Everyone loves pumpkin these days, eh? Every cafe carries their own version of a pumpkin latte and pumpkin-themed candies overflow on supermarket shelves this time of year. ‘Tis truly the season of pumpkin, and I am not really complaining.
I love finding news ways to cook and bake with pumpkin including white pumpkin cheddar ale soup, pumpkin pizza and pumpkin corn ricotta enchiladas, which is a perfect dish this time of year when pumpkin is first coming into season and fresh corn is still in abundance at local farmers markets. Some other fun pumpkin recipes to try? Pumpkin Flan, pumpkin challah and of course some classic pumpkin bread.
As with many recipes I dream up, I was merely staring in my fridge when a leftover can of pumpkin puree sparked the idea: pumpkin babka!
Well, I whipped up a batch of babka dough, impatiently let it rise, and filled it with pumpkin puree, brown sugar and cinnamon. After 35 minutes of baking, my apartment smelled like a perfect piece of autumn heaven, and a new pumpkin recipe was born.
This babka is perfect to serve at your Yom Kippur break-fast, brunch gatherings or just with a cup of coffee for breakfast. Because you can use canned pumpkin, you can make this recipe year-round, so you can enjoy a little slice of pumpkin spice even when pumpkins aren’t in season.
For the dough:
4 ½ cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp yeast
1 tsp sugar
½ cup lukewarm water
¾ cup plus 2 Tbsp butter or margarine, melted
½ cup milk or almond milk
2 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
¼ tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp ground clove
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
For the filling:
1 ½ cup canned pumpkin or pureed fresh pumpkin
¾ cup brown sugar
1 ½ Tbsp cinnamon
For the syrup:
2/3 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 whole cinnamon stick
Place yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Add lukewarm water and set aside until foamy, around 5-10 minutes.
In a stand mixer fitted with dough hook, mix together flour, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, clove and allspice. In a separate bowl, mix together melted butter (or margarine) and milk (or almond milk).
Put mixer on low and begin adding the water yeast mixture, then the butter-milk mixture. Add the eggs one at a time.
When the dough begins to come together, after about 3-5 minutes, raise the speed to high and mix for another 5-10 minutes until the dough is shiny and elastic.
Place dough in a greased bowl with a damp towel on top. Allow to rise until it has doubled, about 1-2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut dough into three equal parts. Roll out dough until it is a rectangular-like shape. Spread with ½ cup of pumpkin, ¼ cup brown sugar and ½ Tbsp cinnamon. Working from the longest side, roll up dough using quick fingers, like you would in order to make cinnamon rolls.
Once the dough is a long log, cut it straight down the middle so the filling is exposed. Secure the ends on one side, and twist both the pieces. Pinch and secure at the other end.
Repeat with two additional babkas. Place in a greased loaf pan.
Bake for 35 minutes.
While the babka is baking, combine 2/3 cup water, 1 cup sugar, 1 tsp vanilla and 1 whole cinnamon stick in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Once it comes to a boil, remove from heat and swirl around to ensure all the sugar is dissolved.
About 20-25 minutes into baking, spoon about half the syrup onto the baking babkas.
When you take the babkas out of the oven after they have baked completely, immediately brush extra syrup on top of all three babkas. You may have syrup leftover.
Daily life can be so hectic, between keeping up with Netflix and waiting in line for your daily Pumpkin Spice Latte, so having a day dedicated to reflection and atonement (in between naps and binge watching The Food Network) is a meaningful change of pace. And of course, at the end of the day of fasting, there’s the food.
Our break fast spread was as traditional as they come. Kugels, coffee cake, an assortment of rarely-touched pre-made Italian cookies from the local Jewish supermarket, and the pièce de résistance, the bagel spread. When pangs of hunger set in during the final hours, this is what I focused on. Dozens of bagels, lox, red onions, tomatoes, capers, and an assortment of cream cheeses from chive to strawberry. While others were vying for an end piece of coffee cake, I went straight for the good stuff. Half of an everything bagel, never scooped, schmeared with plain cream cheese, lots of lox, red onions and capers. Always a delicious meal, but especially after a day of fasting.
This year, I decided to take all my favorite bagel toppers and put them in a quiche. I love quiche, but hadn’t made one since culinary school. The salty capers and smoked salmon paired with creamy tart goat cheese and sweet red onions is pretty magical. I highly recommend the homemade crust; the flakiness is worth the extra effort. The best part is (okay, besides the eating part) that you can easily make this ahead of time and serve at your break fast.
