The Jew And The Carrot

Mouthwatering Orange-Scented Macaroons

By Gayle L. Squires

Photographs by Gayle L. Squires

The Passover tradition that’s been handed down from generation to generation in my family is the luxury of a catered Seder. But we’ve always supplemented the cookie and cake plate with extra desserts. At my grandparents’ table, it was Bubbe’s layered and fruit-studded gelatin mold. At my aunt’s, a large platter of sliced melon, citrus and berries. At my parents’, chocolate-covered cherry-marshmallow twists and chocolate cake from a mix.

When I emerged as the baker in the family, I became the de facto dessert maker. I have three simple guidelines for pre-afikoman treats: 1) avoid matzo or cake meal; 2) use as few bowls and utensils as possible; and 3) make something you would want to eat year-round. After much trial and error, I’ve narrowed my Passover repertoire down to a handful of reliable desserts that serve as solid basics, ready to be adapted from one Seder to the next.

Macaroons serve as a perfect blank canvas. While unadorned mounds of coconut, sugar and egg whites are pretty spectacular on their own, it’s the variations that get me jazzed. Sure, you can add cocoa powder and chocolate chips, but what about citrus zest, cinnamon or rose water? And while most recipes call for sweetened shredded coconut, I urge you to seek out the largest unsweetened flakes (sometimes called coconut chips) you can find for macaroons that offer the greatest contrast in texture with deeply golden, crispy edges and tender chewy insides. Then there are the toppings: chocolate to dip, salted caramel to drizzle or jam to bake into an indented thumbprint.

If you’re not sure where to begin, try the macaroon recipe below, adapted from chocolatier and cookbook author Alice Medrich. They’re laced with orange blossom water and flecked with orange zest. The first bite will make you feel as though you’re basking in a gentle Mediterranean breeze, getting you into the mood to conclude the Seder by singing l’shanah ha’abah bi-Y’rushalayim — next year in Jerusalem (or at least Tel Aviv).

Chag sameach and happy baking!

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Doughnut Meets Babka in Latest Pastry Mashup

By David A.M. Wilensky

Three flavors of doughka (for now…), left to right: lemon and olive oil, Mexican chocolate and sticky banana. Photographs by David A.M. Wilensky.

Get that stale hamantaschen flavor out of your mouth. Get some delectable risen dessert carbs in before Passover arrives. Just get yourself over to the Chelsea location of Dough and pick up Mexican Jewish pastry savant Fany Gerson’s latest creation: the doughka. Half doughnut and half babka, as the name suggests, Gerson’s latest confectionary creation made its debut last month.

Each doughka looks just like a babka, albeit on the smaller side. But unlike the perennially stale, ever-dense texture of that store-bought babka that got left at your house after Shabbos dinner last week (you know the one: half-eaten by the time your guests left; begrudgingly toasted back to life for breakfast the following morning), Gerson’s doughka begins with a base of the unbelievably light yeast dough from which Dough’s doughnuts are made.

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Hamantaschen Plus Math Equals Mathmataschen!

By Liza Schoenfein

Photograph by Deborah Gardner

Just a few hours before Purim, I came across this awesome creation on the blog Seattle Local Food, and just had to share it.

For the non-math nerds among us, it’s a hamantaschen created using a mathematical principle known as the Sierpinski triangle. Here’s how Deborah Gardner breaks it down:

You may be familiar with the Sierpinski triangle, a mathematically attractive, self-repeating fractal that starts with one equilateral triangle and breaks down into ever-smaller triangles.

Somehow this year it dawned on me that the world was incomplete without a Sierpinski hamantaschen, or sierpinskitaschen. I scoured the vast reaches of the Interwebs, to see if this had been done before. I may have missed something, but it seems this has not.

Until today.

To find the recipe and learn more, click here.

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Chocolate Hamantaschen Filled With Serious Fun

By Tami Ganeles-Weiser

The author wondered why chocolate was usually left out of the dough of a classic Purim treat. Photograph by Tami Ganeles/Weiser/The Weiser Kitchen.

Chocolate is in many ways the quintessential example of a food that is both Old and New World. Cacao, the bean from which chocolate is derived, was well known to both the Aztec and the Mayan peoples. It was a bitter powder ground from pods and prized for its alleged aphrodisiac properties.

The Spanish Conquistadors took cocoa back to Europe with them, where they concocted a wildly popular drink with the addition of sugar (also a New World food) and copious amounts of milk or cream. There you have it: the invention of the hot chocolate we would likely recognize today.

