Sophisticated and Delicious Passover Desserts
Kosher desserts present a year-round challenge in their customary need to be non-dairy, if being served after a meal containing meat. Add to the culinary mix the mandates of Passover—omitting all hametz from recipes—and you wonder how the observant chef can put any delicious, let alone presentationally stunning, dessert on the Seder or everyday Passover table.
But luckily, French pastry expert Paula Shoyer has recommendations for mouthwatering—both to eat and stare at!—cake and cookie ideas for the eight days of the holiday. Shoyer’s two cake suggestions use mousse as a major component and look equally sophisticated on a cake plate. One incorporates layers of meringue; the other relies on a flourless chocolate cake for its base. And her brownie cookies are a rich and slightly grownup take on the American classic, but here rolled into balls.
Shoyer is a leading expert on kosher baking, having studied French pastry making in Paris and earning a pastry diploma from the celebrated Ritz Escoffier Ecole de Gastronomie Francaise. The author of the popular cookbook, The Kosher Baker: Over 160 Dairy-free Recipes from Traditional to Trendy (Brandeis University Press), from whence these recipes come, Shoyer is hard at work on her next book, a collection of holiday baking recipes.
Chocolate Mousse Truffle Cake
Makes one 9- or 10-inch cake, 12 to 16 servings
This cake consists of a dense flourless chocolate cake bottom and an airy chocolate mousse top.
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) margarine
16 ounces pareve semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
6 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup pareve whipping cream
1. Preheat the oven to 350º F. Take a 9- to 10-inch springform pan, trace the bottom onto a piece of parchment paper and cut out. Cover the top of the pan bottom with aluminum foil and then wrap the excess foil under the bottom. Attach the pan sides to the bottom, lock in place, and then unwrap the foil and wrap it up and around the sides of the pan. Rub 1 tablespoon of the margarine around the bottom and sides of the pan. Place the parchment circle in the bottom of the pan and grease with some of the margarine.
2. Place the chocolate and remaining margarine in a heatproof bowl over simmering water (or use a double boiler) and stir often until melted. Remove from heat and add the egg yolks and beat with an electric mixer for 1 minute until thick.
3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer on high speed until stiff. Turn the speed down to low, add the sugar a tablespoon at a time and, once all the sugar is added, turn the speed up to high for 1 minute. Fold the stiff egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Pour 2/3 of this batter into the prepared pan (reserve the other 1/3 for the mousse). Place the pan in a large roasting pan with sides higher than 2 inches. Place the roasting pan and cake on the middle rack of the oven. Pour boiling water into the roasting pan, around the cake pan, to reach halfway up the sides of the cake pan (this is called a bain-marie).
4. Bake for 40 minutes. While the cake is baking, prepare the mousse. In a bowl, whip the cream with an electric mixer on high speed until stiff and fold into the reserved batter. Mix well. Place in the refrigerator until the cake cools.
5. Remove the cake pan from the water bath and let the cake cool in the pan.
6. When the cake has cooled, spoon the mousse on top of the cake layer and use a silicone spatula to try to spread as evenly as possible. Place in the refrigerator at least 4 hours or overnight.
7. To remove the sides of the cake pan, heat a sharp knife and run it all around the cake. Open the spring and remove the sides of the pan. Use a spatula to separate the parchment circle from the foil and slide the parchment and cake onto a serving plate. Store the cake in the refrigerator and then place in the freezer 1 hour before serving to help you cut perfect slices. Store covered in plastic in the refrigerator for up to three days or freeze up to three months.
Chocolate Brownie Cookies
Makes 6 to 7 dozen
15 ounces pareve bittersweet chocolate, broken into 1-inch pieces
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon strong brewed coffee (or dissolve 3 teaspoons instant coffee in 1/4 cup hot water and use a tablespoon of that)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup potato starch
4 1/2 cups ground almonds
1. Preheat the oven to 350º F. Line 2 to 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper or bake in batches.
2. Melt the chocolate either in a double boiler or in 15-second increments in the microwave. Add the eggs, sugar, oil, coffee and vanilla and mix well. Add the salt, potato starch, and ground almonds and mix until the dough comes together.
3. Using a teaspoon, scoop up about a walnut-size amount of dough and roll into a ball. Place on the prepared cookie sheets 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the cookies hold together and start to crack on top. Place in an airtight container or freezer bags and store at room temperature for up to five days or freeze up to three months.
