Any chef will tell you that the secret to a great Passover dessert is not trying to make kosher-for-Passover versions of year-round cakes. Don’t even think about baking a loaf cake or pie that requires switching out cups of flour for loads of matzo meal or potato starch. Instead, stick to recipes that have little or no flour, or recipes that call for nuts instead of flour.
Flourless chocolate cake is the most well-known Passover-friendly dessert, but we checked in with four talented chefs — a Jewish cookbook author, a Food Network test-kitchen director, a fine-dining restaurateur and a Food Network host — for some more unusual recommendations. Whether it’s a refreshing granita, decadent chocolate truffle, a Mediterranean-style walnut and date cake or the more traditional mandel bread, we think these desserts are winners — on Passover and all year long.
Katherine Alford, director of the Food Network Kitchens, and a judge on the Food Network’s “Ultimate Recipe Showdown,” recommended a flourless walnut-date cake, that she featured in this month’s Food Network Magazine.
Why did you choose this recipe?: “There’s a huge tradition of nuts and flourless cakes in Viennese desserts. The flourless walnut-date cake is really delicious. It’s the kind of cake you’d want to have any time, not just on Passover. The nuts and dates together have a great Middle-Eastern taste, so it’s within the language of Passover… Another nice (and simple) thing to do is a chocolate soufflé. It’s just chocolate, eggs and egg whites. The only issue with that is that you have to serve them immediately.”
Susie Fishbein, author of the “Kosher by Design” cookbooks, loves making Passover seders. “I don’t play into that fake food. I know it can’t possibly be good, and it’s so unhealthy.”
Susie’s Go-to dessert for the seders: “Our seders end sometimes around midnight. I know that at that time, when people have eaten so much, they’re not looking for a dessert buffet. I like to make chocolate truffles and pineapple truffles. I also make a warm runny chocolate soufflé. It’s nice to have something warm at the end of a meal.”
Passover Dessert Tips: “Look for desserts that at their core don’t start with cups of flour. If you’re making a dessert that calls for four tablespoons of flour, like a flourless chocolate cake or soufflé, matzo cake meal is the closest substitute for flour. Or you can use half matzo cake meal, half potato starch. Stay away from things that require lot of margarine. It’s hard to work with the Passover margarine,” she adds.
Bill Telepan, chef-owner of Telepan restaurant in New York City, holds a seder at his restaurant each year. “I’ve had a couple of seder dinners,” he said. “And I’ve learned what’s involved in it. You want to capture certain essences of what you’d get at home, but it has to be a little more refined in a restaurant.”
A simple granita: At Telepan, the chefs make a seasonal pineapple sorbet with mint and pineapple syrup. It’s really easy to make: Just puree fresh pineapple, add simple syrup, and mint and then freeze it. “It’s nice and light for dessert,” says Bill.
You can have your cake too: “We always gravitate toward chocolate almond cake. It’s not thought of as a Passover dessert, but it works on Passover. It’s delicious.”
Adam Gertler, host of Food Network’s “Kid in a Candy Store,” and former “The Next Food Network Star” contestant lives in California but grew up on Long Island. He has fond memories of his family’s seders.
Favorite family recipe: Adam said his family always had a healthy sense of competition when it came to the seders. But the one thing they all agreed on, was the superiority of his mother’s Passover rendition of mandel bread. “My mother has made it every holiday I can remember, sometimes with nuts , sometimes with chocolate, and most frequently with both. It is the reward I look forward to most after the last song is sung on the night of seder. Crunchy like biscotti, and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar baked into each slice. This is the gold standard of mandel bread,” he said.