For the crust:
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling dough
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, chilled in the freezer and diced
2-4 Tbsp ice water
For the quiche filling:
½ small red onion, cut into thin slivers
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp capers
3 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
½ cup heavy whipping cream
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
4 ounces smoked salmon, diced
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
To make dough, whisk together flour, salt, and sugar. Then add in butter and mix with hands until you have a coarse, crumbly mixture. (Alternatively, you can use a food processor.) Add in water 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together. Be careful not to over mix. Form dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Roll out dough on a lightly flowered surface into a 12-inch circle. Place it in a tart pan and press down to fit in the edges. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line dough with parchment paper and fill 2/3 of the way with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until crust is set, about 12-15 minutes.
Carefully remove paper and bake until golden brown, an additional 8 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack.
Meanwhile, make the filling. In a large sauté pan, heat up olive oil over medium heat. Sauté red onions with a pinch of salt until the start to soften and brown, about 5 minutes. Then add capers and sauté for another 3 minutes. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, cream, black pepper and nutmeg. Once crust is cooled, sprinkle half of the onion mixture, goat cheese and smoked salmon on the bottom of the crust. Pour over egg mixture and dollop with remaining ingredients. Bake until quiche is set but still slightly jiggly in the center, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes and serve.
Holiday gatherings are always hectic, but Rosh Hashanah seems especially so. It’s easy to get stressed out with preparations, the start of the school year and the marathon of holidays that continue popping up for the rest of the month.
To prevent what my mother calls “the crazies,” she serves this festive cocktail as family and friends arrive for our holiday meal. Nontraditional? Yes. Effective? YES. This Jew Year’s Eve Punch is one of her favorite tricks to ensure a smooth and joyful beginning to the New Year.
Perfect for the High Holiday celebrations from Rosh Hashanah through Sukkot this delicious punch incorporates the sweet flavors of apple and honey into an easy-to-make and easy-to-love drink. You can make this with or without alcohol (we often mix two versions to make sure our guests have a non-alcoholic option) and it is always a hit. Serve your Jew Year’s Eve Punch in a large punch bowl or in individual glasses, garnished with a thinly sliced apple round and honey “swizzle stick” like these.
1 quart Apple Cider
1 quart Ginger Ale
2 cups Honey Bourbon
1-2 granny smith apples, cut into slices
Honey sticks (optional)
Chill apple cider, ginger ale and bourbon if using.
Pour apple cider, ginger ale and bourbon into large pitcher or punch bowl and add ice and apple slices.
Garnish individual glasses with an apple slice and honey stick if desired.
Dreaming up crazy flavors of challah like pastrami sandwich challah, balsamic apple date challah or gruyere and pesto stuffed challah is one of my greatest joys as a baker. But sometimes I do long for a simpler challah, and have even been known to make whole wheat challah. Yes, it’s true. I hope you were sitting for that.
I use a half whole wheat, half all-purpose unbleached flour ratio when making my whole wheat challah. Yes, you could try to use all whole wheat flour, but challah is supposed to be light and fluffy, and whole wheat flour is simply more dense. Because the whole wheat flour is denser, I make sure to be particularly patient when letting it rise: for the first rise I allow 4 hours, and for the second rise another 1 1/2 hours. It may seem like a lot, but the result is worth it. My mother-in-law even commented about this challah, “this is sinful.” Whole wheat challah? Sinful? Well, I will take it. And especially from my mother-in-law!
I also like to add ground flax seed in the challah for a little extra dose of healthiness which is impossible to detect. And inspired by the beautiful, Israeli challot of Breads Bakery, I love to add pumpkin seeds, whole flax seeds, oats, sesame seeds, black sesame seeds and even sunflower seeds on top for a fun and healthy crunch.
This honey whole wheat challah is perfect for Rosh Hashanah. And instead of a savory topping like the ones I just mentioned, you could add a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar on top for an extra sweet, and healthy, new year ahead.
1 ¼ cups lukewarm water
1 ½ Tbsp dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
2 ½ cups all purpose unbleached flour
2-2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp ground flax seed
½ Tbsp salt
¼ cup vegetable oil
½ cup sugar
¼ cup honey
2 egg yolks + 1 tsp water + 1 tsp honey
Whole flax seed, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds (optional)
Thick sea salt (optional)
In a small bowl, place yeast, 1 tsp sugar and lukewarm water. Allow to sit around 10 minutes, until it becomes foamy on top.
