Eating Jewish: Apple cake - New twists on an old classic
Feasting is a central component to the celebrations of many, if not most, of the holidays on the Jewish calendar. Meals are a time for people to prepare traditional dishes associated with the holiday that are often only eaten at that particular time of year. In many cases, these recipes are passed down within families, while at the same time they are often dishes whose popularity also extends to the wider community in which they originated. Within the Ashkenazi community, apple cake graces the Rosh Hashanah tables of many and with its mix of cinnamon, sugar, and apples in a vanilla cake batter it’s easy to understand why.
I enjoy the fact that there are certain times throughout the year when I know that I can look forward to eating specific dishes, and though I wouldn’t turn away a piece of apple cake if it were offered to me over Rosh Hashanah, the idea of finding new ways to play on the perfect combination of flavors found in apple cake was something I thought could yield delicious results, and I have two recipes that do just that.
The first recipe, Apple Walnut Bread, doesn’t stray too far from the apple cake we know and love, but still offers a delicious alternative. The recipe comes from Leah Koenig’s, The Hadassah Everyday Cookbook, an amazing cookbook that I turn to constantly. The components of apple cake are present in this recipe, but instead it makes a moist loaf filled with pieces of soft sweet apples and crunchy toasted walnuts that isn’t as sweet as traditional apple cake. The cinnamon permeates the entire loaf, and although it is delicious eaten as is, the addition of a honey cream cheese frosting is a nice touch if you’re not serving it at a meat meal.
The idea for the second recipe came about because I initially wanted to make apple, honey and cinnamon ice cream, but seeing as I don’t own an ice cream maker that wasn’t an option. I couldn’t get my mind (or stomach) away from the idea of a frozen dessert, and I found that granita was the perfect alternative since it only required a freezer to make. The flavors of apple cake come shinning through in this granita, with one friend stating that it "tasted like fall." The pureed apples add a lovely creaminess to this dessert that can make you forget it is dairy free and because it’s light I think it’s the perfect way to end a big Rosh Hashanah feast.
Apple cake, especially this one, would not go amiss at your Rosh Hashanah meal, but these two recipes offer two alternatives that celebrate this traditional dessert in new and delectable ways.
Apple Walnut Bread
Adapted slightly from Leah Koenig’s The Hadassah Everyday Cookbook
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
3 cups Red Delicious, Granny Smith or Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 cup toasted walnuts (put them on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes), chopped
Honey Cream Cheese Icing
Adapted from Tablespoon
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened and cut into 1 inch pieces
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons honey
½ cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, the whole-wheat flour, the salt, the cinnamon and the baking soda. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the sugar, oil and vanilla extract. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring to combine after each addition.
Pour the sugar mixture into the dry ingredients and mix to combine. Fold the apples and the walnuts in the batter, which will be very thick.
Line two loaf pans with parchment paper or lightly grease them, and place half the batter in each pan leaving about an inch of space from the top of the pan so the loaf can rise without overflowing. Bake the loaves between 45 minutes to an hour, or until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean. If you choose to make mini loafs, bake them for about 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
While the loaves are baking, make the icing. In a medium bowl beat together the cream cheese and butter, using an electric mixer or a fork, until smooth. Add the vanilla and honey, mix well. Add the confectioner’s sugar and mix until incorporated. Finally, add the milk and mix until smooth. Once the loaves have cooled, spread them with icing, if using.
Adapted from the YouCook blog
1 cup non-alcoholic apple cider
2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped (Red delicious, Cortland or McIntosh would work well)
1 tablespoon honey
1 stick cinnamon
A pinch of ground cinnamon
Combine the apple cider, apples, honey and cinnamon stick in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook until the apples are soft, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat, add the ground cinnamon and let cool for a few minutes.
Using a hand blender or a regular blender, puree the mixture until smooth. Pour into a square or rectangular pan.
Place in the freezer and allow to freeze for an hour and then scrape the mixture with a fork to form granules. Freeze for another 2-3 hours, removing the pan every 45 minutes to scrape the mixture. The granita can then be served or kept in the freezer until serving time.
This recipe will serve between 2 and 4 people depending on the size of the portions, therefore I suggest doubling or tripling the recipe if you’re making this for a larger group.