Flourless cake is perfect Passover dessert

April 15, 2011 9:44:44 AM PDT
Passover begins Monday night, signaling an eight-day period during which Jews must avoid certain food ingredients.

There can be nothing with leavening in it, especially yeast, which is why the cracker-like matzo is so prevalent in grocery stores now. But the Hungry Hound says one North Shore hotel is gearing up for big business next week as it prepares to serve its own Passover meals featuring a familiar dessert.

The rules are pretty simple: nothing with barley, wheat, rye, oats and spelt; essentially, nothing to make bread. This signifies the fact the Hebrews had no time to let their bread rise as they made a hurried escape from Egypt.

But, when it comes to dessert, chefs can still avoid flour and make something sinfully good.

While Passover preparations are under way in earnest, the staff at the Renaissance Chicago North Shore Hotel is also getting ready for big business this week.

"During Passover we have Passover dinners and we have Seder dinners actually," said Chef Chris Dugenske. "And we present Seder plates and the whole traditional Seder menus. And we just take the frustration out of doing it all at home and bringing it here."

Part of that stress reduction is with dessert. The hotel makes a flourless chocolate cake, in keeping with the holiday's dietary restrictions.

"One rule is you can't have flour. That's one of the no-no's about the meal itself, unleavened breads you have to have. One of our desserts obviously is a flourless chocolate cake, we also have a sherbet with macaroons and we do a vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce," Dugenske said.

He begins with chocolate and butter, melting both of them in a double-boiler. Then sugar is whisked into the chocolate mixture, along with some eggs. Once that's fully incorporated, he adds some chopped pecans -- a totally optional part of the recipe -- and gets those fully engulfed in chocolate. Finally, some cocoa powder, and after more whisking, the batter is poured into a greased, paper-lined baking pan, eight inches in diameter.

And that's about it.

The pan goes into a 375-degree oven for about 25 minutes, until the top has formed a thin crust. Then it's removed, cooled, and transferred to a plate. To serve, wedges are dressed with some vanilla ice cream, and a little raspberry or chocolate sauce. It's a delicious way to end a meal that is steeped in tradition.

"It is the conclusion so it is pretty good. People are excited, they like to eat it, and how can you go wrong with chocolate," said Dugenske.

Incidentally, Ashkenazi Jews, who came from Europe, also avoid corn, rice, peanuts and legumes during Passover, since those can also be used to make bread.

Renaissance Chicago North Shore Hotel
933 Skokie Blvd., Northbrook