November 21, 2018

How sweet it is

Apples, honey and a freshly baked round challah are traditionally served at the beginning of our Rosh Hashanah dinner. The shape of the challah represents unending happiness, and foods sweetened with honey symbolize a sweet and happy new year ahead.

Just before Rosh Hashanah, I start thinking of recipes featuring apples and honey, and what better way to combine them but in an assortment of desserts?

Apples come in so many colors, shapes and sizes, and their flavor can range from crisp and tart to soft and sweet. You can use most apples for baking, but the different varieties produce different results. And when it comes to honey, you will find the best selection of honey at the local farmers markets. Even hard-to-find varieties such as chestnut or buckwheat honey, which are dark in color and have a pungent malt flavor, are available.

Over the years, I have prepared many different apple-honey desserts, but this year I have asked chefs, family and friends to share their favorites.

Amy Tidus Zeidler, my daughter-in-law, shared her grandmother’s recipe for their family’s Apple Cake.

“It’s very simple and easy to make,” she said. “Grandma was a great baker and often didn’t use a recipe, but this is what my mom and I have come up with to replicate it.”

Growing up in Los Angeles, she said it was special when her grandparents, who lived on the East Coast, would come to visit several times a year.

“Some of my fondest memories of my grandmother were when she baked for us. My brothers and I loved her cookies and cakes, but the apple cake was our favorite,” she added.

Apple Rosemary Tart is a new find from chef Bruce Marder’s new bakery, Red Rooster, in Santa Monica. A delicious pie crust is filled with sliced apples and rosemary, then topped with crisscrossing strips of pie dough resembling latticework, creating a dramatic effect. As intimidating as it might look, making a lattice pie crust top is actually quite easy to do.

Josiah Citrin, chef/owner of Melisse restaurant in Santa Monica, shares a recipe for Apple Tart “Classique,” from his new cookbook, “Pursuit of Excellence.”” The recipe makes four individual tarts and can be doubled. I have also included his recipe for Crème Fraîche Ice Cream, or it can be garnished with whipped cream.

Our family standby, baked apple, is a perfect Rosh Hashanah dessert and is simple to make. Serve it with a scoop of ice cream on the side, or, for an Italian touch, top it with sabayon sauce accented with honey. 


Grandma Martha’s Apple Cake. Photo by Dan Kacvinski

1/4 cup sugar
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

1/2 pound unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk
2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced thinly
4 tablespoons honey

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Brush an 8-by-8-inch pan with butter and flour and set aside.

For topping, in a small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon and nuts; set aside.

For batter, in the large bowl of an electric mixer, blend the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and mix well. Combine flour and baking powder and add to batter alternately with the milk; mix well. Pour into prepared pan. Arrange sliced apples over the top, sprinkle with prepared topping and drizzle with honey.

Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.


Apple Rosemary Tart. Photo by Judy Zeidler

For a flakier crust, it is important to mix the ingredients just until they begin to form a ball (do not overmix).

Pie crust:
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
8 ounces unsalted butter
1/2 cup ice water

2 ounces unsalted butter
10 Fuji apples, peeled, cored, diced in 1-inch squares
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
Pinch cinnamon
Pinch sea salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon water
Granulated sugar to sprinkle on crust

Preheat oven to 325 F.

For pie crust, in the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, salt and sugar; pulse to mix. Add butter and pulse 6 to 8 times, until mixture resembles coarse meal with pea-size pieces of butter. Add ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing until mixture just begins to clump together. Remove dough from machine and divide in half. Knead each half into a flat disc.

Roll out 1 disc to fit a 9-inch pie dish. Lightly press it into the pie dish, leaving enough dough to hang over the edge. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Roll out the other disc of dough, cut into 1/2-inch strips, and form strips into a lattice top. Arrange on wax paper, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Place a sheet of wax paper on top of crust in prepared pie dish and fill with pie weights, rice or beans. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove weights and wax paper; bake 10 minutes longer or until golden brown. Let cool.

For filling, melt butter in a large sauté pan. Add apples, lemon juice, honey, sugar, rosemary, cinnamon and salt; sauté for 20 minutes until soft. Mix cornstarch with water, stirring until all lumps disappear, and add to apple mixture; simmer for 10 minutes. Let cool.

Spoon the apple filling into partially baked piecrust. Brush edge of crust with egg yolk/water mixture. Invert unbaked lattice top onto baked crust. Press edges together and trim to fit pie dish. Brush lattice top with egg yolk/water mixture and sprinkle with sugar.

Place tart on a cookie sheet and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.


Crème Fraîche Ice Cream:
4 cups whole milk
11 egg yolks
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
Pinch ground cinnamon
1 2/3 cups crème fraîche

Apple Tart:
1 sheet puff pastry (12 by 12 inches)
4 large pink lady apples, peeled
1/2 cup clarified butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Caramel Sauce:
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 pound unsalted butter, cut into medium dice
2 teaspoons fleur de sel

For ice cream, bring the milk to a boil in a medium pot over high heat. In a medium bowl, lightly whisk together the yolks, sugar and cinnamon. Slowly whisk the boiled milk into the yolk mixture. Strain the mixture through a chinois and into a stainless steel bowl; set that bowl over a bowl of ice. Stir to chill. Whisk in the crème fraîche. Churn the mix in an ice cream maker and reserve in the freezer.

For apple tart, lay the puff pastry on a flat surface. Cut out four circles using a 4 1/2-inch cookie cutter. Place the pastry circles on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spacing them at least 1 inch apart. Put the tray into the freezer until the pastry is hard.

Using an apple corer, remove the cores from the apples. Cut the apples in half down the core. Slice the apples on a mandolin slicer into 1/8-inch-thick half-rings.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Arrange the apple slices by fanning them out on the frozen puff pastry. Brush each apple tart with some of the clarified butter, and dust with some of the powdered sugar. Bake the tarts for 15 minutes. Brush the tarts again with clarified butter, dust with powdered sugar and bake for another 15 minutes. Repeat this process two more times for a total of four coatings and dustings and 60 minutes of baking time.

For caramel sauce, in a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, honey and water. Put the pan over high heat and let the sugar boil until it turns brown (about 12 minutes). Once the sugar has reached a caramel stage, remove the pan from the heat and, in a gentle stream, carefully whisk in the cream. Whisk in the butter a few pieces at a time. Add the fleur de sel, mix well and strain through a chinois. Keep warm. (If making a few days in advance, refrigerate, then reheat in the microwave when ready to serve.)

To serve, heat the apple tarts in a preheated 350 F oven for 7 minutes. Heat the caramel sauce in a small saucepan. Place a tart on the center of each plate and spoon the caramel sauce around the edge of the tart. Place a quenelle of the Crème Fraîche Ice Cream on top of the tarts and dust with powdered sugar.

Makes 4 servings.


Old-Fashioned Honey Baked Apple. Photo by Dan Kacvinski

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup sugar
6 Granny Smith or Rome Beauty apples, equal size
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 teaspoon-size pieces
1/4 cup honey
1 cup apple juice
6 sprigs fresh mint, optional

Preheat oven to 325 F.

In a small bowl, combine cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar; set aside.

Core the apples, making sure not to puncture the bottom of the apples so the juices will remain. Remove skin from 1/2 inch around top of each apple at the opening. Fill each cavity with an equal amount of the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Top each apple with a drizzle of honey and a teaspoon of butter. 

Place apples in casserole dish and pour apple juice and any remaining honey around them. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for about 45 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from the oven, garnish with fresh mint, drizzle with additional honey, and serve.

Makes 6 servings.

Judy Zeidler is the author of “Italy Cooks,” based on 35 years of travel to Italy, “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” (Morrow, 1988) and “The International Deli Cookbook” (Chronicle, 1994). She teaches cooking classes through American Jewish University’s Whizin Center for Continuing Education. Her Web site is