The Dessert Architect: Passover Desserts at the Skirball

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Wed, Mar 30, 2011 at 8:00 AM

click to enlarge Pistachio Citrus Torte - ROBERT WEMISCHNER
  • Robert Wemischner
  • Pistachio Citrus Torte

Now that everyone's a food critic, creating a dessert worthy of a Passover feast can get extra challenging. The Jewish holiday meal requires cooks to adhere to a shortened list of kosher ingredients, which excludes leavening or any grain that can ferment.

That means dessert can get dry, flat and tasteless fast. Never fear, pastry expert Robert Wemischner is here. He's coming to the Skirball Museum on April 3 to show how the restrictions don't have to limit your dessert repertoire. The first seder of the eight-day holiday is April 18.

Known as The Dessert Architect after his cookbook of the same name, Wemischner is also a pastry chef and veteran baking instructor at the Los Angeles Trade Technical College.

The approximately two-hour demonstration and tasting will feature four desserts and a discussion about the techniques involved in making them, including using nut flours, meringues, and almond or other nut milks. Wemischner will share many of the professional techniques that are included in The Dessert Architect.

"I'll describe at the event other options for making the recipes stricter or less strict. The idea isn't to eviscerate the dessert, but to highlight the options. You can substitute, but know that that each result is different," Wemischner says. Kosher-for-Passover dishes cannot contain wheat, soy oil, corn syrup, dextrose or any legumes, for example.

The session will be instrumental for any cook who sometimes needs to think about creative substitutions, particularly for desserts. The Passover holiday's exclusion of wheat is especially helpful for those who follow gluten-free diets.

"It's easier to find ingredients now that alternate grains are becoming more available because of the issues with gluten-free diets," Wemischner says. "The category is growing and there are better tasting and better textures in the products."

After a week of avoiding bread, pizza and lots of other baked goods, letting loose on dessert is a great outlet, he says.

"People are much more willing to experiment with desserts than with the traditional meal," says the chef. "Sometimes, they just need to be reminded about what is possible."

Advance reservations for the demonstration are required; admission is $30 for Skirball members; $35 for non-members.

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