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Long before gluten-free and paleo diets became trendy, there was another reason to avoid bread (and sometimes dairy): Passover. This Jewish holiday commemorates Israelites escape from Egyptian slavery during the time of Moses. During the eight-day holiday, most Jewish people avoid chametz — food products made with grains that have been leavened (foods are considered to have been leavened if they have come into contact with water for more than 18 minutes before being baked). Ingredients made from grains, such as corn syrup, as well as legumes and certain seeds may also be avoided (Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews differ follow slightly different rules about what is considered kosher for Passover).
Moreover, many Jews who do not keep kosher throughout the year will do so during Passover; for dessert, this means that no dairy foods can follow a meat meal. Despite these restrictions, there are plenty of delicious sweets you can serve during the holiday, from a decadent three-ingredient flourless chocolate cake to tender triple coconut banana bread macaroons (which also happen to be quite healthy!)
1. Flourless chocolate cake: This chilled fudgy “cake” is a Passover classic, and this one only has three ingredients (includingbutter, so it can’t follow a meat meal). For the most spectacular cake, make it with the best chocolate you can find.
2. Banana bread macaroons: Ripe bananas are the secret ingredient in these vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free macaroons. Since they’re not too sweet, you can have these for dessert and a breakfast treat.
3. Lemon-olive oil cake: This pretty bundt cake is deceptively grain-free. Almond meal and tapioca starch stand in for flour and olive oil makes the cake moist, without any dairy. (The cake does contain baking soda, which some people may avoid although this ingredient is increasingly accepted during Passover and “kosher for Passover” versions do exist).
4. Matzo bark: How do you make matzo, the fairly bland cracker-like unleavened bread that’s acceptable during Passover, more delicious? Cover it in chocolate, of course. This easy, crunchy sweet takes only 10 minutes to make.
5.Toasted coconut pavlova with cocoa pudding and caramel sauce: Meringues are terrific Passover desserts but what’s even more festive? A giant meringue known as pavlova. You can simply top the pavlova with whipped cream or make the delicious (and dairy-free!) cocoa pudding and caramel sauce that accompany the recipe.
This article was originally published Mar. 30, 2015 at 12:02 p.m. ET.