For those of you who are not familiar with Rosh Hashanah, it is the Jewish New Year and time for reflection and family. As much as I like the sense of renewal and starting over, I am a huge fan of good food. On my list of favorite holidays based on food, Rosh Hashanah is the undisputed winner, Thanksgiving being a close second. At least in my house growing up, the amount of food eaten on Thanksgiving was child’s play compared to the new year. Just to give you some perspective, our house was full of family and/or friends for 2 days straight and the 12 feet of tables were overflowing with food, wine, and laughter. I am getting a little nostalgic just thinking about it.
One of my favorite parts of Jewish holidays are the symbolism represented through food. Many people have heard of the tradition of dipping apples in honey or cooking and baking with honey, which represents sweetness in the year to come. This brings me to my first holiday treats, mini honey cakes. These bite size mouthfuls of joy represented the beginning of the holiday for me. You can’t eat just one though, they are so addictive. Thankfully my mom would always made what seemed like hundreds of them to account for all of the ones that mysteriously disappeared before guests came over. Just the smell of them takes me back to being a little kid in the kitchen with my mom.
Miniature Honey Cakes
- 1/2 cup margarine
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon grated orange peel
- 2 eggs
- 2/3 cup honey
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2/3 cup orange juice
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds
- 1 cup chopped dates
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 350 º F.
- In a large bowl, cream margarine and sugar together until light and fluffy.
- Beat in orange peel then eggs until incorporated and lastly the honey.
- In a small bowl whisk together the flour, soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, almonds, and dates.
- Alternate adding the dry ingredients and orange juice to the sugar mixture. Once fully combined, scoop 1 tablespoon of batter into lined mini muffin tins. Sprinkle with additional slivered almonds.
- Bake for 15 minutes then let cool on a rack.
In addition to tasty little cakes, it is also traditional to bake challahs a little differently than on other Fridays. Not only is it baked in a round, some families make it a little sweeter or add dried fruit. My family in the last few years has changed over to making a special challah for the holiday and I couldn’t be happier. I crave it’s bright sweetness just knowing that the holiday is coming up. Last year was the first year I baked the special challah on my own and struggled a lot trying to figure out how to braid in the round. Here is a tutorial from Tori Avey which should make your life much easier: Braid a Round Challah.
Golden Raisin Loaf
- 2 cups warm water
- 2 packets active dry yeast (2 scant tablespoons)
- 1/4 teaspoon ginger
- 1/2 cup oil
- 1/2 cup honey
- 2 teaspoons salt
- rind of 1 lemon
- 6 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup golden raisins
- 1 tablespoon melted butter
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/16 teaspoon ginger
- In a large bowl, combine yeast with warm water and allow to proof.
- Once proofed, stir in ginger, oil, honey, salt, lemon rind, and 3 1/2 cups of flour. Fold in the raisins.
- After the raisins are incorporated, gradually add the last 3 cups of flour until a soft dough forms. Add more flour if needed.
- Turn onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Place into a greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in size (45-60 minutes).
- If braiding into a round, braid the risen dough into two rounds. Cover again and let rise for another 30-45 minutes.
- Bake at 375 º F on a parchment lined cookie sheet for 35-40 minutes.
- When you remove the loaves from the oven, brush with melted butter than sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sugar and 1/16 teaspoon ginger. Let cool on wire racks.
There are so many traditional foods and I love every one of them, except for the fish and the head which we replace in our family with Swedish fish and cauliflower, respectively. One of my favorite things about Judaism and traditions in general is that you can adapt them to what is right for you and your family.
Some of my very favorite symbolic foods for this holiday are dates, which are in the little honey cakes and I make a pie that has dates in it, yes a pie with dates. Then comes the pomegranates. I could eat arils by the handful until there were none left, but that wouldn’t be nice to everyone else. One of the most unique flavors that my husband introduced me to is pomegranate molasses. We use it like any other condiment and it’s a staple in our house. It adds quite the zing to any dish.
Carrots are another symbolic food this time of year and are typically used in a sweeter was as opposed to savory. I love carrots in all forms, roasted, in cakes, in dips, as dippers, the possibilities are endless. Next up are pumpkin or other winter squash. Well it’s fall y’all and I love me some pumpkin. I am planning to add butternut squash to one of my dishes this year. Yes, I am still undecided about my menu for Rosh Hashanah.
Although the menu is still undecided, I have thought of a new tradition for our family. I am planning to do an apple and honey tasting. One of the benefits of living in Washington is Apple season is in full swing by the time Rosh Hashanah rolls around. I got a selection of three different varieties of honey from Pike Place Market and three types of apples so we can mix and match flavor profiles.
I hope this post will get people into the spirit of Rosh Hashanah and I wish you and your families a happy and sweet new year.