In a large bowl or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix together ¾ cup whole wheat flour, ¾ cup all-purpose flour, salt and sugar. After the water-yeast mixture has become foamy, add to flour mixture along with oil and honey. Mix thoroughly. Pro tip: use the same cup to measure the honey as you used for the oil which will allow for easier clean-up of the sticky honey.
Add another ½ cup whole wheat flour, ½ cup regular flour and eggs and mix until smooth. Switch to the dough hook attachment if you are using a stand mixer.
Add another 1 ½- 2 cups of mixed flour, mixing thoroughly and then remove from bowl and place on a floured surface. Knead remaining ½ cup flour into dough, continuing to knead for around 10 minutes (or however long your hands will last).
Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with damp towel. Allow to rise at least 4 hours, punching down at least once if possible.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Braid challah into desired shape. Allow challah to rise another 90 minutes, or until you can see the size has grown and challah seems light. This step is very important to ensure a light and fluffy challah.
In a small bowl beat 2 egg yolks with 1 tsp water and 1 tsp honey.
Brush egg wash liberally over challah. Sprinkle with seeds and thick sea salt if desired.
If making one large challah, bake around 28 minutes; if making two smaller challahs, bake 24-26 minutes. When making round challot, make sure the middle has cooked through, which might require an extra 1-2 minutes baking time.
Albondigas, or meatballs, are a mainstay of Sephardic cuisine. They come in sizes ranging from golf balls to cherries and may be rolled into round or flattened shapes. Chopped onions, garlic, roasted eggplant, fresh spinach, chopped leek and grated carrots have been mixed into meatballs for centuries. These ingredients served to season meat (or poultry) which was then fried or simmered in sauce. Moistened bread bound it all together and served as another way to make these delicious treats an economical choice.
When I learned that the southern Italians sometimes included currants and pignoli nuts in their meatballs, I was intrigued. Perhaps it’s my Galiciana roots but I liked the prospect of adding a little sweetness (and unexpected texture) to the meat mix. It seemed like a good jumping point for considering how to use honey in my meatballs for Rosh Hashanah.
My intention was to get this mix subtly sweet, with a nod to the symbolism of serving sweet foods to ensure a sweet New Year. I paired citrus with the fruity nectar to balance the sweetness and sparked the flavors with cracked pepper, cumin and turmeric. Tiny, moist currants and rich pignoli provide an unfamiliar twist. For guests who think that meatballs belong in tomato sauce, they will be surprised and delighted by the yin/yang of this mildly sweet and lemony simmer broth.
Because these meatballs are quite small they are a bit of work. Set aside a couple of hours in order to get the task done. It will be time well spent. And you can check another dish off your ‘to do” list by making them in advance and freezing them.
For the meatballs:
2 pounds lean ground beef
1 medium onion, grated
2 eggs, beaten
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
3 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
3 Tbsp fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp. turmeric
salt and pepper to taste
½ cup currants
½ cup pignoli (pine nuts)
½ cup canola oil for frying
For the sauce:
2 cups water
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp turmeric
salt and pepper to taste
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients through turmeric. Mix gently with hands. Do not overmix.
Add currants and pignoli to meat mixture and combine.
Shape mixture into 1-1 ½” meatballs, wetting hands with water periodically to prevent the meat from sticking to fingers. Place meatballs on a couple of foil lined trays so they are all ready to fry at the same time.
Divide ½ cup of canola oil into 2 frying pans and heat on medium.
Add meatballs in a single layer until both pans are full but not crowded. Brown meatballs, turning them by using 2 spoons. They should be golden.
With a slotted spoon, remove meatballs when golden on all sides. Place meatballs on plates lined with paper towels so they may drain. Repeat until all meatballs are browned. You may want to save the browned pignoli and sprinkle them on meatballs when serving them.
Combine all ingredients for sauce and bring to low simmer. Taste to adjust for sweetness and salt.
Place all meatballs in sauce (It’s ok if they are not all submerged). Simmer gently for 30 minutes.
Remove meatballs from sauce, plate and serve with toothpicks. Sprinkle with browned pignoli and chopped fresh mint or parsley leaves. Drizzle sauce over the meatballs if you like.
