No flour No problem for Passover desserts!

With all the excellent artisan bakeries that are around today, I rarely put much effort in baking. For one thing, the temptation to indulge is hard to fight, and for another, it is a time-consuming project.

However, for Passover, because of its many proscribed baking ingredients, I get my hands back in the dough and my ovens are back in business. I forget how much pleasure baking gives me, especially for the holiday that presents a significant “dessert challenge” to the cook.

Before or after the afikomen, seder desserts are a very satisfying and important conclusion to the Passover meal.

Some years at my table, it’s just a plate of assorted cookies to accompany a seasonal fruit compote; others it’s a spectacular, rich chocolate torte — but every year my mother’s ethereal, light-as-a-feather lemon sponge cake appears on the menu.

Passover Sponge Cake

9 eggs, separated
1 1⁄4 cups granulated sugar
1⁄4 cup lemon juice
grated zest of 1 lemon
1⁄2 cup sifted kosher-for-Passover potato starch
1⁄2 cup matzah cake meal
1⁄2 cup finely ground almonds
1⁄4 tsp. salt
Beat egg yolks and sugar in large bowl until light in color. Blend in juice and zest. Combine potato starch, cake meal, almonds and salt; add to egg yolk mixture, blending thoroughly.
Beat egg whites in separate bowl until stiff enough to hold peaks. Fold one-fourth of the whites into egg yolk mixture to loosen batter. Gently but thoroughly fold in remaining whites.
Turn batter into ungreased 10-inch tube pan. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven 45 minutes, or until cake springs back to the touch and tester inserted in center comes out dry. Remove cake from oven; immediately invert pan and let cake cool completely. Loosen sides and center of cake with sharp knife and unmold onto cake plate.
Serve cake plain or with strawberry-rhubarb compote.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote | Serves 8

1 1⁄4 cups sugar
3 Tbs. potato starch
2 lbs. strawberries (4 pints), trimmed and halved (6 cups)
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 1⁄2 lbs. rhubarb stalks, cut crosswise into 1⁄2-inch slices (4 cups)
1 tsp. finely grated fresh lemon zest
In a medium saucepan stir together sugar and potato starch, then gently toss with strawberries, rhubarb, lemon juice, and zest. Cover partially and cook over medium heat until rhubarb is soft, about 10 minutes. Chill and serve with sponge cake.

Passover Biscotti | Makes about 36

1 cup ground almonds
1⁄2 cup kosher-for-Passover potato starch
1 cup matzah cake meal
3⁄4 cup sugar
1 tsp. kosher-for-Passover baking powder
grated zest of 1⁄2 lemon
3 eggs, lightly beaten
juice of 1⁄2 lemon
1 cup coarsely chopped almonds
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. In a food processor, process ground almonds, potato starch, matzah cake meal, sugar and baking powder until blended. Add eggs and lemon juice and process just until dough holds together. Turn out onto a board dusted with cake meal and knead chopped almonds into dough. Dough should be slightly tacky to the touch but not wet.
Form dough into 2 logs about 2 inches in diameter. Place on cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with wet hands.

Bake until golden brown, about 50 minutes. Remove from oven and place logs on cutting board. Slice on the diagonal, about 1 inch thick. Return slices, cut side down, to cookie sheet. Bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes. Cool on a rack. Store in an airtight container.

Louise Fiszer is a Palo Alto cooking teacher, author and the co-author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking.” Her columns alternate with those of Rebecca Ets-Hokin. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to [email protected].