Bake Ahead and Freeze: Desserts for Rosh Hashanah

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The High Holidays arrive at a busy time. Vacations are over. The school year is just beginning. Activities that stopped for the summer lure us in.

But most importantly, we are facing the joy and expectation of a new year. Part of that joy entails a series of celebratory meals. How do you prepare so many Rosh Hashanah menus while juggling the rest of your life?

I start by baking, something I find relaxing and inherently practical. Since most pastries can be frozen, I begin Rosh Hashanah cooking with desserts, which I then bank in the freezer. It’s a relief to know one course is ready to go when I need it.

If I’m invited as a guest, I always offer to bring a dessert or two, because I can bake whenever I have the opportunity — not at the last minute when most other foods have to be prepared. The freezer is a baker’s best friend.

But identifying time to bake during bustling September can be a challenge. Believe it or not, I find the hours after dinner to be ideal. By then, the house is quiet. Kids are mired in homework and texting, while my husband hunkers down in front of the TV. This gives me a chance to bake in peace.

If I have a 10-minute break in the middle of the day, I measure out ingredients and assemble the mixer, baking pans and bowls so that evening’s baking project will run smoothly and quickly.

It’s best to select fuss-free recipes. Avoid recipes calling for whipped cream, raw fruit toppings and creamy frostings, which get smudged when wrapped for the freezer.

Traditional Rosh Hashanah cakes freeze particularly well.

Since sweets are the best part of any meal, it only makes sense to start with dessert first.

Honey Spice Cake | Pareve
Serves 10

Nonstick vegetable spray
1 tea bag of black tea, such as Lipton
1 inch of fresh ginger
1½ cups honey
4 eggs
1 cup dark brown sugar
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon orange zest
¼ teaspoon vanilla
3½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cardamom
1 cup chopped pecans
Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F. Generously coat an angel food pan with nonstick spray.

Boil water, and pour 1 cup into a heatproof measuring cup. Dunk the teabag into the water, and let it steep until the tea becomes strong. Peel the ginger. Dice it; then chop it finely.
In a small saucepan, place the ginger, tea and honey. Bring it to a slow boil on a medium-low flame. Stir until the honey dissolves. Cool the mixture to room temperature, and reserve.

In a large mixing bowl, place the eggs, brown sugar, oil, orange zest and vanilla. With an electric mixer, beat until combined.

In another large bowl, sift the flour, baking soda and baking powder. Sprinkle in the cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and cardamom. In batches, add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, alternating with the honey mixture. End with the honey mixture. Stir in the pecans.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake it for 60-70 minutes, or until the cake springs back when lightly touched with a finger.

Remove the cake from the oven and cool it completely to room temperature. Gently run a sharp knife around the edges of the angel food pan, being careful not to damage the cake. Turn the cake upside down onto a large round platter. Tap the angel food pan, and the cake should slide out onto the platter.

Cover the cake with aluminum foil, and place it inside a plastic bag for a day, as the cake tastes better when it rests for 24 hours. Honey cake freezes well.
Defrost the cake completely and display it on a lovely plate or cake stand. Right before serving, using a fine mesh strainer, dust it with powdered sugar. Serve immediately.

Old-Fashioned Apple Cake | Pareve or Dairy
Serves 16

Nonstick vegetable spray
2-3 baking apples, such as Gala, Fuji or Honeycrisp
1 cup dark brown sugar
½ cup coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon granulated salt (not kosher salt)
1 teaspoon apple pie spice or pumpkin pie spice
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
½ teaspoon orange zest
Optional accompaniment: vanilla ice cream or orange sorbet

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9-inch-by-9-inch baking pan with nonstick spray.

Peel and core 2 apples. Dice them, and then chop them finely. Measure to make sure you have 2 cups. Add another apple, if necessary. Reserve.

In a large mixing bowl, place the brown sugar and coconut oil and beat with an electric mixer until creamy. Add the vanilla, and mix until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each one.

Into a medium mixing bowl, place the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and apple or pumpkin pie spice. Whisk to combine.

Add the flour mixture to the large mixing bowl. Using the electric mixer on low and then on medium, stir to combine. The batter will be firm and inflexible. Fold in the apples, orange juice and orange zest. Move the batter to the prepared baking pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool completely before cutting. Cut four lines down and four across, making 16 squares. Serve immediately or freeze. Serve with vanilla ice cream or orange sorbet, if desired.

An Elegant Chocolate Cake | Dairy or Pareve
Serves 10-12

Nonstick vegetable spray
1 cup flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of granulated salt
(not kosher salt)
4 tablespoon sweet butter or unsalted pareve margarine
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 large egg
1 cup sugar
¾ cup, plus 2 tablespoons milk or almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Optional accompaniment: Whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or coconut or raspberry sorbet

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick spray.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Reserve.

In a double boiler, melt the butter or margarine and chocolate. Mix with a spoon until smooth. Remove the mixture from heat to cool slightly.

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the egg and sugar, until light in color and the texture is ribbon-like when the beater is turned off and lifted. Stir in the warm butter and sugar. Add the flour mixture a little at a time. Alternate with the milk. Add the vanilla and mix well.

Pour the batter into the prepared springform. Bake it for 30-35 minutes, until the surface of the cake is slightly springy to the touch and a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the surface comes out clean.

Cool to room temperature before removing the sides of the springform. Leave the cake on the bottom of the springform. Serve immediately or freeze.

This cake freezes well. Wrap it in aluminum foil, and place it inside a plastic bag to freeze. When defrosted, serve with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, coconut or raspberry sorbet, if desired.


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