Rosh Hashanah is a holiday that even Jews who don’t consider themselves religious often celebrate. While people pray in Shul for many hours, they do look forward to going home and eating the many traditional foods that we all love. Apple Cake is one of the many popular items on people’s menus. I am going to share my beloved Aunt Elsa’s recipe. She is 96 years old and still loves to cook and bake for all her children, nieces and nephews.
Aunt Elsa’s Fabulous Apple Cake
3 large eggs
3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 1/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 cups all-purpose baking flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp allspice
Dash of ground cloves
4 Granny Smith apples—peeled, cored and shredded (you can use a food processor or grater to do this)
1 cup + 3 tbsp powdered sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
1–2 tbsp non-dairy creamer
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs well. Stir in the honey, white sugar, brown sugar, oil and vanilla. In a separate medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and spices. Slowly add the flour mixture into the liquid mixture, stir to blend. Fold in the shredded apples. Spray your Bundt pan with cooking spray, making sure to evenly coat the entire inner surface. Pour your batter into the pan. Use a spatula to gently push the batter to the outside of the pan, pushing slightly up the walls. Smooth the batter on the top so it is flat and even all the way around the pan.
Bake cake in preheated oven for 75–90 minutes. Use a toothpick to assess if it’s done. Let the cake cool for 10–12 minutes and then turn over. Tap the Bundt pan gently to release the cake. If your cake sticks, use a plastic knife to carefully loosen the cake around the center tube and sides. At this point I usually refrigerate or freeze cake so it will be easier to frost.
Sift 1 cup of powdered sugar into a mixing bowl. Add ¼ tsp of vanilla extract and 1 tbsp non-dairy creamer to the bowl. Stir with a whisk or fork to blend. Add additional non-dairy creamer by teaspoonfuls, mixing constantly, until the mixture has the texture of very thick honey. You want the icing to be quite thick, but still pourable. I usually put the icing into a measuring cup and pour on cake from about 4–6 inches away.
Making Challah is one of the mitzvos that women can do and with that mitzvah come the prayers of davening for certain things that you may wish for, whether a refuah, a shidduch, having children or things of that nature. I take this mitzvah very seriously and am happy to be able to perform it. With Rosh Hashanah coming, it’s a perfect time to try out making challah. It’s really not as hard as it may seem. You can read up on the mitzvah of separating challah (with the required amounts) for future challah baking. Below is a smaller recipe.
My Go-To Rosh Hashanah Challah Recipe
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water, divided
1 packet active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons salt
4 1/2 to 6 cups all-purpose baking flour
1 tablespoon cold water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups raisins
Sesame seeds, poppy seeds
Pour 1/4 cup of the lukewarm water into a large mixing bowl. Add 1 packet of active dry yeast and 1 tsp of sugar to the bowl, stir to dissolve. Wait 10 minutes. The yeast should have activated. Add remaining 1 1/4 cup lukewarm water to the bowl along with the egg and egg yolks, honey, canola oil and salt; whisk until blended.
Begin stirring the flour into the bowl one cup at a time. When mixture becomes too thick to stir, use your hands to knead (unless you are using a mixer). Continue to add flour and knead the dough until it’s smooth and elastic, not sticky. The amount of flour you will need will depend on the pliability of the dough. Only add flour until the dough feels smooth and silky. If you plan to add raisins to the challah, incorporate them into the dough as you knead. (See below for shaping with raisins.)
Place a saucepan full of water on the stove to boil. Remove the dough from your mixing bowl and wash out the bowl. Grease the bowl with canola oil. Put the dough into the bottom of the bowl, then flip it over so that both sides are slightly moistened by the oil. Cover the bowl with a clean, damp kitchen towel, then place it on the top rack of your oven. Place the saucepan full of boiling water below the oven rack where your dough sits. Close the oven, but do not turn it on. The hot water will create a warm, steamy environment for the dough to rise. After one hour, take the dough out and punch it down into the bowl several times to remove air pockets. Place it back inside the oven and let it rise for one hour longer.
Take the dough out of the oven. Flour a smooth surface like a cutting board. Punch the dough down into the bowl a few times, then turn the dough out onto the floured surface. Knead for a few minutes, adding flour as needed to keep the dough from feeling sticky.
After you’ve shaped your challah, place it on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Prepare your egg wash by beating the egg, salt and water until smooth. Use a pastry brush to brush a thin layer of egg wash onto the visible surface of your challah. Reserve the leftover egg wash.
Cover the challah loosely with plastic wrap and let it rise 30 to 45 minutes longer. You’ll know the dough is ready to bake when you press your finger into the dough and the indentation stays, rather than bouncing back.
Remove the plastic wrap from the challah. Heat oven to 350 degrees. The challah needs to bake for about 40 minutes total. First, bake your challah for 20 minutes. Take the challah out of the oven and touch up the center with another thin layer of egg wash. Turn the cookie sheet around, so the opposite side is facing front, and put it back into the oven.
Bake the challah for about 20 minutes longer. Sometimes to double check, I use a meat thermometer. The challah should register 190–200 degrees. Take the challah out of the oven.
I like to change up my toppings when making challah. Below is a sweet one.
Sweet Crumb Topping for Challah
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup oil
1–2 tsp vanilla extract
Mix with a spoon until crumbly and sprinkle on challah.
I take either agave or honey, vanilla and mix with some eggs and brush over challah.
If you want you can add some cut-up apples into this mixture as well.
By Gail Hochman