Editor's note: For eight days I'll be keeping a diary on eating well in New York while staying kosher for Passover. The goal: never feel hungry or desperate enough to touch matzo unless I want to. For the rules I'll be keeping, see here. All remarks and recommendations are personal and not intended as religious/cultural commentary.
For a certain set of New York Jews, there are no better words to hear come Seder night than "someone brought the Payard cookies." I don't know how Francois Payard's flourless chocolate-walnut cookies came to occupy such rarefied Passover status, but it's not hard to see why: they're easy to make and deeply fudgy, the kind of chewy starchy thing we spend our whole Passover craving.
The irony is that, if you follow a particularly strict Passover regimen, most renditions of the cookie aren't Passover-friendly. The powdered sugar that goes into them often uses cornstarch as an anti-caking agent; you'll have to check the ingredients or use superfine sugar to be sure.
And you can't eat Payard cookies every day. I mean you could, but you shouldn't. So what other desserts are on the table?
New Yorkers are fortunate enough to have year-round access to the excellent coconut macaroons from Danny Macaroons, available in a growing number of coffee shops and bookstores. I don't think it's hyperbolic to call them the best, most moist macaroons you'll ever eat, and they're less sweet than most of the fancy-pants french macarons the city has to offer.
Ice Cream and Custard
In the world of custard desserts, beware seemingly innocent players like pudding, which often use corn or other starch to thicken their dairy.
Egg-based custards, like the pot de creme at Center Bar and Three Tarts, are safer bets. And then of course there's ice cream, and even if it's not strictly ice cream weather, it still beats chocolate-covered matzo. If you need some direction on that front, this recap of last July's ice cream month covers most of the city's important ice cream.
It felt like a breakthrough to realize that tapioca pearls are Passover-friendly, and with a week-long diet of meat, cheese, and matzo, a light and simple bubble tea has become my chametz-free dessert of choice. And lightly sweet jellies like this osmanthus number in Flushing are also perfect light desserts. Just beware black "grass jelly" on shaved ice and in milk tea—it's set with a bit of starch, often cornstarch.
That's three categories of dessert go eat with abandon during Passover. Have any more? Sound off in the comments.