Sesame seems to be enjoying a moment in the spotlight recently and I couldn’t be happier. Halva was always a staple in my house growing up, and now as an adult I am always looking for ways to include it in baked goods (like my halva swirl brownies) and other dishes. Earlier this year I was introduced to a sesame-based spread that my daughter and I both really enjoyed. In fact the jar has long been licked clean.
The newest halva spread business on the block is Brooklyn Sesame, started by native Israeli and expert “raw halva” maker Shahar Shamir who has been making and serving his all natural spreads for years for friends and family. Shahar actually never intended to start the small food business. Rather, he wanted to open a café, but when met with several challenges, his friends suggested he started selling his halva spread instead. And so Brooklyn Sesame was born.
In Israel it is common to eat halva or tahini with breakfast, as a snack or for dessert. And while the fat content of tahini has been a turnoff for some Americans, that perception is starting to change as it is more widely acknowledged that good fats from items like nuts and sesame can produce long-term health benefits and even help with weight-loss.
Shahar himself admitted that he gained 7 pounds this last holiday season when he took a break from making his halva spread. There weren’t any open jars lying around, and so he was eating less of the super food. “When I eat my halva, I am not eating other junk and I believe sesame and honey are great for digestion,” Shahar shared.
Brooklyn Sesame’s spreads come in six different varieties including pistachio, cocoa, black caraway seeds and toasted coconut. The high-quality spreads with a “Brooklyn sensibility” have even caught the attention of The New York Times, Food and Wine and Real Simple among many others.
Have a halva craving? The halva spreads are available in more than 25 stores in the New York area, one store in Massachusetts or you can order from their website.
You can also try whipping up one of Shahar’s signature recipes this holiday season and use some rich, sweet halva spread to usher in the New Year.
The following recipes are courtesy of Jörg Thoene, Leah Koenig and Shahar Shamir.
Apple and Coconut Halva Baklava Tarts
1 small Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
zest of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped pistachios
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
6 sheets thawed filo dough
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted (or substitute vegetable or coconut oil)
1/4 cup Brooklyn Sesame Halva Spread with Toasted Coconut, divided
Honey, for drizzling
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and set aside a 12-cup muffin tin.
In a bowl, stir together the apple, lemon zest, lemon juice, and brown sugar; let stand for 10 minutes until it gets juicy. Stir in the pistachios, walnuts, cinnamon, and cardamom.
Place 1 sheet of filo dough on a cutting board (cover the remaining sheets with a damp towel so they do not dry out), and gently brush all over with the melted butter. Place a second sheet on top of the first and continue in this fashion, alternating brushing with butter and stacking filo sheets until there are 6 layers. Use a sharp knife to cut the filo sheet into 12 squares. Arrange 1 square into each well of the muffin tin, pressing it into the bottom and sides.
Spoon 1 teaspoon of Halva Spread into the bottom of each cup, then fill two-thirds of the way with the apple-nut mixture. Brush edges of each pastry with a little more melted butter; bake until the pastry is golden, 15-20 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes in the tin, then carefully remove tarts to a wire rack. Just before serving, drizzle each tart with a little honey.
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 pounds lamb stew meat, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
2 yellow onions, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped, optional
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1/2 cup dry white or red wine
1 1/2 cups beef or vegetable stock
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes, with their juice
1/4 cup chopped dried dates
3 Tbsp Brooklyn Sesame Halva Spread with Black Caraway Seeds
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Finely chopped fresh parsley, for serving
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot set over medium-high heat.
Working in batches (do not crowd the pan), add the lamb cubes and sear, turning with tongs, until well-browned on all sides. Transfer browned lamb to a plate and set aside.
Add remaining tablespoon of oil to the pot, then add onions, carrots, if using, and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, 5-10 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, and red pepper flakes and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 1-2 minutes.
Add the meat back to the pot along with the wine, stock, and tomatoes; bring mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat to low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until meat is cooked through, about 1 hour.
Stir in the dates and Halva Spread, turn heat up to medium-low, and continue cooking, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until fruit softens and the stew thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. (It will continue to thicken as it cools.) Season with salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, transfer stew to a shallow bowl, sprinkle with parsley.
I love noodle kugel, especially my husband’s salt and pepper noodle kugel, which is always a hit at any Shabbat or holiday meal we serve it. But I really wanted to create a sweetened version of noodle kugel for Rosh Hashanah this year using some fresh, local apples.
I tried this recipe several ways until I found the right balance of apples, sugar, eggs and crumb topping. The result is a kugel that is sweet, but not too sweet, moist but still has a rich, crunchy crumb topping.
