whites and potato starch. Almonds, lots of spices and a glossy chocolate glaze make it extra-special.

You will want to try the Hazelnut Sponge Cake, a delicious, flavorful blend of orange, hazelnuts and chocolate. And a different take on the traditional Florentine Cookies are Crisp Thins, easy to make and the dough can be prepared several days in advance.

For guests who drop in during the holiday, serve a glass of kosher wine or a cup of tea, and pass a plate of Rocky Road Bonbons for another sweet treat. I absolutely love preparing these chocolate clusters. They are fun to make, and knowing the pleasure they bring to everyone when I serve them just makes me happy! The chocolate is melted, poured into a bowl, and tossed with toasted farfel, mini-marshmallows and toasted pecans.

Another of my family’s favorites is Lemon Meringue Pie — yes, the real thing. Hardly anyone thinks of making Passover pies, but this simple recipe, which combines a nutty crust, tangy lemon custard and meringue, is a winner.

And visit Tribe online for a bonus recipe, which I refer to as Charoset Fruit Cake, a combination of dried fruits and nuts that reminds me of the charoset we serve during our seder service.

∗ 8 eggs
∗ 1 1/2 cups sugar
∗ 3 tablespoons orange juice
∗ Peel of 1 orange
∗ 3/4 cup potato starch
∗ Pinch salt
∗ 1/4 cup ground almonds
∗ 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
∗ 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
∗ 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
∗ Chocolate Glaze (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Separate 7 eggs; set whites aside. In a large bowl, beat together the egg yolks and the 1 whole egg until light. Gradually add sugar and continue beating until well blended and light in color. Blend in orange juice and peel.

Combine potato starch, salt, almonds, ground ginger, cinnamon and cloves. Blend potato starch mixture into the egg yolk mixture.

Beat egg whites until stiff in a large bowl. Fold 1/4 of egg white mixture into the egg yolk mixture. Fold remaining egg whites into the egg yolk mixture. Pour the batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan.

Bake for 50 minutes or until cake springs back to touch and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven, invert pan immediately, and let cool. With a sharp knife, loosen the cake from the sides and center of the tube pan. Remove cake from pan, and transfer to a serving platter. Drizzle Chocolate Glaze on top and down sides of cake.
Makes 12 servings.

∗ 8 ounces semisweet Passover chocolate, coarsely chopped
∗ 1/4 to 1/2 cup espresso
∗ coffee, cold
∗ 1/2 cup apricot or strawberry
∗ preserves, strained
Combine chocolate, coffee and preserves in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. Mix constantly with a wire whisk until the mixture is melted and well blended. (Or heat in a microwave oven until chocolate is melted.) Transfer to a glass bowl and cool. As it cools, it will thicken. Drizzle over cake or serve hot as a sauce.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

∗ 7 eggs, separated
∗ 1 1/3 cups sugar
∗ 1/2 cup orange juice
∗ 2 tablespoons grated
∗ orange zest
∗ 1/2 cup matzah cake meal
∗ 1/2 cup potato starch
∗ 3/4 cup ground hazelnuts, toasted
∗ 3 tablespoons chopped
∗ semisweet Passover
∗ chocolate
∗ Pinch salt
∗ Chocolate Glaze (optional)
Preheat oven to 325 F.
Beat the egg yolks and 1 cup of the sugar in a large bowl with an electric or hand mixer until light in color and texture. Add the orange juice and grated orange zest and blend well. Gradually blend in the matzah cake meal, potato starch, hazelnuts and chocolate. Beat the egg whites and salt until foamy. Gradually add remaining 1/3 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff enough to hold a peak. Gently fold them into the yolk mixture. Pour the batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan.

Bake for 1 hour, or until the cake springs back to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven, invert pan immediately, let cool. With a sharp knife, loosen the cake from the sides and center of the tube pan. Remove cake from pan, and transfer to a serving platter. Drizzle with Chocolate Glaze, if desired.
Makes about 12 servings.

∗ 1 1/2 cups chopped toasted
∗ pistachio nuts
∗ 3/4 cup sugar
∗ 3 1/2 tablespoons matzah
∗ cake meal
∗ 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted
∗ margarine, melted
∗ 1/4 cup orange juice
∗ 2 tablespoons Passover
∗ concord grape wine
Preheat oven to 325 F.
Combine pistachio nuts, sugar and matzah cake meal in a large bowl, and mix well using an electric mixer. Add melted margarine, orange juice and wine, and mix until evenly moistened. Transfer to a bowl and chill until mixture is firm, about 1 hour.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Using a rounded teaspoon of dough, form batter into discs, each one the size of a quarter; arrange on prepared baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between cookies.
Bake until well browned, about 10 to 12 minutes. Cool completely and carefully peel each cookie off the foil. Gently transfer cookies to racks in a single layer. Let cool completely.
Makes about 8 dozen cookies.


∗ 8 ounces semisweet Passover chocolate, cut into pieces (do not use dipping chocolate)
∗ 1/2 cup diced Passover marshmallows
∗ 1/2 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
∗ 1/2 cup toasted matzah farfel
Place chocolate pieces in top of double boiler over simmering water (or in a microwave oven) and melt, mixing until smooth.

Combine the melted chocolate, marshmallows, pecans and farfel in a large mixing bowl and mix well. Line a baking sheet with wax paper and spoon mixture in small mounds onto the wax paper, or fill ruffled paper candy cups.

Refrigerate until set. Transfer to a large platter and serve.
Makes about 36 bonbons.

∗ 1 Pie Crust (recipe follows)
∗ 3 eggs, separated
∗ 1 cup plus 6 tablespoons sugar
∗ 1/4 cup Passover potato starch
∗ 1/4 teaspoon salt
∗ Grated peel of 1 lemon
∗ 1/2 cup lemon juice
∗ 1 1/2 cups warm water
Bake Pie Crust; set aside.
Place egg yolks, 1 cup sugar, potato starch, salt, lemon peel and lemon juice in a large saucepan. Beat well and cook over medium heat until mixture thickens. Add water, blending thoroughly, and continue cooking until clear and thick, 5 to 10 minutes. Cool.

In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites until foamy, add remaining 6 tablespoons sugar and beat until stiff peaks form; spoon into a pastry bag.

Spoon lemon filling into Pie Crust. Pipe meringue on top. Place in a preheated broiler, until lightly browned, watching carefully so the meringue does not burn.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.

∗ 2 cups walnuts or pecans
∗ 3 tablespoons sugar
∗ 3 tablespoons unsalted margarine
∗ 1/3 cup matzah cake meal
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Place walnuts in food processor and process until finely ground. Add sugar, margarine and matzah cake meal; blend until mixture comes together. Place in shallow 10- or 11-inch pie pan, pressing mixture evenly on bottom and up the sides. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool.
Makes 1 pie crust.

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