Two sweet desserts for ushering in spring holidays of Passover and Easter

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Strawberry, Raspberry and Rhubarb Crisp is a juicy mix of tart and sweet. This version has oats and brown sugar among its topping ingredients.

By Betty Gordon

© 2017 text and photos. All rights reserved.

If you don’t have a traditional dessert that you make every year for your Passover or Easter  holiday menu, or you’re looking for something new to try, then consider these two options.

Passover begins at sundown on April 10, and Easter falls on April 16. I’m posting these recipes a bit in advance in case you want to give them a trial run before the holidays.

Vivid shades of ruby, and sweet and tart sensations make the Strawberry, Raspberry and Rhubarb Crisp memorable. You can, of course, use any mix of fruit that totals about 4 to 5 cups. But the berry and rhubarb combination enthusiastically announces “spring.”

Rhubarb, technically a vegetable and a member of the buckwheat family, can be quite tart, thus the rather generous amount of granulated sugar in this recipe.

If using fresh rhubarb, look for bright red stalks, which are generally sweeter. Wash well and trim the ends; discard the leaves. You want to use just the stalk, which resembles a rib of celery, sliced in about 1/2-inch pieces.

I’ve made this recipe using all fresh or all frozen rhubarb. In the finished dish, you won’t be able to tell the difference. Generally, I use frozen raspberries with the frozen rhubarb, and usually fresh strawberries, with plump, juicy berries coming in from Florida.

While preparing the filling, mind your countertop. If you spill a bit of juice or some fruit jumps out of the bowl while you’re mixing, scoop it up quickly and wipe the counter immediately to avoid stains. Likewise, be extra careful when serving because this will stain your tablecloth.

I’ve included an all-purpose recipe for the Easter (and all year) version of the crisp topping. If you have a go-to favorite, by all means feel free to make that.

Completely different in texture, Carrot Pecan Cake with Orange Caramel Glaze is more crumbly and heavier. It also takes longer to prepare but can be made a a day in advance and left unglazed in the refrigerator.

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The juices should be bubbling when you take the crisp out of the oven. This is the Easter (and all year) version.

Strawberry, Raspberry and Rhubarb Crisp

Hands on: 15 minutes

Total time: 1 hour, plus cooling

Serves: 8

For the filling:

2 cups (about 10 ounces) fresh strawberries, cored and halved or quartered, if large

1 cup (1/4 pint) fresh or frozen raspberries, not defrosted

2 cups (about 12 ounces) fresh or frozen rhubarb; if fresh, trim ends and slice into 1/2-inch pieces; if frozen, do not defrost

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

3 tablespoons packed corn starch (if making for Passover, substitute potato starch)

Regular or nondairy whipped cream or ice cream, for serving (optional)

For the crumb topping, Passover recipe:

3/4 cup matzo meal

20 soft coconut or almond macaroons, crumbled with fingers (about 1 cup packed)

4 tablespoons nondairy or margarine, or butter, melted

For the crisp topping, Easter recipe and all year: 

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned oats

1/3 cup (5 tablespoons) butter or margarine, softened

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

To make the filling: In a large bowl, stir together strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb, sugar and corn starch (or potato starch). Set aside while preparing the topping.

To make the Passover topping: In a medium bowl, stir together matzo meal, macaroons and melted margarine (or butter). Set aside.

To make the Easter topping: In a medium bowl, combine brown sugar, flour, oats, butter or margarine, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.

Place oven rack in center of oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9-inch-square baking dish with margarine, butter or nonstick spray.

Restir the fruit mixture to make sure corn starch (or potato starch) and sugar are evenly distributed. Gently pour fruit into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle Passover or Easter topping evenly over fruit mixture.

Place the crisp on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet before placing it in the oven. It saves a messy cleanup if the juices overflow.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until fruit is tender when pierced with a toothpick and sauce is thick and bubbling. Cool at least 30 minutes before serving. (Crisp may be baked up to 8 hours before serving.)

Serve warm or at room temperature, with whipped cream or ice cream (optional). Refrigerate any leftovers and rewarm before serving.

