FeaturesApr/May 2009 Issue

Sensitive to Seder?

No need to pass by these Passover desserts

When my friend Ethel prepares the Passover meal, she faces the challenge of cooking for two special diets—one that adheres to Jewish dietary laws for Passover and the other that is gluten free. Wheat and gluten are forbidden Passover ingredients—except for matzo, the unleavened wheat flatbread that serves as the holiday’s foundation food. So how does someone like Ethel stick to a gluten-free regimen while celebrating the seder?

Preparing Passover foods can be difficult for even experienced cooks but the challenge increases when you add in food allergies. Typical Passover baking calls for potato starch, coconut powder, finely ground nuts and matzo meal. Sephardic Jews and those who aren’t as strict might also use rice flour or quinoa flour.

For gluten-free matzo, try our delicious Mock Matzo. If you’re eating nut free, follow our instructions for using ground coconut instead of ground nuts in these delicious desserts.

If you’re avoiding eggs, it gets a little trickier. Eggs are an essential leavening agent for most Passover pastries and baked goods because yeast, baking powder and baking soda are not permitted. You won’t feel deprived with egg-free Apple Crumb Pie (made with flax gel) or Poached Pears with Prunes.

These gluten-free, dairy-free recipes are delicious Passover dessert mainstays but you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy them. They’re certain to add allergy-friendly good taste and flavorful variety to your special diet at any time of year.



Almond Coconut Roulade

Almond Coconut Roulade


This versatile dessert can be rolled with whipping cream, strawberry filling or a filling of your choice. Garnish with fresh berries and toasted almonds, if tolerated.

1 cup almond meal*
1 cup unsweetened coconut, finely ground
7 large eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or 2 tablespoons cherry brandy or kirsch|
⅛ teaspoon salt
3 drops lemon juice

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 11x16-inch jelly roll pan and line it with parchment paper.

2. Mix together almond meal and ground coconut. Set aside.

3. Mix together egg yolks and sugar and beat until batter is thick and falls from the beaters in a heavy ribbon. Add vanilla or liqueur and beat for one minute.

4. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until light and fluffy. Add salt and lemon juice and beat. 

5. Add a quarter of egg white to the yolk mixture. Fold in well. 

6. Slide the remainder of the whites on top of yolk mixture. Sprinkle almond and coconut mixture over the whites. Then fold all ingredients into one another until completely combined.

7. Pour batter into prepared pan. Place on bottom rack in preheated oven and bake approximately 15 minutes until done.

8. Unmold jelly roll onto a sugared tea towel. Remove parchment paper, trim cake edges and loosely roll up the cake with the towel to cool.

Each serving contains 161 calories, 7g total fat, 2g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 99mg cholesterol, 21g carbohydrate, 52mg sodium, 4g fiber, 6g protein.

*TIP For a nut-free cake, replace 1 cup almond meal with 1 cup finely ground unsweetened coconut.

Whipped Cream Filling

2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cherry brandy or kirsch
1 quart fresh strawberries
½ pint raspberries
2 dozen toasted almonds, optional

1. Place cream in a chilled bowl and whip until it just begins to stiffen. Add sugar and brandy and whip until mixture forms stiff peaks.

2. Spread two-thirds of the whipped cream evenly over the unrolled cake.

3. Slice half the strawberries. Reserve largest for garnish.

4. Spread sliced strawberries evenly over whipped cream. Roll up cake.

5. Using two long spatulas, one at each end, carefully transfer the cake to a serving platter. Top cake with remaining whipped cream and garnish with whole strawberries. Sprinkle with almonds, if desired.

Each serving contains 144 calories, 12g total fat, 7g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 43mg cholesterol, 8g carbohydrate, 13mg sodium, 1g fiber, 1g protein.


Strawberry Filling

1 (12 ounce) jar strawberry jam
1 quart sliced fresh strawberries

1. Heat the jam. Strain it and let cool. 

2. Unroll the cake and brush on melted jam. Spread sliced berries evenly over jam.

3. Roll the cake up. Transfer to platter and garnish with whole berries.

Poached Pears with Prunes


This simple recipe makes an elegant dessert. Plate chilled pears on fine china. Serve with extra syrup in a pretty sauceboat.

1 lemon, juiced and strained
1 orange, juiced and strained
2 cups Passover red wine or other red wine
1 cup sugar
6 firm Bartlett, Bosc or Anjou pears
12 large pitted prunes

1. Combine lemon juice, orange juice, wine and sugar in a medium-large saucepan. Bring syrup to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. 

2. Peel and core pears carefully and immerse them in hot syrup along with prunes. Simmer fruit for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender. Remove from syrup and chill.

3. Continue simmering syrup until it is reduced to about 1 cup. Cool. Place a pear and some prunes in individual dishes. Spoon a little reserved syrup over each and serve.

Each serving contains 436 calories, 0g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 93g carbohydrate, 16mg sodium, 9g fiber, 2g protein.

Apple Crumb Pie

Apple Crumb Pie


This Passover dessert is good all year long. Vary the fruit based on seasonal availability.

