The Jewish holiday of Passover is celebrated each year in the spring to commemorate the ancient Israelites' exodus from Egypt, where they had been enslaved by the Pharaohs. According to the story of Exodus, the Israelites left Egypt in such a rush that they were unable to wait for their bread to rise. In remembrance, Jews abstain from eating leavened bread during the week-long Passover holiday, and instead eat matzo, an unleavened, cracker-like bread.
In modern observance of the holiday, it's not just bread that is prohibited, but also leavening agents — such as baking powder, baking soda and yeast — and grains, including wheat, barley, spelt, rye, and oats. When it comes to making Passover desserts, these restrictions can get a little tricky. Luckily, there are all sorts of delicious substitutes, so your Passover meal can end on a sweet note.
Here are a few classic desserts, Passover-style:
Brownies: Who can resist a plate of chocolate brownies? At Passover, brownies can be made using ground almonds and walnuts in place of flour, as in Nigella Lawson's Flourless Chocolate Brownies recipe. These brownies are so dense and fudgy, you would never know they were wheat-free. Serve them with Nigella's hot chocolate sauce for a seriously indulgent dessert.
Meringue: Made from whipped egg whites and sugar, meringue is a dessert found on many a Passover table. Serve Nick Malgieri's Pavlova — a large meringue disk topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit — for a showstopping end to the Passover meal. For a twist on classic meringue cookies, replace the traditional white sugar with brown sugar for caramel-flavored meringues, as Victoria Blashford-Snell and Brigitte Hafner do in their Brown Sugar Meringues. Or add cocoa and pecans for chocolatey meringue cookies, as in Barbara Selley's Cocoa Kisses.