Passover version: Adapted from “Fast and Festive Meals for the Jewish Holidays: Complete Menus, Rituals, and Party-Planning Ideas for Every Holiday of the Year” by Marlene Sorosky in collaboration with Joanne Neuman and Debbie Shahvar (William Morrow and Co., 1997, $27)

Topping for Easter version: “Betty Crocker’s Cookbook: Everything You Need to Know to Cook Today” by Betty Crocker Kitchens, General Mills (IDG Books Worldwide, 2000, $27.50)

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Carrots and pecans form the base of the cake batter, and eggs and potato starch (or corn starch) help bind it together. Decorate with thin curls of orange peel or use orange segments as your garnish.

Carrot Pecan Cake with Orange Caramel Glaze

This recipe reminded me of a carrot cake but with fewer spices. Customize as needed in observance of your religious holiday, and for your taste buds.

The glaze did not live up to expectations, so I’ve included my work-around for it.

Hands on: 45 minutes

Total time: 1 hour, 45 minutes, plus overnight refrigeration

Serves: 8 to 10

For the cake:

3 to 4 carrots, peeled

2 medium navel oranges, divided

2 tablespoons plus 3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided

2 eggs, separated

1/3 cup potato starch for Passover (or corn starch for Easter)

2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

1/2 cup golden raisins (about 7 ounces)

1/2 teaspoon salt

For the glaze:

1/4 pound (1 stick) nondairy margarine or butter

1/2 cup orange juice

1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

1 tablespoon potato starch (or corn starch)

Orange slices or orange peel curls for garnish

Place rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with nondairy margarine or butter.

To make the cake: In a food processor with the shredding disk, shred carrots. Measure 2 cups and set aside. (You may have leftovers.) With a microplane zester, zest skin of 1 orange into a small bowl. Return 2 cups carrots to food processor. Add 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and zest. Process until carrots are finely ground. Add yolks, 3/4 cup granulated sugar and process until thick and pale yellow. Add potato starch (or corn starch), pecans and raisins. Pulse until combined and pecans are finely ground. Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat egg whites and salt until stiff but moist peaks form. Gently fold 1/4 of the whites into the carrot-pecan batter. Add remaining whites and fold in until combined. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top.

Bake for 30 minutes. Cover top loosely with foil and bake 30 more minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the sides pull away from the pan. Remove foil and cool on rack for 20 minutes.

Run a sharp knife around the edge of the cake and remove pan. Invert cake onto a cake plate with rimmed edge. Cool to room temperature. (Cake may be refrigerated up to 2 days or frozen, tightly wrapped. Bring to room temperature before glazing.)

To make the glaze: In small saucepan, melt nondairy margarine or butter. Remove from heat and stir in orange juice, brown sugar and potato starch (or corn starch). Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until smooth. Bring to a boil for 3 to 4 seconds, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and cool until thick enough to glaze the cake.

Pour evenly over the top of the cake. Use a small offset spatula to smooth the sides, if necessary. Glaze will form a pool on the plate. (Cake may be refrigerated, uncovered, overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving.) Garnish with orange segments or with curls of peel from the second orange.

Notes: I found the glaze to be a soupy mess, even with using just 1/4 cup of the orange juice. I decided to turn it into frosting by adding 1 cup confectioners’ sugar (approved for Passover), another tablespoon of potato starch and then beat it with a hand-held mixer. (You may need even more starch and sugar, depending on how thick you want it.) I refrigerated the frosting overnight before spreading it on the cake at room temperature.

A different option would be to sprinkle confectioners’ sugar to cover the top, then garnish with thin orange peel curls. A second alternative would be to make your favorite cream cheese frosting, like you would use for carrot cake.

Recipe adapted from “Fast and Festive Meals for the Jewish Holidays: Complete Menus, Rituals, and Party-Planning Ideas for Every Holiday of the Year” by Marlene Sorosky in collaboration with Joanne Neuman and Debbie Shahvar (William Morrow and Co., 1997, $27)

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