Thursday, April 30, 2009

Orange Flourless Chocolate Cake

I'm not very strict about my Passover rules. In fact, you can see in the picture that we didn't even do matzo. To me, "unleavened bread" may as well mean whole-wheat tortillas. I have an easier time imagining Moses with something a lot like a whole-wheat tortilla than with a big box of Manischewitz matzo.

So really, there's no reason I should have avoided flour in the dessert. But who can resist the tradition of flourless chocolate cake? I find that much more enticing than the tradition of matzo. So : I served this orange-flavored flourless chocolate cake with mango and raspberry sorbets and whipped topping.

I love the flavor combination of orange and chocolate. In fact, I have a signature sundae at the local ice cream joint: a scoop of dark fudge ice cream on bottom, covered with a scoop of orange sherbet, with "swiss chocolate" (like marshmallow topping, but lightly chocolate) on top. I think if I were a starlet in LA, some restaurant I frequent would name a chocolate/orange dessert after me, or (since it's an alternate reality anyway) a cocktail-- you know how they're always named after somebody-or-other? Or like how the French have code words for flavors and flavor combinations-- if it's "florentine," you know you're dealing with spinach and probably cheese. It would be like that.

Anyway, I got this recipe off of, and it in turn got it from the book All the Presidents' Pastries: Twenty-Five Years in the White House, by Roland Mesnier with Christian Malard. In that book, the name of the cake is "Orange Flourless Chocolate Cake for the Reagan Family."

Orange Flourless Chocolate Cake

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing (I'm sorry! I used butter in a meat meal!)
flour, for dusting (so ok, there was a little flour)
6 oz bittersweet chocolate
1 c plus 2 T sugar
zest of one large orange
4 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter and flour a 10-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, then butter and flour the paper. Gently melt the chocolate over a double boiler (or a make-shift double boiler). Stir the butter into the chocolate to melt, and stir until smooth. Remove from heat and whisk the sugar and orange zest into the chocolate mixture. Add the eggs and yolks and whisk well. Sift the cocoa powder over the chocolate mixture and whisk the batter until totally smooth. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for approximately 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top has formed a good crust. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Invert the cake onto a serving platter.


This is the recipe that my mom has always used for our seder charoset.

I purchased spoon-size Shredded Wheat and used an equivalent amount, because I figured I would be more likely to eat the cereal later in this form. I didn't have the heart to buy the rose water or orange water, either, as my Passover bill was already very hefty, so I went without. I didn't add ginger or cardamom; although these are two of my favorite spices, I wanted to keep this new culinary experience as accessible as possible. It still produced a very flavorful, complex charoset. I actually have to eat charoset very slowly because it is so sweet and full of flavor.

Charoset represents the mortar the Hebrew slaves used to make the bricks for Pharaoh. Angry at the thought of his slaves pursuing liberty, Pharaoh increased their levy of bricks. Although it represents an exquisitely painful trial and bondage, charoset is also very sweet. This sweetness reminds us that sweet lessons can be learned from even bitter experiences.


1 1/4 c diced apple
1/2 c honey
1/4 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 c sliced almonds
1 Shredded Wheat biscuit
1 1/2 t orange water
1 1/2 t rose water
optional: cardamom, ginger

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil for 4 minutes. Cool.

Lemon Lamb

I waffled for a long time about whether or not to host a seder for my friends this year. But, in the end, I decided it would after all be an opportunity to eat lamb.

I have always enjoyed the lamb at Passover. I know that Mom has prepared it in a handful of different ways, but her preparation of lemon lamb was particularly memorable for me. I decided to prepare it this way for my guests, also. I love the fresh tang of the lemon against the gaminess of the meat, and the cinnamon, which is both fun and earthy, bridging the divide. My guests seemed to really like it, too.

Thanks to guest Ben for trimming the meat. I was intimidated by the directive that the lamb be "well-trimmed." Fortunately, Ben wants to be a surgeon, and he did a brilliant job with the leg of lamb. I expanded the recipe by 150%, so that was a lot of lamb.

Lemon Lamb

4 lbs well-trimmed lamb cut into 3 inch lengths
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 t salt
3/4 t pepper
1/4 c fresh lemon juice
2 cinnamon sticks, each 3 inches long
1 c water

Cover the lamb with the water in a large pan and bring to a vigorous boil for 1 minute. Drain and rinse under cold water. This first boiling will remove excess fat.

Put the oil in the pan, add the lamb, and stir-fry over moderate heat for 5 minutes.

Add the salt, pepper, lemon juice, cinnamon sticks, and water. Cover the pan and simmer over low heat for 1 hour, or until the lamb is tender and the liquid is reduced to a thick, lemon flavored sauce.

Serves 8.