It’s been a long winter. The beginning of spring, warm weather, new produce and the appearance of locally-grown fruit are causes for joy. I tend to focus on savory foods, but this is a great time of year to do some spring baking.
The first night of Passover is on April 15, and Easter Sunday falls on April 17. Both of these spring holidays are great excuses to do some baking. For Easter, a Meyer lemon tart with strawberries and pistachio dust would be ideal. It’s colorful, refreshing and an ideal end to a rich holiday meal. Angel food cake is also light and airy, served with whipped vanilla-scented cream and first-of-the-season strawberries or raspberries.
Passover or Pesach is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the liberation of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt. Throughout the eight-day holiday, Jews do not eat any grains that can ferment and become leavened. The story goes when Jews escaped Egypt they didn’t have time to allow their bread to rise before fleeing. Wheat flour is permitted only when it is baked into Matzah, or unleavened bread. So for Passover this year I’ll bake a flourless chocolate and orange cake.
Three new desserts for a new season.
Separation anxiety: How to separate egg yolks from whites
The angel food cake and the lemon curd call for separating egg whites from yolks. Always crack the eggs in a small bowl rather than cracking them directly into the batter or cake mix – that way if you get a drip of egg yolk into your egg whites you can remove it without spoiling the whole batter. Crack the eggs by gently tapping the egg on the side of the bowl or the counter. Let the egg whites drip into the bowl. Pass the yolk from one half of the eggshell to the other allowing all the whites to drip down into the bowl. If you get a bit of yolk or eggshell into the whites, use half of the cracked eggshell to help you scoop it out. Be sure not to let any yolk remain or your ability to properly whip the egg whites will be compromised.
If you make the pastry ahead of time (or buy a pre-made crust) and make the lemon curd a day or two ahead of time (or buy lemon curd in a jar from a specialty food shop), this gorgeous pie comes together quite easily.
If you can find Meyer lemons, they add a wonderful sweetness to the curd. Meyer lemons taste more like a cross between a lemon and an orange and they have softer skin. Regular lemons can be substituted easily.
The lemon curd, or use 2 cups premade lemon curd
Imagine a cake that feels like eating clouds. This light, airy angel food cake, made with whipped egg whites, sugar, cake flour and a touch of lemon juice and vanilla is served with vanilla-scented whipped cream and spring strawberries or your favorite berries. The cake is best eaten on the day you bake it but it will be fine for a few days covered and refrigerated.
There are a few “tricks” to making a successful angel food cake. You will need what is called an angel food tube cake pan, a round cake pan with a center tube. Do NOT grease the pan: If you grease it the cake will not adhere to the pan and will slide down. Make sure your egg whites are at room temperature and there’s no egg yolk that drips in; it will be difficult to whip if yolk gets into the batter. The cake needs to cool, upside down, on a cake rack until fully cool before releasing from the pan.
Serves 6 to 8.
The whipped cream and berries
*For an even lighter texture, place the sugar in a food processor and pulse until super fine.
This is an adaptation of a recipe I developed years ago for “Stonewall Kitchen Harvest.” Since this is a flourless cake, it’s ideal for Passover (or any time of the year) and to serve friends and family on gluten-free diets. The cake is flavored with orange, topped with a simple chocolate ganache and garnished with small wedges of orange. It can be served the day it is baked or covered and refrigerated overnight; when the cake sits for a day, it gets denser and more fudge-like.
Note: This cake calls for Dutch-processed cocoa, which is non-alkalized. If you use regular unsweetened cocoa (which is alkalized) substitute ½ teaspoon baking soda for the 1 teaspoon of baking powder.
Serves 8 to 10.
For the cake:
For the chocolate ganache:
For the garnish:
*Orange oil or extract is like vanilla extract made from oranges and orange peels.
More ideas for spring and holiday baking:
This article was originally published on WBUR.org.