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A Friendly Rivalry Over Dessert

March 25, 2010 By:
Ethel Hofman, Jewish Exponent Feature
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THE JEWISH KITCHEN

With a record number of new Passover foods and prize-winning wines flooding the supermarkets these days, planning Passover seders has never been easier.

You can add sparkle to dishes with items like Leiber's Macadamia Oil (great for your own salad dressings and marinades), an upscale line of wine jellies from Oshra Tishbi in tantalizing flavors such as Merlot and Reisling (brush over salmon before baking), and even gluten-free chow mein noodles from Streit and Gefen. These are just a few new products to be found on the Passover food shelves.

But the anticipated grand finale to every Passover meal, seder or not, is dessert -- and not just one. My friend Fran and I have always had a contest, albeit a friendly rivalry, as to who serves the best desserts to cap off any one of our Passover family dinners. Although our families are spread throughout the States, and the number of guests who travel from far and wide has shrunk to 20 or so, the custom remains.

Here are some longtime family favorites that are so delicious we serve them at year-round simchas.

Mile-High Mocha-Berry Cake
(Pareve or Dairy)

In a hurry? Use a store-bought sponge cake.

1/2 cup matzah cake meal 
3/4 cup potato starch 
8 eggs, separated 
11/4 cups sugar 
2 Tbsps. orange juice 
2 tsps. fresh lemon juice 
3-4 Tbsps. coffee liqueur 
3-4 cups pareve whipped topping or whipped cream 
3 Tbsps. pareve or dairy chocolate chips, melted 
1 pint strawberries, sliced or 2 cups raspberries

Preheat oven to 350°.

Sift together the cake meal and potato starch.

In a large bowl, whip the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Gradually add 3/4 cup sugar and whip just until stiff peaks form. Do not overbeat.

In a separate large bowl, whisk the eggs yolks and remaining 1/2 cup sugar until thick and pale, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the orange and lemon juices. Fold the egg whites into the egg-yolk mixture, then fold in the dry ingredients. Spoon into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan.

Bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Invert pan until cake is cool. With a round bladed knife, cut around edges to loosen before turning out onto a flat serving platter.

With a serrated knife, cut horizontally into two slices. Drizzle coffee liqueur over the cut surfaces.

In a bowl, cut the melted chocolate into the whipped topping for a marbled effect. Spread half the mixture over the bottom half of the sponge cake. Top with half the berries.

Gently replace the top half of the cake. Spoon the remaining whipped topping mixture over roughing up with a fork. Scatter the remaining berries over top.

Refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.

To serve, cut into slices with a serrated knife.

Serves 10 to 12.

Lime-Scented Hazelnut Cake
(Pareve)

Many supermarkets now offer Passover powdered sugar. For superfine sugar, grind granulated sugar and 2 teaspoons potato starch in the food processor for 20 seconds, or until mixture is almost a powder.

1 cup, plus 2 Tbsps., finely ground hazelnuts 
1 cup powdered sugar or superfine sugar 
2 Tbsps. matzah cake meal 
11/2 Tbsps. finely grated lime rind 
pinch of salt 
9 eggs, separated 
powdered or superfine sugar to sprinkle (optional) 
lime or lemon jelly rings (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°.

Spray a 10-inch tube pan with nonstick baking spray.

In a medium bowl, combine the hazelnuts with the sugar, matzah meal, grated lime rind and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until thick and pale (no need to wash the beaters after beating the egg whites.) Fold in the dry-ingredient mixture then about one-quarter of the egg-white mixture. Add the remaining egg-white mixture, folding until no white streaks remain. Transfer into the prepared tube pan.

Bake for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Run a knife around all sides to loosen before turning out on a serving platter.

Before serving, dust with powdered or superfine sugar, and garnish with halved lime or lemon jelly rings.

Serves 12 to 15.

Note: For dairy parfaits, crumble some hazelnut cake into parfait or dessert dishes. Drizzle with a liqueur or orange juice. Spoon fresh fruit salad or sliced berries over, and top with softened vanilla ice-cream or yogurt. Crown with a chocolate-covered cocoa bean.

'Porcupine' Banana Tidbits
(Pareve)

For kids of all ages to make and eat.

4 macaroons 
1/2 cup chow mein noodles 
2 cup pareve chocolate chips 
2 Tbsps. pareve margarine, cut into 6 pieces 
3 bananas, peeled and cut into 1-inch thick slices

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Set aside.

Crumble the macaroons and chow mien noodles. Place in a shallow dish and stir to mix. Set aside.

Place the chocolate chips and margarine in a microwave bowl.

Microwave on high for 2 minutes, stirring after 1 minute. After 2 minutes, if not melted, when stirred, cook for 20 seconds longer.

