March 23, 2019 Tuesday 8:00 a.m.

A Suite of Seder Desserts

I have the great fortune to be frequently invited to a Seder meal hosted by two good friends. Every year they find space in their Queens, NY apartment for a gathering of at least a baker’s dozen (or more) of guests to read the haggadah they wrote, connect experiences from around the table, and attempt to make sense of the world through the ritual. Despite the traditional nature of the event, their presentation of it allows for more secular interpretations and deeper personalization of the rituals and blessings it contains. In short, it’s a gathering that does leave me feeling renewed and on better footing to face the slings and arrows of our daily outrageous national misfortune.

Something else that leaves me feeling better is planning, baking, and sharing desserts for the meal. My first year attending, I brought a couple of dishes that were my first attempts at using non-traditional ingredients. It’s been a challenge every year since to improve my skills in that arena and deliver desserts that adhered as closely as possible to KFP (Kosher for Passover) standards – taking into account my hosts’ flexibility on some details. I had a couple of recipes from last year that I wanted to repeat, and improve this year but the list of deserts I wanted to make grew from 2 to 5 the week of the Seder! It took a lot of effort and schedule shuffling, with a break in the middle of prep to make dinner and dessert for a movie with a friend, but I made it! And for the first time ever when planning something so ambitious, I was finished with time for a nap before having to get out of the apartment! Whoo-hoo!

(Side note: I was a little embarrassed that my dishes were actually the dessert menu this year. Usually there are a few guests who bring additions to the table and at lease a couple folks bring desserts. This year, no one except me. Don’t get me wrong, in retrospect, this was exactly the kind of situation that makes me glow inside, but it felt a little weird and I hoped no one thought I was showing off when what I was doing was following my bliss and doing what makes me happy.)

And now, presenting The Five!

#1: Ginger-Orange Cookies
Half of these are made with rice flour (the flatter ones), the other half with matzo cake meal (the smaller more rounded ones). Both used margarine and came out light and rather fragile, which I didn’t expect. Quite tasty, though.

#2: Mini-Mini Cheese Cakes (Topped With Blackberries)
I’ve been playing around with this recipe for decades now. Based on my mother’s cheese cake recipe, I use whipped cream instead of Cool Whip, and walnuts instead of pecans in the crust. For the Seder, I used kosher cream cheese and kosher non-dairy product to whip up in place of cream. (So, in effect, I made kosher Cool Whip! lol!)

#3: Mini-Spiced Orange Cakes (3 of 6)
This recipe calls for boiling two oranges within an inch of their lives, then blending everything together to mix with almond flour to make the cakes. I added cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom to spice it up a bit. I think I’ll increase the cinnamon and add some nutmeg next time because I wasn’t quite pleased with the spice mix.

#4: Lemon Ripple Ice Cream Pie (Made with Coconut Milk)
Full disclosure: I hate coconut! Absolutely abhor it in all its forms. But since I was trying to keep as close to kosher for Passover as possible, I made this with full-fat coconut milk instead of whole milk for the ice cream. Even making it double-vanilla couldn’t disguise the flavor from me, so I didn’t have anything more than a quick taste to make sure it was excellent ice cream (it was)…though I gagged on that taste. The guests loved it.

#5: Lemon Tart
This wasn’t the best lemon tart I’ve ever made. The crust baked up weirdly, probably because of the necessity of using margarine. The recipe for the curd just didn’t seem like it would set in the oven, even after cooking on the stove for a long time, so I added a tablespoon of arrowroot. It came together all right, and a lot faster than I expected. I drizzled some melted dark chocolate over it, added the berries and some chopped pistachios, and presented a visually pleasing fifth dessert to my fellow guests.

I’ll make all of these again, in various configurations of regular ingredients and leftover kosher ingredients (gotta use what’s available, yes?) at some point in the near future. For now I’ll bask in the afterglow of an experience that gave me some food for thought and allowed me stretch my skills to present some food for enjoyment.

Currently listening to: GAWTBASS & Hansel Thorne – Puerto Rico, Spor – Pacifica (Kito & Reija Lee Remix), and Psymbionic & Of The Trees – One Thing (Feat. Cristina Soto) (Bassnectar Remix)

Oh. Right. My list/timetable – some of which I adjusted, some of which I ignored:

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