Sweetness: A Symbol of Hope


Rosh Hashanah is one of my favorite holidays. It means sweet desserts galore, when even the savory dishes, such as stuffed cabbage, are infused with a sweet-tart flavor.

Sweetness is a symbol of hope that the coming year will be filled with happiness and fulfillment. For Ashkenazi Jews, the first foods eaten on Rosh Hashanah are apple wedges dip­ped in honey. Since ripe, juicy pears are now in season, why not tuck in a few wedges alongside the apples?

At farmers markets and at your local supermarket, the last of warm weather fruits, along with fall fruits, are now abundant. Little blue Italian plums can be baked into pies and tortes, while hard fruits, such as the many varieties of apples, and citrus fruits, like kumquats and seedless clementines, can go into compotes, all of them sweetened with honey — the time-tested flavor essential to Rosh Ha­shanah.

At the Hofman house, the desserts below are traditional favorites with both family and guests. They are easy, may be made ahead and, with the exception of the compotes, may be frozen.

(Actually, compotes are best made ahead and refrigerated to allow the flavors to meld.)

Cobblers can be quickly assembled when topped with honey-drizzled refrigerated biscuits. There’s no need to make the biscuits from scratch.

Toppings may be put together well ahead, ready to sprinkle over a selection of fruits before baking.

B’Tayavon! Enjoy.

Pear and Plum Cobbler

“Cobble” means to put together in a hurry. Using refrigerated biscuits this is super easy. No need to peel the fruits.

3 pears, cored and diced
6 large plums, pitted and snipped in 1⁄2-inch pieces
1 and 1⁄2 Tbsps. all purpose flour
1⁄4 cup plus 1 Tbsp. honey, warmed and divided
1⁄4 cup orange juice
grated rind of 1 orange
1 package (7.5 oz.) refrigerated biscuits

Preheat oven to 400˚.

In a large pot, toss the pears and plums with the flour. Pour 1⁄4 cup honey, orange juice and orange rind over. Stir gently to mix.

Cook over medium high heat until mixture begins to boil, stirring often. Cook for 1 min­ute.

Transfer the mixture to a 9-inch baking dish. Top with the refrigerated biscuits. Drizzle with the remaining honey.

Bake for 25 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown and mixture is bubbly.

Serves 8 to 10.

Peach Berry Crisp
(Dairy or Pareve)

3⁄4 cup brown sugar, packed
1⁄2 cup all purpose flour
1⁄2 cup quick cooking oats
2 Tbsps. shredded coconut
1 tsp. baking powder
6 Tbsps. butter or margarine, softened
1 tsp. cinnamon
5 medium peaches, pitted and cut in 1⁄4-inch thick wedges
3 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered
1 Tbsp. grated lemon rind
2 Tbsps. cornstarch
1⁄3 cup honey, warmed

Preheat oven to 375˚.

In a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour, oats, coconut, baking powder, butter or margarine and cinnamon until crumbly. Set aside.

In an 8- or 9-inch square baking dish, place the remaining ingredients. Toss to mix thoroughly. Sprinkle the flour oat mixture over.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until topping is golden brown and fruit mixture is bubbly. Serve hot or warm.

If frozen, thaw 2 to 3 hours at room temperature or overnight in refrigerator. Heat through in preheated 350˚.

Serves 8 to 10.

Blue Plum Torte
(Dairy or Pareve)

No need to roll out the pastry in an adapted recipe given to me from the late Ruth Bloom.

1 stick butter or margarine, melted
1 Tbsp. white vinegar
2 Tbsps. sugar
1 and 1⁄4 cups all-purpose flour

Topping Ingredients:

2 Tbsps. all purpose flour
1⁄3 cup sugar
1⁄4 cup honey, warmed
2 and 1⁄2 tsps. cinnamon
1 lb. Italian prune plums, pitted and quartered

Preheat oven to 350˚.

In a medium bowl, mix the butter or margarine and vinegar.

Blend in 2 tablespoons sugar and 11⁄4 cups flour to make a smooth dough. Press into the bottom of a 10-inch pie dish. Prick all over with a fork. Bake in preheated oven 10 minutes.

To Prepare Topping: In a medium bowl, mix all the topping ingredients except the plums. When mixed well, add the plums and toss to coat. Ar­range plums, cut side up, in concentric circles on top of the dough to cover. Sprinkle any remaining topping mixture over. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons water.

Bake for 40 minutes or until pastry is golden at edges. Cover with foil if browning too quickly. Cool. To serve, cut in wedges with serrated knife.

Serves 8 to 10.

Kumquats and Cranberries

Kumquats are a tiny member of the citrus family. They look like a very small oval orange. The edible rind is sweet and tangy, the flesh is dry. It makes a delicious compote especially when sweetened with honey.

2 cups kumquats, cut in half lengthwise
1 cup sweet white wine
1⁄2 cup honey or to taste
1 stick cinnamon
1 cup dried cranberries

Place the kumquats, wine, honey and cinnamon stick in a medium saucepan. Bring to simmer over medium heat stirring to completely dissolve the honey.

Cover and cook 10 minutes or until the kumquats are slight­ly softened. Add the cranberries and cook 10 minutes longer, partially uncovered, or until the kum­quats are soft and sweet.

If desired, add more honey to taste. Transfer to a bowl. Refrigerate. After 2 hours, remove the cin­namon stick. Serve at room temperature.

Serves 6 to 8.

Warm Fall Fruit Compote
(Dairy or Pareve)

2 Tbsps. butter or margarine
1⁄4 cup honey or to taste
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. grated ginger root
2 medium red apples, cored and cut in 1⁄2-inch thick wedges
2 ripe pears, cored and cut in 1⁄2-inch wedges
4 plums, pitted and quartered
2 clementine oranges, peeled and sectioned
2 cups seedless black grapes or 1 and 1⁄2 cups champagne grapes
1 and 1⁄4 cups apple cider or apple juice

In a large, deep skillet or pot, melt the butter or margarine over medium heat. Add the honey, lemon juice and ginger root. Stir to mix. Turn the heat to high.

Add the remaining ingredients. Saute for 5 minutes. Reduce to simmer. Cover and cook 8 to 10 minutes or until the apples and pears are tender but still holding their shape. Stir in more honey as desired. Serve warm.

For a dairy meal, pass a dish of vanilla ice cream or vanilla yogurt.

Seres 8 to 10.

Ethel G. Hofman is a past president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Email her at: [email protected]


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