The joy of Passover desserts eludes many who do not like the taste of matzah meal. They would have to be resigned to fruit compote or tasteless sponge cake. I did not like either of those offerings, so I became convinced that Passover desserts were boring and dry.
For decades I have heard complaints about Passover desserts. Well, I am happy to say that no one complains about my Passover desserts and haven’t for years. In fact, I get requests every time I call someone to invite them to our Sedarim. “Are you making those caramel bars or lemon squares? Will you make those molten lava cakes? Please make the flourless chocolate cake with the ganache topping!”
I admit that the first few Seders we hosted were laden with traditional Passover desserts of macaroons and sponge cake and bad brownies and more. I offered a chocolate Seder plate for smashing and strawberries dipped in chocolate. Nothing was worth discussing. But then I began to think about this in a new way.
What is basically required of a Pesach dessert? No flour. That was pretty much it. If I could find flourless desserts, I would be fine — I could always substitute pareve margarine for butter and tapioca or potato starch for cornstarch.
No longer constrained by Passover cookbooks, I began to test lots of recipes. Most were successful, some were spectacular and, admittedly, a few were epic failures.
The first flourless dessert I ever made was a chocolate cake with a raspberry sauce called a coulis. It was a huge hit, and I was forced to swear I would make it every year from then on. I then made a variation on my mother’s truly addictive mandel bread. I have to make several batches to give to people to take home, and one friend makes it year-round!
Things got better year after year. I made Pavlovas, chocolate flourless cookies, molten chocolate cakes, macarons, almond crusted chocolate tarts, lemon squares and more. The use of almond flour and other nut and coconut flours have made making piecrusts so much easier and far more delicious.
Please experiment and search for recipes that will make your family excited about Passover desserts. It is time to put that compote to bed forever!
Passover Mandel Bread (Pareve)
6 large eggs
2 cups safflower oil
2 cups sugar
1 box (3 cups) matzah cake meal
1 tsp. cinnamon
tiny pinch salt
Optional: Choose one or half of two add-ins (1 cup apricots and 1 cup mini chips)
2 cups raisins or currants
2 cups chopped toasted walnuts
1 cup chopped cherries, well drained, patted dry
2 cups chopped almonds
2 cups snipped apricots or other fried fruit
2 cups chocolate chips or mini chocolate chips
In an electric mixer, beat the eggs and add the sugar slowly. Remove the bowl from the stand and add the oil. Fold gently with a fork until just blended. It’s OK if some oil is not mixed in completely.
Add the oil and beat slightly just to incorporate. If you overmix, the mixture will turn to mayonnaise!
Add optional nuts, raisins, etc., and mix with a fork.
Measure the cake meal and add to the bowl. It’s OK if you have a bit more than 3 cups in the box. You can add up to 2 or 3 Tbsp. extra. Add the cinnamon and mix well. Let the dough sit for 30 to 40 minutes to thicken.
Form the dough into 2 or 3 long logs on a cookie sheet. They should be about 3 inches wide and 3/4 of an inch high. I like to make the ends square to get evenly baked end slices.
Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown and the tops have cracked. Remove from the oven and let cool.
Slice each log into 1/2 to 3/4-inch thick slices. Place the slices on a cookie sheet and toast at 275 degrees until golden brown. Turn and toast the other side. Allow to cool. Place in an airtight container. Can be made a week in advance and frozen.
To serve, just thaw and, to crisp the slices, place in a 325-degree oven for about 5 minutes. Makes about 24 to 36 pieces.
Lemon Almond Squares or Tart (Pareve)
You can make these as squares or as a 10-inch pie. Top with candied lemon slices for a beautiful presentation.
3 cups almond flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. lemon zest
4 Tbsp. tapioca starch
1/3 tsp. salt
1 stick margarine (or butter for a dairy dessert), cut into small pieces
3 extra large eggs
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3-1/2 Tbsp. tapioca starch
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Optional: 2 tsp. lemon zest
Lightly grease a 9 by 13 pan and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Juice the lemons and set aside.
Place the almond flour, sugar, lemon zest, tapioca starch, salt and margarine in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles wet sand. Press into the prepared pan and up the sides about one-half inch. Place in the oven and bake until golden, about 10 to 14 minutes.
While the crust is baking, prepare the filling. Place eggs, sugar, lemon juice and zest, and tapioca starch in a medium bowl. Make sure there are no lumps of the starch. Whisk thoroughly and pour over the hot crust. Place back in the oven for 15 to 25 minutes until the top cracks just a bit and looks completely set.
Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Dust the top with confectioners’ sugar and cut into squares. Makes 12 to 24 squares.
Chocolate Almond Crusted Tart with Raspberries (pareve)
I keep this on a rimmed baking sheet to bake, and then slide it onto a round plate until serving to make sure the rim doesn’t get knocked off.
2-1/2 cups almond flour
1/3 cup light brown, dark brown or granulated sugar
1/3 tsp. almond extract
4 to 5 Tbsp. pareve margarine, melted
Optional: 3 to 4 Tbsp. cocoa powder for a chocolate crust
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
1 cup full fat canned coconut milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam
2 cups fresh raspberries
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place the almond flour sugar and almond extract in a food processor, and pulse 2 to 3 times to blend. Add the melted margarine and pulse until the mixture resembles wet sand. Press the mixture into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Be sure to press up the sides. Place on a rimmed baking sheet in the oven and bake for 15 to 25 minutes until golden brown. Remove and let cool.
Place the coconut milk in a saucepan. Over low heat, bring to a high simmer, but not a full boil.
Chop the chocolate and place in a large bowl. When the coconut milk is heated, measure out one cup and pour over the chocolate. Let sit for 2 to 4 minutes to soften the chocolate. Add the vanilla extract and raspberry jam and mix with a fork until very smooth.
Pour the chocolate into the baked shell and smooth the top, if needed. Let set about 15 minutes and place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Remove and gently press the raspberries on top on any design you like. Chill until serving. Serves 8 to 10.