To the rescue.
Besides the numerous Passover mixes and sweets available at your neighborhood markets, bakeries (go for the flourless chocolate cake, if available), and specialty shops, there’s a multitude of other sweets you
should consider. Of course, keep Kosher rules in mind.
Simple homemade sweets with a flair include purchasing meringue cookies (the mini are perfect for this), crushing them directly into parfait glasses, adding sorbet, sherbet, or ice cream, depending upon your menu, topping with fresh berries, perhaps a splash of orange liqueur (adults only), then a dollop of real whipped cream (or non-dairy), and finally a sprinkling of shaved chocolate or toasted sliced nuts.
During my mom’s former cooking days, she would order a matzo cake meal sponge cake from the bakery, slice this horizontally in half or thirds, and thickly spread non-dairy topping between the layers along with slices of strawberries. She would re-assemble the cake, then “ice” the outside with non-dairy topping, and attractively decorate the top with whole strawberries. She would make this several hours (or a day) in advance of eating, so the flavors and texture had the time to mellow. She would accompany the cake with a giant bowl of sliced, fresh strawberries that she had sweetened with sugar. Now you know how to make Buba’s Strawberry Tall Cake.
Another, ah-so-simple, homemade sweet is chocolate-dipped matzo (like chocolate-dipped strawberries or dried apricots). Melt semi-sweet chocolate in the top of a double boiler over simmering hot water, or
carefully in your microwave. Place a big piece of broken matzo on a waxed-paper-lined cookie sheet and using a culinary brush, “paint” your matzo. Allow to cool (chocolate will harden again) before enjoying.
Of course, there are all kinds of homemade macaroons (both the American and the French versions), meringues (individual and party size), mousses, custards, puddings, and fruit fools and fluffs. Fruit-based
desserts are perfect. You might poach pears (such as Bosc in wine – a dry Chardonnay or a sweet Muscat with a whole vanilla bean), or try a fresh fruit crisp, using nuts and sugar, possibly crumbled matzo or matzo meal
for your topping. Dried fruits (as well as fresh fruits) make marvelous gratins, especially when served warm from the oven.
Don’t just save these crisps, gratins, cobblers, and flourless cookies and cakes for the remaining days of Passover ahead. They are remarkable desserts to serve throughout the year, adapting the fruits to match the season.
Here’s a mouth-watering Pavlova, named after the famous ballerina – an elegant edible basket made of baked meringue, then a layer of whipped cream (or non-dairy), and finally the crown filled with giant strawberries. You may also wish to fill the basket with kiwi slices in the traditional Australian manner. Softened vanilla ice cream can also be substituted for the whipped cream.
Four egg whites, at room temperature
One cup sugar
One scant tablespoon cornstarch
One teaspoon white wine vinegar
One teaspoon vanilla extract
One eight-ounce container of non-dairy topping (or of freshly whipped cream), plus additional for garnishing tops of individual servings
Two pounds strawberries (or more) washed and hulled
In a larger mixer bowl, beat egg whites at high speed, adding the salt. When the eggs become frothy, slowly add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, continuing to beat at high speed. In a small bowl, mix one
tablespoon of the sugar with the cornstarch; add this mixture after all the other sugar has been added. Next, beat in the vinegar, and then the vanilla extract. The final mixture should have a stiff and shiny appearance.
I like to shape this meringue into a “basket,” so that the final product will hold the strawberries. I have also seen Pavlova shaped into a mound, resembling half a football, with the whipped-cream icing the top and
the fruit around the edges. With a spatula, spread the meringue into an eight- or nine-inch pie plate, “pulling up” around the edges to form a basket shape. Place in a preheated two hundred and fifty degree oven for one and one half hours, or until lightly browned and dried. Cool completely on a wire rack.
At serving time, place non-dairy topping or whipped cream in the bottom and fill high up to the top with the strawberries.
Note: A chef/baker’s secret: Meringues should not be made on rainy or damp days. On the day that I last prepared this recipe, it was one of those rare, but terribly rainy days. I prepared and baked the meringue,
then once done, I quickly placed it in a kitchen cabinet, gently closed the cabinet, and told my family not to open. The meringue was safe in its nest, away from any drafts.
Yield: six to eight servings.
DRIED BERRIES AND APRICOT GRATIN WITH A CRISP TOPPING
My Buba baked with a lot of dried fruits for sweet kugels and desserts. There were always bags of dried fruits around for a last minute tzimmes, or simply a handful for a snack. This gratin is best enjoyed hot
from the oven. If you wish, garnish with a dollop of whipped cream or non-dairy topping. The gratin has a marvelous, aromatic, generous and crisp topping, featuring nuts, candied ginger, and matzo meal. My children are always very fond of the topping when I make any variety of crisp, gratin, or cobbler.
Eight ounces assorted dried berries*
One pound dried apricots
Two tablespoons sugar
One teaspoon vanilla extract
Gratin Crisp Topping:
Six tablespoons butter or margarine, at room temperature
One-fourth packed cup light brown sugar
Two thirds cup matzo meal
One-fourth cup chopped hazelnuts
One heaping tablespoon chopped candied ginger, or more to taste
One teaspoon ground cinnamon
Whipped cream or non-dairy topping
*Note: Many specialty markets have packaged assorted dried berries, such as cherries, cranberries, blueberries and golden raisins, which is what I am using, or combine your own assortment.
Place dried berries and apricots in a bowl and soak, about ten minutes in warm water. Drain well, and place in a buttered, eight inch square glass casserole. Dissolve the sugar in three fourth cup hot water, add the vanilla extract, then pour on top of the fruit.
To make the topping: In a mixing bowl, combine the softened butter or margarine with the brown sugar, matzo meal, candied ginger, cinnamon, and salt. The resulting mixture should be very crumbly. Heap on top of the fruit mixture. Bake in a preheated three hundred and fifty degree oven for approximately
forty-five minutes, or until topping is a lovely golden color.
Spoon gratin into individual dessert goblets or bowls, and add a dollop of whipped cream or non-dairy whipping.
Yield: Six to eight servings.