Wednesday, April 16, 2008

17 flourless dessert ideas

flourless chocolate walnut cookies

Every year, I see Passover-friendly recipes that frighten me: brick-like honey cakes, “sponge” cakes that still haunt my mother (who receives these in lieu of birthday cakes most years, due to the misfortune of having a birthday that falls in the first week of April), dinner rolls that my father likens to “hockey pucks” and macaroons that nobody (besides me) likes. And every year, I wonder: what ever happened to impossible-to-hate flourless chocolate cakes and truffles? Desserts lifted with egg whites? Ground nuts instead of flour? Do people even realize that one of the most popular peanut butter cookies on earth has exactly no flour in it?

walnuts are my favoriteone bowl, mix by handjust egg whites, cocoa and sugarflourless chocolate walnut cookies

Well, you know what I say? This year in Dessert Epiphany. I promise to stop ranting from this point forward and instead use this post as a repository for the kinds of Passover desserts that you’d be proud to bring to dinner. And for those of you who do not celebrate Passover, fear not, matzo meal only shows up in one of these recipes, and even there, only in a crust. In short: you don’t need the reminder of 40 years in the dessert to find an excuse to make these, but if you ask me, it’s a good reason as any.

flourless chocolate walnut cookies

For example, did you know that Payard–yes, that Payard–makes a Flourless Chocolate Walnut Cookie? It’s in his new book, Chocolate Ephiphany which New York Magazine gave us a preview of yesterday. I tried them out last night, and oh, an epiphany they were, and then some. I know what you’re thinking: just like chocolate meringues! Yet, they’re not–the egg whites are not whipped, just whisked with powdered sugar (a recipe for Passover-friendly powdered sugar is below) and really good cocoa. It couldn’t be easier, and it is gluten-free, dairy-free and a one-bowl (plus a cutting board) recipe to boot.

when life gives you egg whites

Of course, if a more classic meringue cookie is your thing, I’d point you to my mother’s, which contain both chocolate chips and walnuts. These adorable mocha meringues (just swap the cornstarch for potato starch) and this brown sugar variety caught my eye as well.

miniature pavlovas

Staying on the meringue track, pavlovas–which are giant clouds of meringues–are not to be missed. We made some with whipped cream, raspberry sauce and fresh berries last year that, were my family not such chocolate junkies, I’d be all over making again.

chocolate orbit cake

On the cake front, there are few higher callings among chocoholics than a flourless chocolate cake. My favorite version is lifted ever-so-slightly with egg whites, so it is a bit airier than a block of chocolate. However, if simplicity–and a cake like a giant truffle–is your first choice, you cannot go wrong with David’s Chocolate Idiot Cake, which I made a couple years ago when it was still called the Chocolate Orbit Cake.

we kind of miss it already

On an even lighter but still intensely chocolaty note, last year I told you about my family’s Expletive Cake (because rolling cakes is always a recipe for frustration). I adapted it into a towering four-layer cake which was aggravation-free, however, I still included directions for creating a roulade, if you have the patience of a saint.

This year, I plan to break with flourless chocolate tradition–for just one dish, please calm down Alex–by making a cheesecake. Since most cheesecakes have no flour in the actual cake, the trick is the crust. Gourmet came through this year with a Passover-friend cheesecake crust which I haven’t had a chance to try yet, but surely will by the end of the week. (Don’t worry, I’ll update if it is an utter disaster, though early reviewers praise it.) The article included a recipe for a lemon cheesecake, but you could just as easily use my favorite, Four-Ingredient Cheesecake (we used this as a base for the Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake last summer), this White Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake that I’ve had bookmarked since forever or even this Yogurt Cheesecake from an article in the New York Times Magazine last weekend about Greek yogurt’s revival.

chocolate truffles

If you’d like to skip the cake and cookies altogether, jumping into pure candy instead, you can’t lose with truffles. In the archives, we’ve got recipes for both Robert Linxe’s Chocolate Truffles, with a thin, crackly chocolate shell on the outside, and Chocolate-Hazelnut Truffles.

saltine candy

But I saved the show-stopped for last, because I like melodrama. And stuff. So drum roll…. Chocolate Caramelized Matzo Candy, adapted from Marcy Goldman’s A Passion for Baking. I made this stuff a couple years ago with Saltine crackers–but matzo can easily be swapped–and I seriously have not been able to make it since because it’s like crack. [Update: Come get your Chocolate Caramelized Crack(ers) over here!]


To review, 17 20 Passover Dessert Ideas: [Updated 4/09]

Flourless Chocolate-Walnut Cookies
Adapted from Franӏois Payard’s Chcolate Epihany

These cookies were crispy at the edges, chewy at the center and have filled our apartment with the most intense chocolate aroma.

Yield: 20 to 24 2-inch cookies

2 3/4 cups walnut halves
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. Spread the walnut halves on a large-rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 9 minutes, until they are golden and fragrant. Let cool slightly, then transfer the walnut halves to a work surface and coarsely chop them.

Position two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and lower temperature to 320. Line two large-rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk (or combine in an electric mixer on low speed) the confectioner’ sugar with the cocoa powder and salt followed by the chopped walnuts. While whisking (or once you change the speed to medium), add the egg whites and vanilla extract and beat just until the batter is moistened (do not overbeat or it will stiffen).

Spoon the batter onto the baking sheets in 12 evenly spaced mounds, and bake for 14 to 16 minutes, until the tops are glossy and lightly cracked; shift the pans from front to back and top to bottom halfway through to ensure even baking. Slide the parchment paper (with the cookies) onto 2 wire racks. Let cookies cool completely, and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Passover Powdered Sugar
Gourmet Magazine, April 2008

Potato starch is a seamless substitute for cornstarch.

Makes about 1/2 cup

1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon potato starch

Grind sugar and potato starch together in an electric coffee or spice grinder until powdery.

Powdered sugar keeps in an airtight container at room temperature 1 month.


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