Chocolate Mousse Meringue Layer Cake
Makes one 8-inch cake, 12 servings
This was one of my most popular cakes when I had a catering business in Switzerland. It is my favorite adult birthday cake, though my kids love it, too. Although the recipe is long, it is really not that hard—I promise!—and you and your guests will be impressed. People like the combination of creamy mousse and crunchy meringue. To make this cake you will need a dessert ring: a 2 1/2-inch tall bottomless ring, 8 inches in diameter.
2/3 cup kosher-for-Passover confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons pareve unsweetened cocoa
4 large egg whites
2/3 cup sugar
7 ounces pareve bittersweet chocolate, chopped or broken into 1-inch pieces
4 large egg yolks
2 cups pareve whipping cream, divided
1 tablespoon sugar
optional: pareve bittersweet chocolate or chocolate chips, melted, to decorate top of cake
1. Preheat the oven to 230° F. Tear off a piece of parchment the size of your largest cookie sheet. Take an 8 x 2 1/2-inch-high dessert ring (no bottom) and trace 3 circles on your parchment; the circles may touch each other or even overlap because the meringue circles will be smaller than the ring size. If necessary, use 2 cookie sheets. Turn the paper over and place on your cookie sheet.
2. To make the meringue: Sift the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa together in a bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in mixing bowl with a hand-held mixer, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until they start to stiffen. Turn the mixer to low and add the granulated sugar gradually, and then beat another minute on high speed until the whites are stiff. Sift the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa a second time into the bowl with the egg whites. Turn your machine to low and beat until combined.
3. Fill a pastry bag with a 1/4-inch round tip with the meringue batter. Starting from the center of the circles drawn on the parchment, squeeze out spirals until your circle is about a 1/2 inch smaller than the drawn circle. Do not worry if your circles are not perfect; you can use the back of a spoon to smooth over the “holes.” If you do not have a pastry bag, use a silicone spatula to shape 3 circles of meringue batter.
4. Use any leftover batter to make any shapes you like to decorate the cake, such as kisses, letters, lines, or hearts. Place in the oven and bake for 2 hours. Turn off the oven and let the meringues remain in the oven another 2 hours to dry out.
5. To make the mousse: Melt the chocolate either on the stovetop or in the microwave. Heat 1/4 cup of the whipping cream and the sugar in a small saucepan on medium heat, stirring often, until the sugar melts and the cream starts to boil. You can also heat the cream and sugar in the microwave in a glass measuring cup until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute. Don’t worry if the cream is gloppy.
6. When the chocolate is melted, whisk in the cream and sugar mixture until smooth. Add the egg yolks one at a time and whisk well. In a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed, beat the remaining 1 3/4 cups whipping cream until the top of the whipped cream look like ribbons or swirls. Add the whipped cream to the chocolate mixture and mix until well blended.
7. To assemble the cake, you will need an 8-inch cardboard circle. If the circle is larger than your ring, trace the inside of your ring, and then cut out the circle. Line another cookie sheet with parchment, place the ring on top, and place the cardboard circle into the ring. Place a tablespoon of the mousse on the cardboard to help glue the meringue circle in place. Place one of the meringue circles in the ring. Pour a third of the mouse into the ring to cover the meringue. Make sure you get some mousse between the meringue and the ring on the sides. Add the second meringue circle and another 1/3 of the mousse. Repeat with the last circle and more mousse and then use a flat blade metal spatula to smooth the top, reserving any extra mousse in a small bowl stored in the refrigerator to decorate the top, if desired. Place into the freezer for 4 hours or overnight.
8. Remove from the freezer. To remove the ring, place the cake (with the cardboard on the bottom) on top of a large can of tomatoes or vegetables. Place boiling water in a small bowl. Take a towel or paper towel, dip it into the hot water, and then rub around the outside of the ring; this will help release the ring from the mousse. Go around the entire ring with the hot towel. Take your hands and gently slide the ring down off the cake. Place the cake back on the parchment-lined cookie sheet.
9. To decorate the cake, you can use any extra small meringues you made, any reserved mousse in a pastry bag or you can melt some chocolate and drizzle the top of the cake. I have also used a potato peeler to shave little chocolate pieces and curls and then pressed those into the side of the cake. Store the cake in the freezer and then remove it 20 minutes before serving to cut perfect slices.
Paula Shoyer is the author of The Kosher Baker: Over 160 Dairy-free Recipes from Traditional to Trendy (Brandeis University Press). She teaches cooking and baking classes around the country and recently appeared on Food Network’s Sweet Genius. She can be found at www.paulaspastry.com.