A Rosh Hashanah tradition among Jews of Eastern European origin is to eat a sweet apple dessert to signify hopes for a sweet new year.

Apple cake is a common choice, but this French apple flan is more unusual. It is made with chunks of tender apples surrounded by a firm, creamy custard. The custard can be made with soy milk instead of regular milk for those who prefer a non-dairy dessert.

Apple Flan

8 to 10 servings

This flan can be served warm or at room temperature with a simple raspberry, strawberry or caramel sauce.

Adapted from "Levana's Table: Kosher Cooking for Everyone," by Levana Kirschenbaum (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2002):

For the apples:

3 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus additional for the baking dish

6 firm, tart apples (Gala, McIntosh or Granny Smith), peeled, quartered, seeded and cut into thick wedges

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

For the custard:

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 cups regular or soy milk

3 tablespoons brandy (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

For the apples: In a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the apples and saute for 2 to 3 minutes; do not let them get mushy. Stir in the brown sugar and lemon zest and cook until the apples are caramelized, 2 to 3 more minutes. The brown sugar and juices should become thick and syrupy. Spread the apple mixture over the bottom of the prepared baking dish and set aside.

For the custard: In a food processor, combine 3/4 cup sugar and the eggs and process until the mixture is light and lemon-colored. Add the oil and process until just combined. Add the flour and pulse just until combined. Add the vanilla, milk or soy milk and brandy and pulse just until combined. Pour the custard over the apples.

Bake the flan for about 25 minutes, until the top is lightly browned and the custard is barely set. Turn the oven to broil, sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar evenly over the top of the flan and broil for a few seconds until lightly browned (watch carefully; it burns easily). Serve warm or at room temperature.

Per serving: 333 calories, 5 gm protein, 39 gm carbohydrates, 18 gm fat, 64 mg cholesterol, 2 gm saturated fat, 31 mg sodium, 3 gm dietary fiber

-- Candy Sagon