By Jarrad Saffren
It’s Passover, which means it’s time to eat matzah pizza for every meal.
OK then, that’s a tasty unleavened option for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but what about dessert? As good as matzah pizza is, and as any decent parent will tell you, pizza is not dessert. Passover is no excuse for anarchy.
So, the dessert question remains, and many, if not most, of the unleavened options are the opposite of matzah pizza in that they have no taste!
But against all odds, the Mid-Atlantic Media team, which includes the Baltimore Jewish Times, Washington Jewish Week and Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, set out to find the best Passover dessert (desserts?) for the week ahead.
We did our best and, among the slim pickings, we found some half-decent options.
Manischewitz’s Toasted Coconut Marshmallows
This treat from the classic Jewish brand was the first dessert we tried during our office taste test on March 31 via Zoom.
And it may have been the best dessert, too.
Writer Lindsay VanAsdalan tried it first and immediately started nodding her head.
“It’s good, it’s not too sticky and I love toasted coconut so … it’s a win,” she said.
The rest of us agreed.
“I don’t have high expectations for a kosher for Passover marshmallow, but it really tasted like a marshmallow,” Editor Selah Maya Zighelboim said.
“And these are only 17 calories apiece,” Editor Andy Gotlieb added.
Schick’s Lemon Raspberry Roll
Writer Sasha Rogelberg had mixed but ultimately positive feelings about this one.
“Dryer than the desert we wandered through,” she said upon a first bite.
But then she kept chewing.
“The flavor’s good,” she concluded.
Gotlieb seconded the opinion.
“Actually, it is pretty good and it’s not overly sweet; it’s fairly light,” he said.
Joyva’s Marshmallow Twists
The marshmallow twists were the most divisive product of the 5782 MAM Passover Taste Test Classic.
For some, like myself, they were much too creamy.
“Not a fan,” I concluded.
But for others, like everyone else, the creaminess was the point.
“I like the creaminess,” said Zighelboim.
“Yeah, the creaminess works for me,” Gotlieb added.
“It’s almost like eating cream instead of chocolate,” concluded Zighelboim.
Yehuda Chocolate-Flavored Cake
The chocolate cake drew rave reviews, even with the unleavened factor.
“The chocolate flavor on this is really good,” VanAsdalan said. “It almost tastes more like a light brownie. Like a fluffier brownie.”
“It’s not too sweet, and I really like that; it tastes like it would be really good with a cup of coffee or a cup of tea or something,” Zighelboim said.
Schick’s Seven-Layer Cake and Manischewitz’s Mandel Cuts
Both teams tried different desserts during this round, and the seven-layer cake was the expected favorite before the taste test, and it delivered.
“Winner, winner, chicken dinner. This cake is really good,” Gotlieb said.
“A little bit of texture, but actually moist and actually good flavor,” Rogelberg added.
Others tried the mandel cuts, which looked and tasted like a dry biscotti.
Despite the dryness, though, it wasn’t terrible.
It just could have used a specific complement.
“It would be another good one to have with tea,” VanAsdalan said.
These being Passover desserts, there was plenty that we didn’t like, too.
The staff despised a sugar-free sponge loaf cake.
“It’s a little eggy, a little dry,” Rogelberg said.
“It’s a little bland,” I added.
Gotlieb went as far as imagining what a sponge might taste like.
“I know why they call this sponge cake — because it tastes kind of like a sponge,” he said. “Not that I eat sponges that often, but this is dry.”
A group of Joyva chocolate-covered jelly rings was hated by everyone.
Zighelboim compared the taste of the jelly to the flavored medication that a doctor would prescribe to a child.
“It’s like that weird cough medicine taste,” she said. “The chocolate is good though.”
Gotlieb called them “Robitussin rings.”
“I think I would have stuck with just the chocolate next time,” Zighelboim
Macaroons, both chocolate (Goodman’s) and coconut (Manischewitz), also got less-than-stellar reviews.
As they began chewing on the chocolate macaroons, the staffers said they didn’t taste enough chocolate. Then they chewed to the end and realized that the dessert even tasted “soggy.”
Gotlieb offered up a one-word review.
“Eh,” he said.
“I think that sums up the chocolate macaroons for sure,” Zighelboim added
The coconut macaroons were a little better, according to our tasters. VanAsdalan loved them.
“I’m probably biased because I love coconut, but I would eat a bunch of these,” she said.
VanAsdalan must have a Passover sweet tooth because, near the end, she admitted to kind of, sort of liking the jelly/Robitussin rings as well.
“For whatever reason, just because I thought they were interesting, I didn’t hate the jelly rings as much,” she said.
The Trick to Making Good Passover Desserts
We did our best to find some good Passover desserts, and while we found a few that were decent, it was a difficult task.
But it was tough because we picked up premade items at the supermarket, according to Yonah Gross, the kashrus administrator for the Community Kashrus of Greater Philadelphia.
The key is to do what Gross’ wife does every year: make desserts at home.
That way, you can use matzah meal, or crushed matzah, to replace flour and still get a similar taste.
Gross’ wife makes coffee cake mixes and biscotti with chocolate chips for the family to eat throughout the eight-day holiday.
“There are special Passover recipes that work it out,” Gross said. “A lot of chocolate is helpful.”
Store-bought items can’t replicate this formula because they depend on preservatives, Gross said. If you change one preservative, like using corn syrup instead of sugar, you change the whole dynamic of the dessert.
“There are various chemicals that could have some impact on the taste or the texture of what it might otherwise be,” he said.
But if you’re willing to do the work, you don’t have to settle for the equivalent of a child’s medicine repackaged as dessert. You just have to be willing to bake like you’re competing on the Food Network.
“My wife works very hard on baking,” Gross said.
“If you go store-bought, you can be rest assured that the kosher status is excellent,” he concluded. “I will leave the judgment of taste to others.”