It brings together the goodness of a fall apple crumble, with the tradition of a noodle kugel. Oh yeah, and I decided it should get baked in a springform pan so that it looks like a “cake” which is just so much fun. Don’t worry – you can still serve it as a side dish.
If you decide to bake yours in a springform pan, make sure the bottom is locked in place tightly before pouring the unbaked kugel mixture into the pan. If it isn’t, you could end up with a liquidy mess all over your kitchen. I mean, I am not saying that happened to me (it did), but just making a recommendation.
For the kugel:
1 12 ounce package wide egg noodles
8 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp brown sugar
3 medium apples, peeled and sliced thin
For the topping:
3/4 cup flour
1 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup margarine or butter, chilled and cut into pieces
1/4 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 inch springform pan or pyrex dish for baking. If using a springform pan, cover bottom in foil and place on a flat baking sheet to avoid spills.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook noodles around 8-10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
In a large bowl whisk together eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, salt and brown sugar. Add sliced apples and mix gently until coated completely.
In a separate bowl, mix the flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Add the margarine or butter and using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut into the dry mixture until even, coarse crumbs form.
When noodles have been drained, add to egg mixture and mix gently until coated completely. Pour mixture into prepared baking pan. Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly on top of noodles.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until noodles have set and crumb topping starts to brown. Serve warm or room temperature.
My Cuban family loves my American husband for many reasons, but high on that list is his appreciation for all things Cuban food. Of course, we do make it easy for my beloved Midwesterner, with dishes like Carne con Papas, which literally translates to meat and potatoes. This dish is an old family favorite, and is quickly becoming one of the most requested dishes in my household
The recipe I use is inspired by a dish made by my Tia Pipa (Aunt Felipa). She is used to cooking for an army, and she’s been known to prepare a mean Carne con Papas in a giant commercial caldero, or cauldron. Although I admire her back-to-basics approach of slaving away over the hot stove for hours on end to perfect this favored dish, I prefer a more modern approach with the use of my slow-cooker.
Imagine if you took all the best features of your favorite family brisket recipe – aromatic and tender chunks of slow-roasted meat, saucy overflow goodness – and paired them with creamy, bite-sized potatoes. What could be bad about that? Like the best brisket recipes, Carne con Papas has trouble staying intact at the mere hint of a fork. The slow-cooked nature of this dish also means that every delicate bite is infused with the typical Island flavors of garlic, onion, and bell pepper.
Traditionally served alongside steamed white rice, I see no reason why this can’t be served with a good old-fashioned kugel to mop every last bit of flavor that the saucy overflow provides. Carne con Papas is definitely one of those dishes where you won’t want to waste a single bit.
2 lbs beef top round or stew meat, cut into 1-inch chunks
3 sour oranges (or 2 oranges and 2 lemons), juiced
1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 Tbsp smoked mustard (*If you can’t find smoked mustard, coarse Dijon works, too)
5 Tbsp olive oil, separated
fresh ground black pepper
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 large onion, sliced
1 green bell pepper coarsely diced
1 red bell pepper, coarsely diced
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 8oz can tomato sauce
2 cups beef broth
2 lbs small white-skinned potatoes, halved
2 dried bay leaves
1 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp of a spice mix involving salt, ground black pepper, garlic powder, coriander, cumin, oregano and annatto seeds. (Sound complicated? Sazón Goya is ready-mixed.)
In a plastic zip-top bag, combine beef, citrus juice, oregano, garlic, mustard, 3 Tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper. Close the bag, making sure to remove all the air, and massage the ingredients together until well-combined. Place the bag in the refrigerator, and let marinade for 1-4 hours.
In a large skillet, heat remaining olive oil. Separate the marinated beef into two sections, reserving the marinade liquid. Brown the first batch of beef for 3 minutes, and set aside. Lightly coat the second batch of beef in flour, and brown for 3 minutes. Set aside.
In the same skillet, add onion and bell peppers and cook for 3 minutes. Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, beef broth, and reserved marinade liquid, and deglaze the skillet using a wooden spoon. Stir in cumin and sazon goya.
Transfer the beef, vegetables, and sauce to a slow-cooker, and add in the dried bay leaves and potatoes. Stir to combine, cover, and cook on low for 7 hours, or until beef is fork-tender. Taste and adjust salt and pepper, as needed. Garnish with fresh cilantro.
Serve with steamed white rice.
