Irresistible Passover pastries: Who knew it was possible?

By Linda Morel, JTA

NEW YORK – With all the restrictions, are decent desserts even possible during Passover?

“My particular talent is working around restriction,” says Paula Shoyer, author of “The Kosher Baker: Over 160 Dairy-free Recipes from Traditional to Trendy” (Brandeis University Press, 2010).


Her cookbook contains a chapter on Passover baking, as well as many sensational recipes sans flour or yeast — Passover taboos. Flourless Chocolate Cake, Marble Chocolate Matzoh and Mocha Matzoh Napolean are some of the book’s gems.

Shoyer, whose magical touch is without peer in the Passover dessert genre, calls them “my gift to the Jewish people.”

More than anything, Shoyer wants the eye rolls to stop upon hearing the words pareve desserts — pastries made without dairy products. She laments that kosher bakeries year after year for Passover offer the same dry brownies, sponge cakes, coconut macaroons and vanilla rolls with jam inside.

“Have you ever noticed that packaged Passover cookies and cakes start appearing in supermarkets in February?” asks Shoyer, of Chevy Chase, Md. “With so many preservatives in them, they could survive a nuclear attack.”

During Passover, Shoyer bakes as much as possible, mostly for the sake of her children.

“Home-baked desserts are kind of a holiday bonus,” she says.

Using 28 dozen eggs during the holiday, mostly in pastries, Shoyer prepares plenty of Chocolate Chip Hazelnut Biscotti and Chocolate Brownie Cookies for the kids’ snacks. She also keeps a supply of her popular Amaretto Cookies on hand for visiting friends.

Her most stunning Passover dessert? Without doubt it’s the Key Lime Pie — even though Shoyer’s favorite is the Chocolate Chiffon Cake.

Waxing poetic about the silky texture of her Strawberry Mousse, Shoyer confides that when she was growing up, her mother stuck to traditional dessert fare at Passover. She relied on Manischewitz mixes to make brownies, coffee cakes and sponge cakes.

Her grandmother baked the perfect lemon sponge cake using a recipe straight from the Streit’s box, then changed it so frequently over time that one couldn’t recognize the airy but distinctly citrus result.

With such natural talent, Shoyer’s grandmother once asked her, “Why go to school to learn how to bake?”

Shoyer had started baking for fun during college. She brought back chocolate from a trip to Belgium in 1984 and began experimenting with it in recipes.

During her 20s she moved to Geneva and landed a job at the United Nations. In Switzerland, she tasted some sensational desserts and decided to reinvent them as dairy free without sacrificing their buttery flavor.

Then in her 30s, while living in Paris, Shoyer received her pastry diploma from the Ritz Escoffier Ecole de Gastronomie Francaise. She returned to Chevy Chase, Md., and started Paula’s Parisian Pastries Cooking School.

With such a varied career, she found time to get married and raise four children — and revolutionize kosher baking.

“I wouldn’t eat a dessert that isn’t worth the calories,” Shoyer says.

In “The Kosher Baker,” Shoyer worried that the Passover chapter was too heavily weighted with chocolate pastries.

“Can you have too much chocolate?” asked one of her friends.

The following recipes are from “The Kosher Baker.” All are pareve and kosher for Passover.