Passover desserts used to be a challenge. How do you make something everyone will love without using flour? Fortunately, with more and more people eliminating gluten from their diets, a whole slew of recipes has dominated the food blogs in the past number of years. There are entire cookbooks devoted to cooking and baking without flour. The challenge of what to bake for Passover has now instead become an exciting opportunity.

I like to step up my desserts on Passover to prove that they don’t have to be “meh.” Everyone is used to meringue cookies for Passover — those billowy puffs of meringue that melt in your mouth. But what about running a hazelnut butter ribbon through the meringue and topping them with crushed coffee beans? 

One caveat: Don’t make meringues in humid weather. Even though Arizona has such low humidity, this past month has seen a lot of rain. I remember years ago, when I was a little less experienced, I made meringue cookies as I normally did for Passover during an unexpectedly rainy March. The result was a weepy, sticky little blob. My family ate them anyway — possibly as a show of solidarity for the Passover baker, or maybe just because we adore sweets, however they look and feel. 

Another idea is to take matzah and cover it in white chocolate, drizzling it with dark chocolate and topping all that with chopped apricots and pistachios. Not only is it tasty, it looks stunning on the dessert table. Or this year, try a chocolate chip cookie cake. It’s made with almond and hazelnut flours and tastes delicious. I decorate mine with a kosher for Passover buttercream, but you could always drizzle chocolate on the top, or use a dairy-free ice cream.

Hazelnut & Coffee Meringues

Makes 18-24 depending on size 

1 cup hazelnuts

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

4 large egg whites, room temperature

1/4 teaspoon white vinegar

1 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons coffee beans, chopped 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once until golden brown. Bake 10–12 minutes. Remove nuts and reduce oven temperature to 200 degrees. Bundle nuts in a kitchen towel and rub vigorously to remove skins (it’s OK if some skins remain). Spread out and let cool.

Blend hazelnuts and salt in a food processor until a smooth, creamy nut butter forms (it should be pretty fluid; keep processing if still stiff); set aside.

Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat egg whites and vinegar until frothy, about 1 minute. With motor running, gradually add granulated sugar and beat until medium peaks form, about 5 minutes. Test the meringue by rubbing a small amount between your fingers. If you still feel some sugar, continue to beat for 2-3 more minutes until most of sugar has dissolved.

Transfer meringue to a large bowl and gently fold in half of reserved hazelnut butter, leaving plenty of streaks. Add remaining hazelnut butter and fold once just to blend barely. Mixture should be marbled with thick ribbons of nut butter.

Place heaping spoonfuls of meringue onto parchment-lined baking sheets (meringues will flatten slightly as they bake, so make them tall) and top with coffee beans. Bake until dry, 2–2½ hours. Turn off heat and let cool in oven.

Chef’s Note: Meringues can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Chocolate, Apricot & Pistachio Matzah Bark

Makes 12 pieces

4 pieces matzah

11 ounces white chocolate, melted

4 ounces dark chocolate, melted

1/4 cup pistachio nut meats, finely chopped

1/4 cup dried apricots, finely chopped

Place matzah on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush one side of matzah with melted white chocolate. Drizzle over dark chocolate in streaks. Sprinkle with nuts and apricots.  

Transfer matzah to refrigerator until chocolate is set, about 15 minutes. Break into pieces.

Serve immediately or keep refrigerated up to one week.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake (Recipe by Molly Yeh)

Makes 1 8-inch cookie cake

1 cup almond flour

1 cup hazelnut flour (or 1 cup more almond flour)

1/2 cup lightly packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 large egg

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8” cake pan and line it with parchment; set aside.

In a large bowl combine the flours, sugars and salt. In a small separate bowl, combine the egg, vanilla and almond extracts.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Add the chocolate chips, and stir to combine. It may seem dry at first but keep on stirring. Pat the dough out evenly in your prepared cake pan.

Bake until golden brown on top. Begin checking for doneness at 22 minutes; mine took about 26 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool fully in the pan- or serve it warm. Wait for it to cool fully if you’re decorating it with frosting.

To decorate use buttercream or, for a dairy-free alternative, use dairy free ice cream or glaze made with powdered sugar and dairy-free milk.

Chef’s Note: The cookie cake can be baked a day in advance. Once cooled, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store at room temperature. JN

Francine Coles is a food blogger based in Phoenix. Find more of her food insights at thefancypantskitchen.com.

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