Everybody knows about dipping apples in honey to celebrate Rosh Hashanah for a “sweet” year. But in the Syrian tradition, we have an entire seder before the meal. There are actually many symbolic foods we make blessings on for the Jewish New Year.
In one of these prayers, we ask God to tear up any enemies’ decrees against the Jewish people. The Hebrew word for gourd, kara, resembles the word karaa, which means to rip. Before eating the gourd, we say, “May it be your will, Adonai, our God, God of our forefathers, that You tear up the evil edict of our judgment and may our merits be declared before you.” The gourd from our childhood was neon green and smelled like old ladies’ perfume, not to mention supremely freezer burned. It’s not uncommon to make (or buy) a batch, and store it in the freezer year after year until it runs out.
In my version of candied gourd I prefer to omit the green food coloring that gives the traditional version its signature color, as well as the rosewater. Rosewater is a key ingredient in many Middle Eastern sweets, so if you choose to use it just remember that a little goes a long way—just a drop is more than enough.
We actually prefer to use spaghetti squash as a more accessible alternative to gourd, but pumpkin, acorn squash or any winter gourd can be used. It is traditionally prepared as a sweet dish to go with the theme of a sweet new year—the same reason we eat dates and apples dipped in honey.
The other symbolic foods that our family eats during the Rosh Hashanah seder are dates, leeks, pomegranate, black-eyed peas, swiss chard, fish head, lamb head, or tongue, and a “new” fruit to say the shehechiyanu blessing on, which only has to be new for the year, and is usually starfruit.
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
juice of ½ lemon
1 spaghetti squash
1 drop rosewater (optional)
1 drop green food coloring (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the squash in half, remove the seeds and roast with the cut side down for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the water, sugar, and lemon juice in a pot. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to a simmer and continue cooking for 20 minutes, until the syrup is thick. Add rosewater, if using.
Scoop the flesh out of the squash and mix with the syrup. Feel free to add a drop of green food coloring here.
When the nice folks at The Nosher asked me to share my favorite Rosh Hashanah recipe, I knew exactly what I wanted to share. And it made me realize that there are meals and desserts, that – no matter how delicious or well-loved – I only make at specific times of year. This cake is a perfect example.
Moist and tender, not overly sweet, and laced with a heavenly streusel topping and filling, this coffee cake has got it all. And it’s super easy too.
Yet I only trot it out during the New Year. Sometimes it’s a Rosh Hashanah dessert, sometimes it’s served at break fast. But I never make it at any other time. I think that’s what makes it extra special. You can fill this cake with sliced pears, peaches or apples – but I use the apples, in keeping with the tradition of the New Year. And if I’m feeling extra cheeky, I’ll use Honey Crisps. As this cake also freezes beautifully you can make it in advance, saving a little work when preparing your holiday meal.
I hope you enjoy it – maybe it will become a holiday tradition for you too (but I won’t judge if you make it in January….).
For the topping/filling:
1/3 c. packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp sugar
1 cup walnuts or pecans
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
½ cups cake flour
4 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
½ tsp vanilla
For the cake:
4 large egg yolks
1 cup sour cream
1 ½ tsp vanilla
2 cups cake flour
1 cup sugar
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
12 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1 apple, peeled, cored and sliced into ¼” thick wedges and tossed with 2 tsp lemon juice
Pre-heat oven to 350. Line the bottom of a 9” springform pan with parchment paper – grease and flour the sides and bottom.
Make the topping/filling: In a food processor combine both sugars, walnuts and cinnamon. Pulse till nuts are coarsely chopped. Remove ¼ cup and put aside (for the filling). Add the flour, butter and vanilla and pulse briefly till mixture is crumbly. Set aside (this will be the topping).
Make the cake: In a medium bowl lightly whisk the yolks, ¼ c. of the sour cream and vanilla. Combine the dry ingredients in a mixer bowl and beat on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and remaining ¾ c. of sour cream. Mix on low speed till dry ingredients are moistened, and increase speed to medium – beat for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides. Add the egg mixture in 3 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition. Scrape down the sides.
Pour 2/3 of the batter into your prepared pan, using a small angled spatula to smooth the surface. Sprinkle with the reserved filling and top with the sliced apples. Use a spoon to dollop the remaining batter over the top and gently smooth. Sprinkle with the reserved topping.
Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or till a cake tester comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Loosen the sides of the pan with your small metal spatula and remove. Cool completely before wrapping.