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Chocolate-Chili Hamantaschen With Dulce de Leche Filling

By Tami Ganeles-Weiser

Sweet, creamy dulce de leche — a rich Latino caramel — is a wonderful counterpoint to chocolate’s slightly bitter edge. The warmth of ground chilies hits the palate last. This is a great cookie for adventurous eaters. Photograph by Tami Ganeles-Weiser/The Weiser Kitchen.

Makes 36 cookies

For the dough:
3½ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, Mexican preferred
½ teaspoon ground guajillo chili powder (or other medium-hot chili)
½ teaspoon ground ancho chili powder (or other relatively mild chili)
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, optional
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1¾ cups light brown sugar
3 large eggs
4 ounces dark chocolate (between 68% and 72% cacao), melted in microwave or a double boiler and cooled to room temperature
3 tablespoons Kahlua or other chocolate liqueur
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

For the egg wash:
1 egg white
2 teaspoons water

For the filling:
1 cup dulce de leche

For the drizzle:
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (between 58% and 64% cacao)

1) Make the dough: Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, guajillo and ancho chili powders and cayenne pepper in a mixing bowl, and whisk well to combine. Set aside.

2) In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or, if you are using a handheld mixer, in a large mixing bowl), combine the butter and light brown sugar, and mix at medium speed for about 2 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix after each addition until incorporated. Add the melted dark chocolate, and mix to combine. With the mixer running at low speed, gradually add the flour mixture and mix to form a dough.

3) Shape the dough into 2 flat, round disks, wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, until very firm. (This dough can be refrigerated for up to 5 days before rolling and baking.)

4) Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats and set aside. Lightly flour a work surface and a rolling pin.

5) Place 1 disk of dough on the work surface, and roll out until it is between ¼- and ⅛-inch thick. (The second disk should remain refrigerated while you do the first batch.) With a 3-inch cutter, cut out as many rounds as possible and set on the prepared baking sheet, arranging them about 1 inch apart, 12 circles per sheet. Collect scraps, reroll and cut into additional rounds once.

6) Make the egg wash by whisking the egg white and 1 teaspoon of water in a bowl. With a pastry brush, brush the edges of each round of dough with the egg wash.

7) Place 1 heaping teaspoon of dulce de leche in the center of each. Fold up the edges to shape each filled round into a triangle, pinching them to form points, and leaving a small amount of filling exposed at the top. Repeat with the remaining chilled dough and filling. Brush the dough with egg wash.

8) Chill the filled hamantaschen in the refrigerator for 10–15 minutes.

9) Bake for 9–10 minutes, alternating the baking sheets between the oven racks and turning the trays halfway through the baking time. Let cool for 10–12 minutes. Bake the remaining hamantaschen.

10) Meanwhile, melt the semisweet chocolate in the microwave for 2–3 minutes, stirring often. When it is melted, drizzle decoratively over the hamantaschen.

Tami Ganeles-Weiser is a food anthropologist, trained chef, recipe developer, writer and founder of TheWeiserKitchen.com.

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Chocolate-Nutella Halvah Hamantaschen

By Tami Ganeles-Weiser

Chocolate and halvah are a perfect pairing, and this cookie, fudgy and rich, is as delicious as it sounds. Photograph by Tami Ganeles/Weiser/The Weiser Kitchen.

Yields 36 cookies

For the dough:
4¾ cups all-purpose flour
⅓ cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
3½ cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
⅓ cup strong coffee, espresso preferred, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons chocolate liqueur, Godiva preferred

For the filling:
2 cups Nutella, or any chocolate nut spread
2 cups crumbled halvah, traditional or marble

For the egg wash:
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon water

1) Make the dough: Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl and stir to blend well.

2) In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or, if you are using a handheld mixer, in a large mixing bowl), combine the butter and sugar and mix at medium speed for 3–5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down side of bowl with a rubber spatula.

3) With the mixer running at low speed, gradually add the flour mixture, scraping down the side of the bowl as necessary. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition until fully incorporated. Add the coffee, vanilla bean paste and chocolate liqueur and mix to form a dough.

4) Shape the dough into 2 flat, round disks, wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, until very firm. (This dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days before rolling and baking.)

5) When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350° F. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats and set aside. Lightly flour a work surface and a rolling pin.

