“Damn you!!!” proclaimed my new friend Danny (or new enemy, I’m not sure with the way he was sounding). He marched into the kitchen, where I was slicing up pieces of my Kosher for Passover cake for everyone. “I’m suppose to be suffering! This is too delicious for a Passover dessert. Damn you!!!” he stated emphatically with a fist shake in my general direction. Then Danny proceeded to shovel another large forkful of my Coconut Basil Ginger Flourless Chocolate Cake with Caramelized Ginger Pineapple into his mouth. I guess my dessert was a success?
I had been invited to another Pseudo Seder by my friend Susie and had offered to bring dessert like last time. She seems to have them every two years or so, and I’m pleased to have a Jewish friend in San Francisco that throws them, because I have yet to find decent Matzo Ball Soup here. Ever since I moved away from St. Louis, I’ve missed it, and Susie makes a great matzo ball, all light and fluffy, with awesome chicken broth. Of course her beef brisket was nothing to sneer at either. I think AJ might have gone back for seconds.
Susie always saves me the actual Maxwell House Haggadah, the Jewish text that you read from for the Seder dinner, while everyone else has to read from Xerox copies (suckers!). When she had invited me to her first Seder a couple of years ago, I got super excited and asked her if we would be reading from the Maxwell House Haggadah, as that is what I used to read from growing up and going to my friend’s Seders in the Midwest. She said she wasn’t sure if she could get one, but then she had her dad send her one just for me. How awesome is she? How awesome is her dad? On a complete aside, the Maxwell House Haggadah is what the White House uses for their Passover Seder. Woo hoo!
Susie isn’t super religious but she does try to observe tradition when it comes to the Seder. We didn’t do the four hour long service, but we did the good stuff, like eating the bitter herb, dipping our hands into the Manischewitz Concord Grape wine, and hiding the Passover Matzo which we nearly forgot to search for. With some goading at the very end of the evening (Susie basically told us where to look) AJ found it in one of their jackets and won a sweet $5 prize! Woo hoo!
Susie is also trying to create her own traditions for her household and family. The cup that she leaves out for Elijah was a tiki cup that her husband Jai acquired at a tiki lounge. Apparently every tiki lounge he goes to, he procures a tiki cup to bring home. I love it when people have traditions like that. The one for Elijah was from the Tonga Room here in San Francisco’s Fairmont.
The challenge of baking Kosher for Passover is always interesting. No leavening which includes yeast, baking soda or baking powder. Susie’s family observe Ashkenazi tradition where not only are wheat, barley, rye, spelt or oats forbidden, but also rice, millet, corn and legumes like beans and lentils. Always up for a challenge, I decided to revisit one of the desserts that I made last time, a flourless chocolate cake. A crunchy flourless cake, the only leavening that occurs is from the whipping of the egg whites, which causes it to rise spectacularly in the oven, and then collapse down on itself. Since I’m not a fan of margarines, I opted to go with the coconut oil, which lead to the me giving it a tropical twist with savory notes of basil and ginger. The caramelized pineapple gives it that extra something special, that had people yelling at me because it was so good. I’m going to take that as a good thing.
Not only is this cake naturally gluten free as there is no flour in it, but it’s also Kosher for Passover. However, this isn’t the sort of “kosher for Passover” type of cake that most people are used to. It is, in fact a wonderful dessert for whenever you want to make something decadent with tropical notes. The fresh basil in it isn’t super strong, but lends a subtle elusive savory note that helps tie together the sweet pineapple fruit and the bitternotes of the dark chocolate. My friend Susie claims it’s the best Kosher for Passover dessert she’s ever had in her entire 30+ life. True story.
If making this Kosher for Passover, be sure to check your chocolate to see if it has any hidden soy in it, as well as your powdered sugar for cornstarch as that’s not KfP if you observe Ashkenazi food traditions. KfP chocolate will be soy lechithin free, and KfP powdered sugar will use potato starch instead of corn starch. If you can’t find KfP powdered sugar, place a couple of tablespoons of regular sugar with half a tablespoon of potato starch in a blender or food processor and grind until it turns into a powder (this might take some time).
