By Katie Workman
The Associated Press
Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, begins Sunday evening, and the people in my house would get pretty ornery if I skipped the holiday’s traditional brisket or kugel. But I also like to change up some dishes, like sides and desserts.
In many homes, honey cake is traditional on Rosh Hashana, but it’s this apple cake recipe that shows up in my house, and not only during the holidays. It makes other appearances Just Because. Just because it’s fall, just because I went apple picking, just because people are coming over for brunch.
Let’s home in for a moment on the apples. In many homes, apples are dipped into honey at the beginning of the Rosh Hashana meal for a sweet year to come. Joan Nathan, an authority on Jewish food and author of 11 cookbooks, says apples have been associated with the holiday since the Middle Ages.
Nathan says apples at Rosh Hashana symbolize plenty, abundance and hope for the new year. She makes a “Jewish apple cake” for the holiday, using oil instead of butter, often serving it after a meal of Alsatian chicken dish with apples. Kosher rules say you can’t mix dairy — like butter — with chicken or meat at the same meal.
My version of apple cake is super easy and good and tender and moist, and takes little time to throw together. It is made with butter, so if you are keeping kosher, make sure it is served as part of a parve or dairy meal.
A simple mix of cinnamon and sugar gives the cake a crunchy, sweet topping.
Cinnamon sugar topping:
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
2/3 cup whole milk
1 large apple, peeled and roughly chopped
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9-inch square (or round) baking pan, or spray with nonstick cooking spray.
In a small bowl, stir together the ¼ cup sugar and cinnamon. In another small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt.
In a medium-size bowl, beat the 1/3 cup sugar with the butter until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla. Add the flour mixture and the milk alternately, in about two batches each, beating after each addition until almost incorporated — at the end, you still want to see streaks of flour and milk in the thinnish batter.
Fold in the chopped apple just until everything is combined. Turn the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture over it.
Bake until golden brown and until a toothpick or wooden skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature, in squares (or wedges). Serves 8.