6) Place 1 disk of dough on the work surface, and roll out until it is between ¼- and ⅛-inch thick. (The second disk should remain refrigerated while you do the first batch.) With a 3-inch cutter, cut out as many rounds as possible and place on the prepared baking sheets, arranging them about 1 inch apart. Collect the scraps of dough, re-roll once, cut additional circles and place on the baking sheet.

7) Make the egg wash by whisking the egg whites and 1 teaspoon of water in a bowl. With a pastry brush, brush the edges of each round of dough with the egg wash.

8) Place the Nutella and crumbled halvah in a small mixing bowl and stir until fully combined. It will not be smooth and may have a few small chunks.

9) Place 1 heaping teaspoon of the filling in the center of each circle. Fold up the edges to shape each filled round into a triangle, pinching them to form points, and leaving a small amount of filling exposed at the top. Repeat with the remaining chilled dough and filling. Brush the dough (but not the filling) with egg wash.

10) Chill the filled hamantaschen in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.

11) Bake for 13–14 minutes, until firm, alternating the baking sheets between the oven racks and turning the trays 180° F halfway through the baking time. Let cool for 5–7 minutes and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Bake the remaining hamantaschen.

Tami Ganeles-Weiser is a food anthropologist, trained chef, recipe developer, writer and founder of TheWeiserKitchen.com.

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Going Wild with Avocados

By Hedai Offaim (Haaretz)

Avocado and Roast Beef Salad. Photograph by Dan Peretz.

I spy avocados lying in a crate in the market and am instantly diverted from my original purpose. I pick one up, cradle it in my hands and think about the beautiful tree that has yielded this fruit. Then I pick out a few more, wrap them in paper, take them home and let them continue ripening in a bowl on the kitchen counter. The avocado does not ripen on the tree. It is picked from the orchard when it has become fat enough but is still bright-skinned and firm, and finishes ripening in the kitchens of avocado lovers.

If you’re lucky, at the market you may find some that have already begun to soften a bit, so that you can peel and spread them on some fresh bread that very day. For this reason, I always carry a little paring knife with me, just in case it’s my lucky day. When you come upon that perfectly ripe avocado, you must buy some fresh bread, sit down in a nearby park or just on the curb if need be, spread the avocado on the bread, sprinkle on a little salt and blissfully devour it.

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8 Nights of Food Gifts: Someone Else's Sufganiyot

By Liza Schoenfein

Photograph courtesy of Breads Bakery

I cannot tell a lie: I’ve never made sufganiyot. I feel a little sheepish about this, because when you’re a food editor and a recipe developer, as I am, people seem to expect that you’ve done it all.

I was so impressed when I read Gayle Squires’ story last week about tackling jelly doughnuts for the first time, and her step-by-step recipe sounds fabulous, but aside from a short period when I made my own beer-batter-fried fish, and one or two attempts at fried chicken, I’ve just never been the deep-frying kind.

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Waving Bye-Bye to Pumpkin Pie

By Gayle L. Squires

Torta di zucca, an Italian winter squash and olive oil cake. Photograph by Gayle L. Squires

Admitting this in the days leading up to Thanksgiving might put me squarely in the crosshairs of the long-defunct House Committee on Un-American Activities, but I’m a risk-taker, so here goes: I don’t like pie. I particularly don’t like pumpkin pie. Now that I’ve said it out loud, please let me explain. (Don’t worry, I’ll be brief — and there’s cake at the end if you listen to the whole story.)

I will limit my anti-pie sentiments to three. First, the bottom crust is usually either too hard if it’s blind baked, or too soggy if it’s not. Second, and I know that I’m going to offend our orange-hued mascot of this week’s holiday feast and lovers of spiced lattes everywhere, pumpkin filling has the look and texture of baby food and the smell of a candle. Finally, if your home is anything like mine, after stuffing ourselves with turkey, dessert must be non-dairy, and while butter might be able to save many a pie, parve pie is just sad. After Thanksgiving dinner, I typically fill my dessert plate with the cut fruit.

Before this gets all Debbie downer, I do have a solution to my Thanksgiving woes: cake!

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Truce Achieved Through Cheesecake

By Hillary Berkowitz Nussbaum

Photograph by Hillary Berkowitz Nussbaum

I’ve mastered my family’s desserts, from the flourless chocolate roll to the sour cream coffee cake, but my husband’s favorite — cheesecake — always escaped me. I couldn’t let it go, and finally mastered it by sticking to my new strategy: Rather than tackling the tried-and-true, I put my own new twist on an old favorite.

This recipe blends the flavors of fall with a more standard Oreo cheesecake, with delightful result. When I served it up recently, my other half declared it “awesome” (though my mother — predictably — went for the flourless chocolate cake instead).