1 cup potato starch
1 cup gluten-free oat matzo meal or rice flour
¼ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons super-fine sugar
½ cup almond meal or finely ground unsweetened coconut
10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, margarine or Earth’s Balance
Buttery Spread, cut in pieces
1 large egg or flax gel
1 tablespoon ice water, as needed
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon sugar


3-4 large baking apples, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon


1. Sift together potato starch and oat matzo meal or rice flour. Add salt, sugar and almond meal and mix well.

2. Add butter or margarine and pinch into the dry ingredients. Remove half the mixture and set aside for topping. Mix egg (or flax gel) into remaining mixture, adding water as necessary to form a soft dough. Wrap and refrigerate for one hour.

3. Preheated oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8- or 9-inch pie pan.

4. Remove chilled dough from refrigerator and roll it flat between two pieces of plastic (use a large, heavy-duty zip-lock bag cut in half along the seams). Fit rolled dough into the bottom of the pan, patching as necessary. 

5. To make filling, toss together apples, lemon juice, sugar and cinnamon. Place mixture into dough-lined pie pan.

6. Mix ½ teaspoon cinnamon and 1 tablespoon sugar into reserved topping. Crumble remaining crust mixture over apple mixture.

7. Place pie on the bottom rack of preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes. Move pie to middle rack and bake for another 20 minutes until done. Pie is done when apples are tender and juicy. Cool pie on wire rack.

Each serving contains 373 calories, 18g total fat, 6g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 26mg cholesterol, 50g carbohydrate, 232mg sodium, 3g fiber, 4g protein.

TIP If you don't have super-fine sugar, process granulated sugar in a food processor, a blender or a clean coffee grinder until very fine.

Double-Chocolate Passover Cake

Double-Chocolate Passover Cake


For best results, slice this decadent dessert using a hot, wet knife. Keep a deep container of very hot water nearby to dip the blade between each cut. Drizzle the cake with chocolate or strawberry glaze and serve with fresh strawberries on the side. Refrigerate until served.

1 pound raw shelled hazelnuts,* finely ground
1⅔ cups sugar, divided
14 ounces bittersweet chocolate
16 tablespoons (8 ounces) unsalted butter or Earth’s Balance
Buttery Spread
9 large eggs, separated
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup orange or chocolate liqueur


*TIP For a nut-free cake, replace hazelnuts with 4 cups finely ground coconut + ⅓ cup potato starch. Do not overbake. Omit the potato starch for a moist, rich texture like a brownie.

White Chocolate Glaze

1 pound white chocolate
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter or Earth’s Balance Buttery Spread
2 drops light vegetable or grape seed oil

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of a 10-inch cake pan or a 10-inch springform pan. Dust the bottom with sugar.

2. Mix ground hazelnuts with 2 tablespoons sugar. Set aside.

3. Heat bittersweet chocolate and butter in a double boiler, stirring until smooth and melted. Set aside and keep warm.

4. Whip egg yolks with 1 cup sugar until batter falls from beaters in a heavy ribbon. Mix in melted chocolate and liqueur.

5. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites and salt until foamy. Gradually add remaining sugar, beating until whites are light and airy.

6. Mix a quarter of beaten mixture into the chocolate mixture until combined. Place remaining whites on top of chocolate mixture. Place ground hazelnuts on top of whites. Gently fold ingredients together until combined.

7. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in preheated oven for 1 hour. Remove from oven and cool inverted on a cake rack.

8. To make chocolate glaze, combine ingredients and warm over low heat, stirring occasionally until smooth and shiny. Cool slightly and drizzle over cooled cake.

Each serving contains 666 calories, 50g total fat, 17g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 125mg cholesterol, 48g carbohydrate, 320mg sodium, 4g fiber, 10g protein.

TIP Grind hazelnuts in a food processor or clean coffee grinder.


Strawberry Glaze

Heat ½ cup strawberry preserves until melted. Strain and drizzle over cake.

Mock Matzo

Mock Matzo


“Let’s face it. Regular matzo isn’t exactly a gourmet treat,” says food editor Beth Hillson. Yet her family quickly devours Mock Matzo, an online recipe Hillson adapted. These crackers can be enjoyed all year. They will keep for several days in an airtight container.

⅔ cup potato starch
⅔ cup almond meal or brown rice flour
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup butter, margarine or vegetable shortening
6 tablespoons warm water

*TIP Try Spectrum Organics Shortening (spectrumorganics.com) or Earth Balance Buttery Spread or Shortening (earthbalancenatural.com).

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. Combine the dry ingredients. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse meal.

3. Add water, a little bit at a time, combining until dough forms a ball. (Add additional 1 to 2 tablespoons water if using brown rice flour.) Knead well. If dough is sticky, sprinkle with a little more potato starch while kneading.

4. Break off small pieces and place on a sheet of lightly oiled plastic wrap or parchment paper. Press with your fingers or roll until flat and thin. Prick rows of holes in each matzo with a fork

5. Place matzo on prepared cookie sheet and bake in preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Thinner matzo can over-bake quickly so keep an eye on it.

Each serving contains 114 calories, 5g total fat, 3g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 16g carbohydrate, 98mg sodium, 1g fiber, 1g protein.


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