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Tradition: Apples And Honey

By Sheilah Kaufman
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, September 13, 2006

At Rosh Hashanah, which this year begins at sundown Sept. 22, American Jews usher in a sweet New Year by eating apples dipped in honey. The roundness of the apple symbolizes a hope that the year will be a joyous one from beginning to end. Apples may also be used in other holiday dishes, as long as the dish is sweet: During Rosh Hashanah, no bitter or sour food is eaten.

Apples were the traditional Rosh Hashanah fruit in northern Germany, Russia, Poland and the Baltic countries, the ancestral homelands of many Jews in the United States, according to cookbook author Rabbi Gil Marks. Not many sweet fruits grew there, but apples were the most plentiful.

In other areas, other fruits became part of the holiday tradition. Hungarian and Austrian Jews made plum tarts for Rosh Hashanah because Italian plums came into season right before the holidays.

Nonetheless, we celebrate the apple here -- touched, of course, with a taste of honey.

Sheilah Kaufman, a Washington-based cookbook author and traveling cooking teacher, last wrote for Food about new dining traditions for the Jewish New Year.

Apple Cake With Honey Sauce

12 servings

Sheilah Kaufman says: "This is the recipe I have been making for over 40 years and the one that I receive the most requests for. I once had a call from India from a student because she had lost her copy." She likes to use Granny Smith or McIntosh apples for this cake. Whipped cream makes a nice accompaniment.

For the cake:

4 to 5 firm apples, peeled and cut into 1/4 -inch slices

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 1/4 cups sugar

3 cups flour, plus more for dusting the pan

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 cup canola oil

4 large eggs

1/3 cup orange juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the honey sauce:

1 cup honey

1 cup apple juice or cider

For the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan.

In a medium bowl, combine the cinnamon and 1/4 cup of the sugar, then add the apples and toss to combine. Set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, combine the remaining sugar, flour, baking powder, oil, eggs, orange juice, salt and vanilla extract. Beat just until the batter is smooth. Pour an inch of the batter into the prepared pan and top it with a layer of apple slices, taking care not to let the apples touch the side of the pan; then add alternating layers of apple slices and batter, ending with the batter. You should have 4 layers of batter and 3 of apples.

Bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 30 minutes on a wire rack, then turn the cake out onto the rack to cool thoroughly.

For the honey sauce: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the honey and apple juice or cider and bring to a boil. Stirring constantly, continue boiling until the mixture thickens, 1 to 2 minutes. For a thicker sauce, reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring, a few minutes more, until it reaches the desired consistency.

Serve the cake with the warm honey sauce on the side or with whipped cream.

Per serving (based on 2 tablespoons honey sauce): 537 calories, 5 g protein, 692 g carbohydrates, 20 g fat, 71 mg cholesterol, 2 g saturated fat, 221 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by Lisa Cherkasky; e-mail questions tofood@washpost.com

Crazy Crust Pie

6 to 8 servings

This is ideal for those who love pies but hate to make pie crusts. The batter bakes into a sweet, crusty topping. Golden Delicious or Granny Smith apples work well. Serve this with honey sauce. Recipe by Sheilah Kaufman.

3 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

5 or 6 large apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4 -inch slices

4 tablespoons butter or pareve margarine

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon. Fill a 9- or 10-inch pie pan with enough apples so they are level with the top of the pan. Sprinkle them with half of the sugar and cinnamon mixture.

In a medium bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed, thoroughly combine the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, incorporating well after each addition. Reduce to low speed and add the flour, mixing only until incorporated. Spread the batter over the apples, leaving a l-inch rim of fruit showing at the edge. Sprinkle the remaining sugar-cinnamon mixture over the top of the batter. Bake the pie for 1 hour, or until the crust is golden and a toothpick inserted into the crust comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Per serving (based on 8): 284 calories, 3 g protein, 53 g carbohydrates, 7 g fat, 68 mg cholesterol, 4 g saturated fat, 60 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by Michael Taylor; e-mail questions tofood@washpost.com

Apple, Honey and Walnut Sorbet

Makes 1 1/2 pints

Fresh and simple, this sorbet relies on good-quality ingredients to shine. Use bottled water for best flavor, and choose an excellent honey. Adapted from "Jewish Cooking for All Seasons" (Wiley, 2006).

2 cups water, plus 2 tablespoons

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup honey

3 cups peeled, cored and diced apples (about 4 large apples; use 2 or more varieties for best flavor)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup chopped, toasted walnuts*

In a medium saucepan over low heat, cook 2 cups of water and the sugar until the sugar has completely dissolved, about 2 minutes. Add the honey, stir to combine and remove from the heat. Allow the mixture to cool completely.

In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, cook the apples with the remaining 2 tablespoons of water, stirring occasionally, until the apples are very soft and break up when mashed with a fork, about 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and cool completely.

Either process the liquid and apples in a blender until the apples are broken up and the mixture is combined, or add the syrup to the apples and use an immersion blender to mix. Add the cinnamon and combine. Cover and refrigerate.

When the mixture is cold, process in an ice cream machine, following the manufacturer's directions. Transfer the processed sorbet to a resealable container, then fold in the toasted walnuts, cover and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.

*NOTE: To toast walnuts, heat them in a dry skillet over medium-low heat until they are fragrant and visibly darkened, about 7 minutes. Cool completely.

Per serving (based on 1/2 cup: 271 calories, 3 g protein, 40 g carbohydrates, 13 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1 g saturated fat, 2 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by Jane Touzalin; e-mail questions tofood@washpost.com

Apple and Honey Tarts

4 servings

Sweet and simple, this dessert looks impressive enough for guests. Adapted from "Never Trust a Skinny Cook," by Iain Hewitson (Allen & Unwin, 2005).

1 or 2 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and cut into thin slices

One 9-to10-inch sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed and cut into 4 equal rectangles

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons sugar

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons milk or water

2 tablespoons honey

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Have ready a baking sheet that has been lightly greased or lined with parchment paper.

Place the puff pastry rectangles on the baking sheet so that they do not touch. Using a sharp knife, lightly score a decorative border around the sides of each piece, about 1/4 inch from the outside edge. Lay a row of overlapping apple slices down the middle of each piece, leaving the borders bare. You should be able to fit 10 or more slices in the row. On each piece, brush 1 1/2 teaspoons of melted butter over the apples and then sprinkle with 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar.

In a small bowl, combine the egg with the milk or water. Brush the mixture on the pastry borders. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden, the borders have puffed and the apples are tender. While the tarts are cooling on the baking sheet, heat the honey in a microwave oven on high for 5 seconds. Drizzle 1 1/2 teaspoons of it over the apples on each piece. Transfer to individual plates, and serve warm.

Per serving: 210 calories, 3 g protein, 25 g carbohydrates, 12 g fat, 69 mg cholesterol, 5 g saturated fat, 48 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by Jane Touzalin; e-mail questions tofood@washpost.com

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