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 best peanut butter cookies on earth has exactly no flour in it?
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 then, only nominally. (Forgive me, because I have never warmed to the flavor of the bread of affliction in an otherwise-excellent cake.) 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.
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, and the result is crispy but stretchy and very intensely chocolaty. Also, it’s gluten-free, dairy-free, and a one-bowl (plus a cutting board) recipe to boot. The recipe is at the end.
In the space between here and there, All My Favorite Passover Desserts:
Plus, let’s be realistic, the only Passover dessert you’ll ever need.
If you’ve made this before, you know the deal: don’t show up without it again. If you haven’t, well, why not? Do you dislike caramel and butter and salt and chocolate and crunch? No, you do not. Finally, if you’re reading this and it’s not Passover, go and make them tonight with Saltine-style crackers instead. You won’t regret a thing.
Chocolate-Walnut Cookies (Flourless)
If you strictly follow the rules of Passover, you might not use regularly powdered sugar because it has cornstarch in it. If you cannot find kosher-for-Passover powdered sugar, try making your own (thanks to an old Gourmet recipe): Grind 1/3 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 teaspoon potato starch in an electric coffee or spice grinder until powdery. Yield: About 1/2 cup.
- 2 3/4 cups (10 ounces) walnut halves
- 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- A few sea salt flakes to finish (if you wish)
Position two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and lower temperature to 325 degrees F. Line two large 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; we’re not trying to whip these egg whites as we would for a meringue).
Spoon the batter onto the baking sheets in evenly spaced mounds — I use a just-over-1-tablespoon, or #40 scoop. If you can spare the time, letting them rest at room temperature on their trays for 30 minutes (and up to 60), I find they get a taller dome in the oven, but it’s also fine to bake them right away.
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.