Pumpkin-Oreo Cheesecake

For the crust:

24 finely crushed Oreos
2 tablespoons melted butter

For the filling:

Two 8-ounce packages room-temperature cream cheese
¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
3 large room-temperature eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pumpkin puree
12 crushed Oreos (can be larger chunks)

1) Preheat oven to 350˚ F.

2) Grease a 9-inch springform pan, or cover a traditional 9-inch cake pan in parchment paper. (Grease the paper and leave the ends hanging over the pan a bit. You’ll use these to pull the cake up and out of the pan.)

3) Toss the 24 crushed Oreos with the melted butter until lightly coated, then press the mixture into the bottom of the pan to form the crust. Set aside.

4) Combine the sugar and spices in a small bowl.

5) Beat the cream cheese and vanilla until smooth and creamy. Continue mixing, and slowly add the sugar mixture. Add the eggs one at a time, beat well, leaving about 30 seconds between each egg. Add the pumpkin, continue mixing until well combined.

6) Evenly pour half the mixture into the prepared pan. Spread the crumbles from the 12 crushed Oreos in a layer over the top, then evenly pour in the remaining pumpkin mixture.

7) Place pan on the center rack in the oven, with another pan half full of water on the oven’s bottom rack (to keep the oven moist). Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cheesecake comes out clean, and the center of the cake jiggles slightly (like gelatin). Let the cake cool, then refrigerate at least a few hours before serving.

Hillary Berkowitz Nussbaum is a freelance writer who likes to cook her way through writer’s block.

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Piety: Divine Pies Delivered to Your Door

By Elizabeth Traison

Piety’s honey-fig-plum pie (left) and rosemary-peach (right). Photograph by Elizabeth Traison

When it comes to a good pie, there are a few important factors that distinguish the edible from the incredible. Starting with the crust, which should be flaky and light but also capable of both standing up to and also complementing whatever goodness makes up the filling. While there are seemingly infinite possibilities when it comes to fillings, finding the right balance of ingredients — most notably, seasonal fruits and herbs — that marry together in a way that will make your mouth water is no easy task. Piety, Brooklyn’s newest kosher pie bakery, rises to the challenge.

Just from speaking to Rebecca Greenberg, founder and owner of Piety, you know she makes good pies. The patience, tenderness and kindness that come naturally to her personality (characteristics that were further developed by previous careers in education and child care), also make their way into her pies. “Baking a pie isn’t fast,” she says. “It takes time, patience and thoughtfulness” — and you know she’s speaking from experience. Crust and filling can make or break a good pie, but it’s these additional qualities that put a good pie over the top.

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Compote of Pears in Wine Sauce

By Fannie Engle and Gertrude Blair

A recipe from 1954 holds up pretty well with a few small variations. Photograph by Liza Schoenfein

Serves 6

6 medium-size green winter pears
Water to cover
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon lemon juice
A few slivers of ginger root or crystalized ginger
½ cup sugar
1 cup Concord wine (or to cover)

Wash and pare (peel) the fruit and add just enough water to cover. Cook until tender but not too soft, about 30 minutes. Pour out about 3/4 of the water. Add remaining ingredients (adding more wine so liquid just covers pears) and simmer for about 10 minutes. Chill and serve in the sauce. If pears are large, cut in halve sand core before cooking.

Adapted from “The Jewish Festival Cookbook” by Fannie Engle and Gertrude Blair (David McKay Company Inc. 1954)

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The Making of a Plum-Perfect Honey Cake

By Liza Schoenfein

Photograph by Liza Schoenfein

I’ve had honey cake on the brain lately. I know: Haven’t we all?

But I can say with confidence that I’ve been more immersed in honey-cake contemplation than the average Jewish woman approaching the High Holy Days.

Not only did I just interview Rose Levy Beranbaum about her glorious version of this Rosh Hashanah classic — the recipe is here — but I was also recently tasked with developing a gluten-free honey cake. And I went through several failed attempts before coming up with one I could be proud of, a cake that was moist and not too sweet, which involved a combination of regular gluten-free flour and lovely, flavorful almond meal.

So there’s been a lot of honey cake happening in my kitchen these days.