To Assemble: Using a fork, dip each banana slice into the melted chocolate to cover, then into the macaroon mixture, turning to coat completely. Place onto prepared baking sheet.

Freeze until firm, 2 to 3 hours.

Remove from freezer, arrange on a dish and serve.

Makes 18 to 12 pieces.

Springtime Compote
(Pareve)

Foamy Muscat sauce crowns this refreshing, fruit dessert. Remove the rhubarb leaves before preparing -- they are toxic!

1/2 cup sugar or to taste 
2 Tbsps. frozen apple-juice concentrate 
2 Tbsps. honey 
1/2 lb. rhubarb stalks, cut in 1/2-inch pieces 
3 cups sliced strawberries

In a medium saucepan, combine 1/2 cup sugar, the apple-juice concentrate and honey.

Stir over medium heat to dissolve the sugar. Bring to simmer and cook for 5 minutes, or until the mixture resembles a light syrup.

Add the rhubarb. Cover and cook 10 minutes, or until the rhubarb is softened.

Stir in the strawberries.

Raise heat to medium high and heat through. If needed, add a little more sugar to taste.

Serve at room temperature topped with Foamy Muscat Sauce.

Serves 6.

Foamy Muscat Sauce
(Pareve)

Muscat is a sweet dessert wine.

4 egg yolks 
1/4 cup, plus 1 Tbsp., sugar 
2 Tbsps. lemon juice 
1/2 cup Muscat wine

In the top of a double boiler or in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, over medium heat, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the lemon juice and wine in a slow steady stream, whisking constantly. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick and foamy, about 6 minutes.

Remove from heat. Whisk 2 minutes more. Place in a serving bowl. Serve at room temperature.

Makes about 11/4 cups.

Sautéed Pineapple With Banana Sauce
(Dairy or Pareve)

3 Tbsps. butter or margarine 
3 Tbsps. sugar 
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract 
1 medium pineapple, peeled and cubed

Sauce Ingredients:

3 ripe, firm bananas 
3 Tbsps. fresh lemon juice 
3 Tbsps. Sabra liqueur

In a large skillet, melt the butter or margarine over medium heat. Stir in the sugar and vanilla. Stir to combine and let cook 1 minute. Add the pineapple. Turn heat to high.

Sauté 3 to 4 minutes. Spoon into a serving dish.

Serve at room temperature with Banana Sauce.

To Make the Sauce: Peel the bananas and cut in half. Brush with the lemon juice, saving any leftover juice. Wrap tightly in wax paper. Freeze until firm, about 2 hours or more (may freeze ahead to use as needed).

Unwrap. Place in the food processor with the saved lemon juice, and Sabra liqueur. Process to a creamy consistency. Refrigerate until needed. The sauce will take on a light coffee color.

Serves 6.

Champagne Granita
(Pareve)

This is what you do with flat champagne or party leftovers. Or use a semi-sweet white wine, such as Gewurtztraminer. A refreshing flavor combination.

3 cups champagne or semisweet white wine 
11/2 cups peach nectar 
2 Tbsps. frozen orange-juice concentrate, thawed 
2 Tbsps. frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed 
3 Tbsps. honey, warmed 
1 tsp. finely grated ginger root or 1/4 tsp. ground ginger 
mint sprigs to garnish (optional)

In a 9-inch square baking dish, combine all of the ingredients. Stir well.

Place in the freezer for 6 to 8 hours. Stir with a fork every 3 hours. When frozen and "flaky," spoon into wine glasses.

Top with a mint sprig. Serve immediately.

Serves 6 to 8.

Simply Exceptional Chocolate Soufflé
(Dairy)

If this were rated, it would be a "10-plus." Serve this rich dessert in demitasse cups, or place 3 canned peach slices in the bottom of wine glasses and top with the chocolate soufflé.

1 cup chocolate chips at room temperature 
1/4 cup coarsely chopped dark chocolate 
2 Tbsps. butter 
1/4 cup sour cream 
2 Tbsps. orange juice 
1/4 tsp. orange extract 
1/4 tsp. cinnamon 
3 cups whipped topping 
grated white chocolate to garnish (optional)

In a microwave bowl, place the chocolate chips, dark chocolate and butter. Microwave at medium for 45 seconds, or until chocolate is shiny and soft, and butter is melted. Stir until mixture is smooth.

Add the sour cream, orange juice, orange extract and cinnamon stirring to blend.

Cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Stir in the whipped topping until no white streaks remain.

Spoon into serving dishes.

Garnish with grated white chocolate (optional).

Serves 6.

Ethel G. Hofman is a past president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. E-mail her at: ethelhof@aol.com.

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