Flour Power: Baking game-changers for Passover—and beyond

I love everything about Passover -- except the matzah. 

almond flour image

I love everything about Passover -- except the matzah. I can't stand the stuff. Flavorless, gut-wrenching, and boring matzah! I don't use matzah in any recipes and avoid all soggy, casserole versions of it. The worst thing people do with matzah is bake with it. Ugh! Wet, cardboard-smelling matzah "flour" just makes me mad. It doesn't act like flour and has zero appeal. 

Baking for Passover is no fun. Sad brownies, cakes, and other desserts are very distant relatives of their non-Passover versions. Matzah flour yields heavy baked goods. It is hard to work with and has no nutritional value. 

Enter the new flours. I have to credit the gluten-free folks for the world of changes in baking. The need to find alternatives has made the food manufacturing industry smarter and we Passover bakers reap the benefits. These new flours are nutritional powerhouses containing healthy fats, vitamins, and fiber. Take that, matzah cake meal! And best of all, these new flours actually bake into delicious, flavorful desserts.

As a chef, I have always given a pass to flour for having no flavor simply because it was necessary for adding structure to baked goods. But these days, with coconut, banana, and almond flours, we actually add flavor to the batter itself. These flours are very "now" and each one has its merits. Used in combination, the possibilities are endless. My suggestion for newbie and experienced bakers is to run to the store and scoop up these flours and start experimenting with your favorite cake recipes. No, not Passover cake recipes -- real cake recipes! Below are three types of delicious flours to incorporate into your baking, followed by recipes that employ each of them. 

Almond Flour

Almond flour has a high-fat content and a subtle sweet flavor. Recipes need some adjustments when using almond flour. Because almond flour does not yield structure, recipes need more eggs than with all-purpose flour and less fat. Baked goods will be fluffy and very tender. 

Banana Flour

Baking with banana flour is fun and easy. Banana flour has a high starch content which mimics all-purpose wheat flour. Cakes and cookies bake up light and fluffy. Because of the starch content, you can use less flour than specified in your everyday recipes. The rule of thumb is to use 30 percent LESS banana flour than wheat flour. Made from peeled, ripe bananas, the flour has minimal taste. When consumed raw, it has a hint of banana flavor, but once baked the taste has an earthy, wholesome flavor. 

Coconut Flour

Coconut flour is very fine and soft with a coconut flavor. Coconut flour is very absorbent and does not add much structure to a cake. The general rule is for every ¼ cup of coconut flour, you need to add 2 eggs. If there are additional dry ingredients, you need more eggs. 

Once you use coconut flour a few times, you can gauge how it works and make up your own versions of recipes.

Cheddar Biscuits

  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 large eggs, whisked
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream + 1 tablespoon for brushing the tops
  • 1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup diced red peppers
  • Freshly cracked black pepper

  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 325F.

  1. Whisk almond flour, coconut flour, baking powder, and sea salt together.
  2. Add eggs, cream, cheese, and peppers -- and mix thoroughly.
  3. Turn the dough onto a cutting board and gather the dough with your hands into a rough square about 8 X 8 inches.
  4. Cut dough into 6 squares and then cut each square in half to form triangles.
  5. Place scones on baking sheet and brush the tops with cream and a pinch of black pepper. 
  6. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. 

Bittersweet Chocolate Pound Cake 

I love to bake this cake in a loaf pan and serve it as a tea cake. You can also bake it in a 9-inch cake pan for a dressier presentation. 

  • 1 cup banana flour
  • 1/2 cup best quality cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
  • 1/2 cup best quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup brewed strong coffee (at room temperature)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs

Grease a loaf pan and coat with cocoa powder. Preheat oven to 350F.

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together melted chocolate, olive oil, coffee, brown sugar, and eggs. 
  3. Add wet ingredients to flour mixture and stir until combined. 
  4. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in preheated oven for 50-60 minutes until a cake tester has just a few moist crumbs on it.
  5. Cool for 10 minutes on a baking rack before gently transferring the cake to a serving plate.

Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze

This is my go-to glaze for all year round. Quick to whisk together and with a lovely shine, this glaze can dress up the plainest cookie. 

  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Pinch of sea salt
  1. In a double boiler, melt chocolate over simmering water.
  2. Remove from the heat and whisk in cocoa powder, olive oil, honey, and salt.
  3. Pour glaze over cooled cake and allow to lazily run down the sides. Avoid smearing the glaze or it won't be shiny. 

Coconut-Vanilla Bean Cake

Coconut and vanilla are an intoxicating combination. Be sure to use vanilla beans for this recipe. The beautiful black specks of vanilla are striking against the very pale coconut cake. 

  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil, cooled
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean scraped
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk

Grease and line a 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350F.

  1. Whisk coconut flour, baking powder, and sea salt together and set aside.
  2. Whisk coconut oil, sugar, vanilla bean, eggs, and coconut milk together. 
  3. Whisk coconut flour mixture into wet ingredients and pour into prepared pan.
  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester inserted has just a few moist crumbs clinging to it.

Coconut Frosting

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, solid at room temperature
  • 1 vanilla bean scraped
  • 4 cups powdered sugar (kosher for Passover)
  • Pinch of sea salt
  1. Using a mixer with a whisk attachment, whisk coconut oil, vanilla bean, and powdered sugar until a smooth frosting is formed.
  2. Swirl frosting over cooled cake.

Laura Frankel is a kosher chef and author. Previously, she was the Culinary Director for Jamie Geller's Test Kitchen and Kosher Network International. Frankel is the author of two Jewish cookbooks, with a third forthcoming. She is the founder of Shallots Restaurant in Chicago, Skokie, and New York, and served as Executive Chef for Wolfgang Puck.


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