This halva diva cake with tahini buttercream, chocolate ganache and crushed pistachios is a perfect cake for passover.
There was always a brick of halva in my mom’s refrigerator, right on the door, where the butter was supposed to be. I have no idea where it came from, because Vermont wasn’t known for its Jewish markets and yet, it was always there. I suspect she bought it when we would visit her family in Brighton Beach and it just lasted the year between visits.
I love Passover desserts. If you’re used to looking for the packaged version of Passover-approved treats in your grocery store, I’m here to tell you there is another option. Those overly sweet packaged treats have their charm, but you can create tastier versions of those desserts at home. From macaroons to cakes, this list features some of my favorite desserts for Passover.
The inspiration of a Cherry Semifreddo goes like this: I recently spent time in New York City and had the great fortune of meeting some of the wonderful people I otherwise only knew on social media. It still seems incredible to me that I can befriend people online, while working alone in my midwestern kitchen.
The first time I had a true French macaron was while sitting at the now shuttered WD50 in New York City. It was the wild child restaurant of chef Wylie Dufresne, who was one of the first American chefs to deconstruct ingredients and synthesize them into new forms.
It was all very mysterious and pretty tasty, but the most memorable thing we ate that night came out of my cousin’s purse. Samira works in the fashion industry and lives an impossibly global and glamorous life, which includes frequent trips to Paris. She and her brother, Riad, who was sitting with us, had a tradition of sharing a particular pastry from Paris every time she went.
She pulled out the box and nonchalantly pushed it to Riad. This was so normal to them, that they barely acknowledged the act or the beautiful box as anything special. I, on the other hand, was near crazy with anticipation and finally told them to “open the &%$#ing box.”
Inside were perfect, and I do mean perfect, macarons. They were like jewels. All different colors. Pink, gold, lavender and jade. They were delicate to the point of brittle on the outside and like a cloud on the inside, with a layer of super rich ganache or buttercream.
I’ve made macarons, but they were never as ethereal as the one’s Samira brought home from Ladurée. This is no surprise. I was happy enough with mine and they were cheaper than a trip to Paris, but still not perfect. Then I watched Colette Christian’s Craftsy class on miniature French pastries and I figured out the small tricks I’d been missing. Turns out they are much easier than I thought. I’ve been making them constantly ever since.
This last batch I made for Passover and colored them purple to honor Prince. His passing has struck me in a deep way, deeper than I would have ever expected. His music was the soundtrack to my entire high school life and that was long before I moved to his hometown.
Back in the day I choreographed a dance to “Little Red Corvette” to audition for the dance program at my school. I danced my heart out to that song and got into the group. We were hardly Alvin Ailey, but it was my whole life at the time. I remember that audition like it was yesterday.
I just hope Prince had even an inkling of his profound influence over so many people, not just musicians, but all of us who loved his music. I wish he could see how the world has exploded into a party to honor his legacy. Purple macarons and dancing in my kitchen are what I have to offer the celebration.
This year I added a little extra flavor power to classic chocolate caramel matzo. I made a triple batch to make sure I could send gift bags home after the seder. All the toppings were a hit, but the toasted sesame seeds with the milk or dark chocolate is my new favorite.
Every Passover I make this chocolate caramel matzo recipe from Marcy Goldman’s classic book A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking. When I was growing up I loved matzo with butter or my mother’s matzo brei, but as a dessert, it never inspired me. Until my friend and co-author, Jeff introduced me to Marcy Goldman’s recipe she calls: “My Trademark, most requested, absolutely magnificent caramel matzoh crunch!” Despite the main ingredient being matzo, it satisfied my craving for a decadent dessert at Passover. The candy was met with rave reviews and is now part of our tradition along with the fruit pâtes. It really is magnificent and a bit addictive, which is why I save it for Passover!
Flourless chocolate torte is a long-standing tradition on Passover. I have made several variations, but this one is far and away the most popular. It is made of several layers of a flourless chocolate-almond cake and bittersweet ganache. I make the whole thing without dairy, for those who keep to kosher laws, and you’ll never know the difference. It is one of the few times I use margarine and cream substitute and I promise it is absolutely divine.
The flourless chocolate torte can be prepared in advance, wrapped well and refrigerator for a few days or frozen for a couple of weeks. This leaves you with less work to be done on Passover. Just decorate with some fresh berries and enjoy a slice of rich, chocolatey goodness after your dinner.