When I wrote my food column last month (August) about the sweet spices of Havdalah, my thoughts also considered this month (September) and the sweetness of Rosh Hashanah. Beginning with Rosh Hashanah, the “head of the year,” on Wednesday, September 28, at sundown, we welcome the High Holy Days.
The joy of honey, the pleasures of its simplicity to savor, as a dip for apple slices and challah, and as a delicate sweetener for so many foods – is one of the symbolic essences of Rosh Hashanah. It is basic, yet luxurious. My children, when young, loved to suck on honey straws. I always favored honeycomb.
There is no other ingredient that we cooks embrace as much to feature in breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack recipes. It will further sweeten our fruits and vegetables, be sautéed and sauced with our main dishes, and be incorporated in our breads and desserts.
A few tips on using honey:
Honey is heavy in weight. A 12-ounce jar equals one 8-ounce measuring cup.
To easily measure, first spray your spoon or cup with a non-stick aerosol oil.
Store in a dry place, not your refrigerator. Should your honey harden or crystallize, to re-liquefy, set in a pan of warm, not hot, water.
To substitute for granulated sugar in your favorite recipes, use equal portions for up to half of the sugar, then reduce the liquid in your recipe by ¼ cup for every 1 cup honey used instead of sugar. When baking, add ½ teaspoon of baking soda for every 1 cup honey used instead of sugar. Reduce oven temperature by 25 degrees.
May the year ahead bring you good times and memories spent with your beloved family and friends. For those of my readers who may have recently lost a loved one, may your hearts soon blossom, and your sadness pass. As the Rosh Hashana blessing goes, “May the new year be sweet.”
APPLE HONEY CAKE
Enhanced with chopped nuts and sweet spices, this simple apple and honey cake makes a light dessert or afternoon cake to enjoy during your Rosh Hashana celebrations. I have made a very large cake for this recipe, as many of us entertain large parties during the High Holy Days. It will keep for many days, because it is very moist. It is very easy to prepare and very family oriented. Since it is baked in a large pan, it is difficult to turn out, so just cut squares as you need them. It keeps well-wrapped at room temperature for many days.
1½ cups honey
½ cup butter or margarine, at room temperaature
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
4 cups diced apples (I used three large Fuji apples)
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts)
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the honey with the butter and eggs. In another bowl, sift together the flour and spices/seasonings, and add to creamed mixture. Combine the apples, lemon juice and zest and nuts. Add to the cake batter. Spoon mixture into a large, well-greased cake pan (17x11x2”). Place in a preheated 350-degree oven and bake approximately 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Yield: Approximately 35 squares.
LEBKUCHEN (GERMAN-STYLE HONEY CAKE)
The original recipe called for adding chopped citron, but I was unable to purchase it when I photographed this column, so I substituted candied pineapple and fresh lemon zest – I had first discussed this with my work bakery manager, and he agreed that this would be delicious and an “equal” ingredient. And, yes, it was. For the icing, the confectioner’s sugar, thinned with brandy, is delicious and beautiful.
3/4 cup honey
¼ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup chopped walnuts
¼ cup chopped sugared/dried pineapple
Zest of 1 lemon, chopped
1 cup flour
½ teaspoon dried cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
2 to 2½ tablespoons brandy
In an mixing bowl, beat the eggs until frothy, then beat in the honey and the brown sugar until well-blended. Add nuts, sugared pineapple and lemon zest and mix well. Sift together the flour, spices and baking powder and add to the cake batter until well-blended.
Spoon into a well-greased 8-inch square baking pan and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for approximately 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes; then turn out on to a wire rack that is placed on top of a piece of waxed paper on the counter (for easy cleaning up). Frost while still warm.
To make the icing: In a bowl, combine the sugar with the brandy until easy to pour. Pour or spoon over cake. Allow to cool.
Yield: Approximately 20 squares.
HONEYED OATMEAL COOKIES
Oats, combined with nuts, raisins and honey, are packed with all the goodness of family culinary love. I used Irish-style steel-cut oats, as these are a personal family favorite and particularly healthy. You can also use old-fashioned oats, which will result in a slightly lacier cookie. You may find the pre-cooking of some of the liquids and spices to be a very unusual step.
½ cup butter or margarine, at room temperature
6 tablespoons honey
½ cup golden raisins
½ cup water
¼ cup chopped pecans
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch Kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup flour
1 cup Irish-style steel-cut oats
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Place the butter, honey, raisins, water and spices/seasonings in a small pot and boil gently for 10 minutes; allow to cool. Sift together the baking soda and flour; then add the oats, eggs and vanilla, mixing well. Add the cooled mixture. Drop by teaspoonfuls on well-greased cookie sheets.
Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 10 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool. Store in tins.
Yield: Approximately 30 cookies.