It’s no surprise to see an abundance of flourless chocolate cakes and incredible matzo bark covered in chocolate and butter during Passover — leavened products are forbidden during the holiday, so decadent substitutions are available. In the most-recent issue of Food Network Magazine, the Test Kitchens prepared five cakes without using all-purpose flour (pictured above is Flourless Red Velvet Cake, get more recipes below) to try at home and the results were tremendous. That led us to picking baker and co-owner of Breads Bakery in New York City Uri Scheft’s brain, to dive a little deeper into the subject. The world of starches, flours and desserts is so vast and can be overwhelming — so we turned to an expert.
What would kosher potato starch do to a cake? What type of cakes would you use this substitution in?
Uri Scheft: Potato starch sucks all of the liquid out, but because of the lack of gluten, it doesn’t really bind the ingredients. It leads to a more crumby, more dense cake that hasn’t risen as much. It is good for brownies because they don’t need to rise a lot. Additionally, they are better when not cooked completely through.
If you wanted a cake with more depth, what other flours could you use? Matzo cake meal? What does that to do the texture of the cake?
US: Almond flour gives more texture because the flour is fine yet rough (similar to bread crumbs). It will help a cake become more dense, but it’s best with matzo balls. Most of our Passover desserts are made with a combination of various flours and starches, not just an individual one. You could try and experiment with different starches and flours at home, but it takes a lot work. It’s never easy to take a regular cake with flour and change it to flourless.
What’s the secret to the ultimate flourless chocolate cake?
US: In most flourless cakes, especially chocolate, you normally use a lot of eggs (separate egg whites from egg yolks). It’s really important to notice that when you mix egg whites and sugar, to make sure to keep it very soft when whipping, and don’t let it get dry (when in doubt, whip less). If you over-whip the egg whites, the cake will get very high in the oven but then collapse once taken out.
If you over-whip and the cake collapses in the middle, I suggest you mix whipped cream and melted chocolate and put it on top of the cake. It will look beautiful and taste delicious — no one will notice.
Thinking outside of the box on Passover for dessert, what’s something you’re looking forward to serving?
US: Tapioca with coconut milk and fresh fruit, fruit compote and a chestnut flour crepe filled with chestnuts and vanilla cream, topped with a sauce of fresh berries.
Five great cakes without all-purpose flour from Food Network Magazine: