Forget Mousses and Matzah Cakes: These Passover Desserts Are Anything but Boring

Pastry chef Michal Goldberger rises to the challenge of crafting chametz-free desserts, with three recipes to sweeten your holiday

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Yogurt panna cotta with pine nuts and grilled loquats
Yogurt panna cotta with pine nuts and grilled loquatsCredit: Noam Preisman
Dor Vanger

In my mind’s eye, I can already see the Passover dining table: Everyone is wearing their holiday best, flanked by their good silverware. The glasses are gleaming, the serving dishes are laden with everything one could desire. There’s just one thing I haven’t managed to conjure up in my mind – the desserts.

Due to my excessive fondness for flour, Passover has become a sort of nemesis. It demands that I do the most difficult thing imaginable – forgo eating anything leavened. But sometimes restrictions can give way to the best ideas. “I loved the challenge of finding the perfect dessert that does not include flour,” says pastry chef Michal Goldberger. She didn’t let the Passover ban on chametz – leaven – stand in her way when devising three wonderful desserts.

Goldberger already knew she’d be a pastry chef at the age of 15, while preparing alfajores for herself and her friends at her home in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramot. “I come from a very non-culinary-minded home,” she says with a smile. “Maybe I became a pastry chef as a sort of act of mending.”

Pastry chef Michal GoldbergerCredit: Noam Preisman

Goldberger loves her profession with every bone in her body. She’s interested in serving her desserts in restaurants, being part of a process and watching customers eat the fruit of her labor. Her dream is to return to the clean air of Jerusalem and open a small pastry shop in the hills – the kind that stays open during Passover.

With her generous help, I tried to find dessert options that can be served at the Passover table, barring the traditional and often unrewarding mousses and matzah cakes. “How can I think of three gluten-free dishes?” was her first response. In the end, she offered five.

Yogurt panna cotta with pine nuts and grilled loquats

Ingredients (yields 10-12 servings):

A 20x30 cm (8x11 inch) pan with high edges or individual glasses

800 grams sweet cream

145 grams sugar

20 grams vanilla bean paste

Grated lemon peel (1 lemon)

680 grams yogurt

12 grams gelatin

48 grams water

100 grams roasted pine nuts

15 loquats, peeled, halved and pitted

1-2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 cinnamon stick

2 tablespoons demerara sugar

Juice from 1/2 a lemon

A handful of hyssop leaves

1 tablespoon olive oil

Loquats in the pan.Credit: Noam Preisman

Preparation:

1. Weigh gelatin and water in a small dish and mix well. Leave in fridge for 15 minutes

2. Using a medium-sized pot, bring cream, vanilla, sugar and lemon peel to a boil

3. Add gelatin to boiling mixture and beat well

4. Strain mixture into a measuring cup or large bowl and add yogurt

5. Beat mixture well

1. Pour panna cotta into the pan or glasses and let cool in the refrigerator overnight

2. Before serving, heat butter in frying pan and add loquats. Roast for several minutes

3. Add coriander seeds and cinnamon stick, demerara sugar and lemon juice

4. Cook over low heat for 3-5 minutes. Be careful not to let it overheat, or the loquats will disintegrate

Spoon a scoop of panna cotta onto each plate. Garnish with the half loquats, roasted pine nuts, hyssop leaves and olive oil before serving.

Preparing the amaretti cookiesCredit: Noam Preisman

Amaretti cookies and cardamom

Ingredients (yields 20-25 cookies)

300 grams ground almonds

165 grams sugar

5 grams ground cardamom

3 egg whites

A pinch of salt

10 ml orgeat syrup

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/2 cup powdered sugar

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius (320 Fahrenheit)

1. Mix ground almonds, sugar and cardamom in bowl

2. Use a mixer to froth egg whites until soft and firm

3. Gradually fold egg whites into almond mixture until batter is uniform in texture

4. Add orgeat syrup and mix

5. Form small balls and roll each one in sliced almonds and then in powdered sugar

6. Place well-spaced balls on tray covered in baking paper

7. Bake for 12-15 minutes until cookies start to crack

8. Store in closed container at room temperature

Nemesis cake with chocolate ganache.Credit: Noam Preisman

Nemesis cake with chocolate ganache

Ingredients (for 24-centimeter round pan)

5 large eggs

280 grams white sugar

335 grams dark chocolate

225 grams butter

For the ganache:

150 grams dark chocolate

188 grams sweet cream

Recommended: serve with sour cream or unsweetened whipping cream

Pouring the ganache.Credit: Noam Preisman

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 130 degrees Celsius (266 degrees Fahrenheit)

1. Oil pan with butter

2. Use mixer to beat eggs and sugar at high speed for 5-8 minutes, until mixture is frothy and airy

3. While mixing eggs and sugar, melt dark chocolate and butter in a bain-marie heated bath (a heatproof bowl or pot nestled in a pot of hot water)

4. Fold the egg mixture gently into the chocolate mixture, in 3 portions

5. Pour mixture into pan and bake for 1-1.5 hours or until cake is firm with a delicate crust on top

6. Leave the cake in the oven with the door open until it cools, and then keep in fridge

For the ganache:

1. Boil the sweet cream

2. Pour onto chocolate and grind gently with a hand blender until a smooth ganache is formed

3. After cake cools, pour the ganache over it

4. Keep refrigerated

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