Shavuot is coming. We know that because our daily count of the omer is rising ever closer to 49. We know because we can still smell the smoke on our clothes from all those Lag B’Omer fires last night. And we know because you’ve probably already read 243 different articles and recipes on cheesecake (hopefully mine was one of them).
If you have already had your fill of our next holiday’s signature dessert, you might be looking for alternatives. As always, I’m here to help – whether that’s by providing you with delicious challahs and desserts, (yes, even cheesecakes. Which you can order and pay for online); or by sharing baking tips based on my experiences in a commercial bakery; or by offering you suggestions and even recipes, which is what I’m doing today.
In selecting the perfect non-cheesecake Shavuot dessert, the key things to focus on are simplicity, novelty, and taste. Obviously whatever you serve has to taste good. Equally obvious is the fact that you shouldn’t have to spend hours in the kitchen preparing these tasty morsels. But less obvious is that your Shavuot alternative should be novel – memorable for it’s difference as much as for how incredibly good it is.
I pulled together 6 choices for you that should appeal to a variety of palettes at your table:
1) Lincoln Logs
There are a lot of recipes out there that call themselves “lincoln logs” and to be fair, any brown, round, log-like cookie can claim a resemblance to the classic children’s toy. For me, however, they will always be a simple mixture of crushed graham crackers mixed with sweetened condensed milk and chocolate chips, baked as sheet, cut into bars, and rolled in sugar.
2) Magic cookie Bars (aka “gooey cookie”)
This is a favorite in my family if for no other reason that it’s so wonderfully, deliciously messy. A crust of crushed graham crackers and butter is the base for sweetened condensed milk and chocolate chips (some people also add coconut and/or nuts, but I’m a purist). After baking for 25 minutes I’m told that most people wait for the pan to cool and to cut it into squares. But in my family we wait until the surface is bubbly and warm, and then we eat it straight out of the pan. Hence our name of “gooey cookies”.
3) Brownies and ice cream
I don’t have a special link to a recipe for this one, but I don’t think it’s needed either. Good old brownies (with or without walnuts) topped with dairy ice cream is the epitome of “easy”, and a combination that never goes wrong.
If you love eclairs but you thought they were only something you that can be made in a donut shop, I’d like to open your eyes to the magic possible in your own kitchen. A soft dough (called a “pate a choux”) baked in strips and then filled with chocolate or vanilla flavored frosting or cream. While this is a recipe for a more experienced home baker, it doesn’t require a lot of specialized equipment and once you get the technique down, your desserts will be the talk of the neighborhood.
Cannoli are a traditional Italian dessert made up of a fried pastry shell filled with mascarpone or sweetened ricotta cheese , often mixed with nuts, citrus, or chocolate chips. You don’t see them much here in the frum community in Cleveland, so you will definitely score points for novelty. Like eclairs, these are not what I would call a “beginner baker” recipe. But trust me, they are SO worth it once you get the technique down!
6) Rolo Pretzels
If you’ve got a lot of small hands around your table, the larger drippier and stickier desserts may not be your best choice. As the name implies, this simple but remarkably satisfying dessert is nothing more than a Rolo chocolate set on top of a pretzel (either the curly or the waffle shape) and then briefly baked and pushed flat. Once they cool, these treats are easy to pop into your mouth and savor whole. Meanwhile the simple assembly and “squish the chocolate” preparation make this is a perfect “help Mommy” kitchen activity. Just make sure you have plenty of extra rolos and pretzels.