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Recipe: Plum-Perfect Honey Cake

By Liza Schoenfein

This gluten-free take on a Rosh Hashanah classic incorporates Italian plums for a seasonal twist. Photograph by Liza Schoenfein

Cooking spray
4 Italian plums, halved lengthwise and pits removed
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon raw sugar, divided
1½ cups almond flour/meal, such as Bob’s Red Mill
½ cup gluten-free all purpose flour, such as Bob’s Red Mill
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup coconut oil or olive oil
3/4 cup honey
¼ cup coffee

1) Preheat oven to 350˚ F. Spray a nonstick bundt pan with cooking spray, and lay plums skin-side down evenly around the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the sugar.

2) Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine eggs, oil, honey, and coffee. Add wet ingredients to dry, stirring to combine. Pour into bundt pan and cook on middle rack of the oven for about one hour, until a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for a few minutes. Slide a thin sharp knife between the cake and the pan before turning cake out onto a cake plate.

Liza Schoenfein is the new food editor of the Forward. Contact her at schoenfein@forward.com.

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Israel's 12 Sweetest Treats — And Where To Find Them

By Rotem Maimon

Photo by David Silverman

(Haaretz)— Israel has made great strides in the numbers of patisseries and boulangeries that have opened here, and many of the top pastry chefs have honed their craft abroad, but is there such a thing as a real Israeli dessert? We asked chefs from 12 leading restaurants to describe their most Israeli desserts. Taste and decide for yourself.

1) Catit

The dessert: olive oil sable, blood orange crème, ginger crème, tapioca tuile, buttermilk foam, rose petals and hibiscus dust, olive oil and white chocolate ice cream.

Pastry chef Hila Perry: “The olive oil is Israeli, as is the citrus – the blood orange – that surrounds it. And the buttermilk always reminds me of that childhood treat, Daniela whipped pudding, in its best form.”


2) Herbert Samuel in Herzliya (kosher):

The dessert: Mount Bracha tahini. Tahini sorbet, espresso granite, sesame tuile.

Pastry chef Shlomi Palensya: “We wanted something Israeli that would fit the rules of kashrut and also appeal to tourists. We started with a tahini sorbet then we thought ‘What would make it more interesting?’ So we made a sesame tuile and added coffee granite, and it immediately became one of our signature dishes.”

Photo by David Silverman


3) Kitchen Market:

The dessert: Israeli cheesecake with black olives, strawberries and yogurt sorbet

Pastry chef Yossi Sheetrit: “This cheesecake is something you can find in any Israeli household, except that we’ve added a little twist. The flavors are very Israeli: cheese, olives and olive oil.”

Photo by David Silverman


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RIP Hostess Brands

By Ruth Abusch-Magder

Getty Images

Ding Dongs hold a special place in my heart. My best friend growing up in Canada was an American. Whenever her family would travel to New York they would bring numerous boxes of Ring Dings back with them and keep them in the freezer. Sure, there were lots of similar sandwich cakes in the great white north, but none had a hechsher. If we were particularly well behaved, we would be allowed to take one from the coveted stash. The memory of the feeling of the frozen squishy cake and its filling, still brings a smile to my face.

With the announcement of the closure of the Hostess brand, the memories of Ring Dings resurfaced. I found myself mulling the loss of an item I have not eaten since before my bat mitzvah. The public discussion of the closure of the Hostess plants centers around the financial challenges the company faced as it sought to restructure. But even without the current financial downturn, the snack cakes may be part of the shifting American foodways.

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Cassola, Rome's Jewish Christmas Treat

By Alessandra Rovati

Alessandra Rovati

A popular Italian saying advises: “Dress like a Turk, and eat like a Jew.”

Jews have enjoyed an uninterrupted presence in Italy for more than 2,200 years, producing a delicious cuisine with almost endless regional variations, that profoundly affected broader Italian cuisine. Contrary to the all-too-common American assumption that most Jewish food is bland or boring, Jewish Italian cuisine tends to be seen as a delicacy by non-Jewish locals. Some of the most popular restaurants in Rome serve traditional Jewish dishes, like the famous fried artichokes.

Rome’s unofficial Christmas dessert, cassola, or a baked ricotta cheese cake, was originally a Jewish dish. In the 16th century, while some Jewish communities in Northern Italy made a fresh cheese baked sandwich-like dish sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon called pizza dolce, Roman Jews used ricotta to make large sweet pancakes cooked in a skillet. The dish was called “casciola” (from “cascio”, cheese), says Italian food historian A.Toaff in his “Mangiare alla Giudia.”

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Truffles, Date Cake and More — Passover Desserts From Four Famous Chefs

By Lucy Cohen Blatter

Food Network Magazine

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.

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