Freely adapted from Great American Food by Charlie Palmer and Judith Choate
By Irvin Lin
115 g (1/2 cup) virgin, unrefined coconut oil, divided
115 g (4 oz) bittersweet chocolate, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
4 large eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
165 g (1/2 plus 1/3 cup) white granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Caramelized Pineapple and Ginger Sauce
30 g (2 tablespoon) coconut oil
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 medium sized pineapple (about 550 g)
35 g (2 tablespoons) of minced crystallized ginger
1 vanilla bean
2 tablespoons Kosher for Passover confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar)
9 inch springform pan
1. Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Open the springform pan, and flip the bottom of the pan upside down so that the small ridge of the bottom are facing down. Close the springform pan sides with the bottom in it.
2. Melt 15 g (1 tablespoon) coconut oil by microwaving it on high for 30 seconds and stirring it. Brush the coconut oil on the bottom and sides of the pan. Fit a 9 inch round piece of parchment paper on the bottom of the pan and brush it with coconut oil. Place a piece of aluminum foil on a table, and then another piece of aluminum foil at 90˚ to that on top of it. Place the springform pan on the aluminum foils and wrap the foils up the sides of the pan, to keep any batter from leaking.
3. Place the remaining 100 g (7 tablespoons) of coconut oil, along with the chopped chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds on high. Stir the chocolate and microwave for 30 more seconds and stir again. Microwave for 30 seconds more and stir until all the chocolate is melted. If there are still stubborn chunks of chocolate that won’t melt, microwave in 15 second intervals, stirring between each, until the chocolate has melted. You can also melt the chocolate and coconut oil in a double boiler if you wish. Let the chocolate cool while you prep the rest of the batter.
4. Separate the eggs and place the egg whites and sea salt in the bowl of standing mixer, fitted with a wire whisk. Turn the mixer to high and beat until the egg whites form soft peaks, then turn off the mixer. Measure out 65 g (1/3 cup) of granulated sugar and turn the mixer back to high. Slowly sprinkle the sugar over the egg whites as it beats. Once all the sugar has been sprinkled into the egg whites, beat until the whites are stiff and glossy, like a meringue.
5. Remove the egg whites and scrap into another bowl. Don’t bother washing the bowl or whisk, but add the egg yolks and remaining 100 g (1/2 cup) of sugar into the bowl. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the vanilla seeds into the egg yolk and sugar. Place over a pot with simmering hot water and stir until the yolks start to feel warm to the touch. Remove from hot water and place back in the stand mixer. Turn the mixer to high and beat until the egg yolks look light yellow in color and the yolks have doubled in volume.
6. Scrape the chocolate and coconut oil into the egg yolks and gently fold the batter together. Once incorporated, scoop up a cup or so of the egg whites and gently fold it into the batter. Continue to fold the egg white into the cake in this manner. On the last cup of egg whites, add the fresh basil and ground ginger and fold until everything is incorporated.
7. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, or until the top starts to crack a little and bounces back when touched. Remove from oven and lift up from the aluminum foil. Let cool on a wire rack for a bit, until you can handle the pan. The cake will rise when baking then sink a bit when you let it cool, with the edges and top of the cake becoming crispy and crack. This is normal and will be covered up artfully with the confectioners’ sugar. Release the sides of the pan and slide the cake over onto a serving dish, using a large spatula or the bottom of a removable tart pan. Let cool completely and then dust with confectioners’ sugar.
8. Make the caramelized pineapple by placing the coconut oil and brown sugar in large skillet. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the oil/sugar. Turn the heat to medium high and melt the oil with sugar, stirring constantly. Don’t worry if the sugar and oil stay separated, they meld together once the pineapple is added.
9. Once the oil has melted, the brown sugar looks wet and the vanilla seeds are dispersed throughout the mixture, add the pineapple and crystallized ginger. Cook on medium high heat for about 5 to 6 minutes, or until the pineapple starts to soften and release juice, stirring frequently. Once the pineapple has softened, and starts to brown a bit on the edges, remove from heat. Serve cake with the pineapple and juices.
Makes 1 cake, serves 12 people.