New This Month

Desserts Without Flour

Martha Stewart Living, April 2008

Almond-Coconut Tart
Chocolate Passover Cookies
Walnut Dacquoises with Honey-Walnut Ice Cream
Chocolate Cake with Espresso Glaze

Just as cranberries taste good when it's not Thanksgiving and Fourth of July lemonade can soothe the palate year-round, flourless desserts can perform not only at Passover but also long after the seder. They're a category of sweets unto themselves, distinctly different but definitely able to hold their own against their starchier cousins.

Perhaps part of their lack of four-season popularity is semantic. The phrase flourless dessert reminds us not of what's in the dish, but of what's missing. Even if it doesn't sound quite as sad as Oliver Twist's bowl of gruel, it also doesn't necessarily set taste buds atingle. And yet flour-less can be more. Whether it's a cake, cookies, a tart, or a dacquoise, a seder dessert can be chockablock with seductive flavors such as dark chocolate, honey, espresso, apricot, berries, coconut, vanilla, or cinnamon. An added benefit of such flavor-forward ingredients is that they make it easier to resist a common urge: overcompensating for lack of flour with too much sugar.

Another problem when we anticipate Passover sweets is that the holiday has sometimes meant tolerating a dessert that, however flavorful, has the density of a brick. The challenge presented to bakers, of course, is avoiding not only flour (except in matzo) but also leaveners. One traditional ingredient is matzo meal, and it gives cookies a crumbly crunch that many people associate with the holiday. Yet there are additional ways to achieve a mouthfeel that's substantial without being overly dense. Whipping egg whites and gently folding them into the batter makes for fluffier cakes and cookies than mixing in whole eggs. Nuts add taste as well as texture.

For those who keep kosher and will be ending their dinner with a dairy-free dessert, the many soy-based stand-ins for milk, cream cheese, and other dairy goods offer more options than ever for baking pareve sweets.

But these dishes are good news for anyone, Jewish or not, who loves a delicious dessert any time of the year.

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