Ushering In a Sweet New Year

Erev Rosh Hashanah — the Jewish New Year's Eve — is a time for gathering around the holiday table with as many family members and friends that can fit. After the meal, we're off to synagogue for the first holiday service. It's a wonderfully religious and emotional time.

Now, the secular New Year brings about a different mood.

I typically choose to spend New Year's Eve with several close friends in a rather low-key manner. An early dinner at our favorite neighborhood Chinese restaurant, followed by a movie, leaves us relaxed to welcome in the next year in a festive and frivolous way. Afterward, what could be more elegant than returning to a rich array of desserts and iced champagne in the comfort and coziness of one's own home?

Picture a table covered with confections of unusual crêpes filled with chocolate, fruits and luxuriously rich creams. This is a dessert buffet that dreams are made of — for the guests as well as the host, as most of the preparation can be done ahead of time.

Pull out all the stops and use your best china, silver and crystal flutes. Have the champagne chilled and an urn of coffee freshly brewed and ready to be poured.

Make it a memorable ending to 2006, and a sweet beginning for 2007.


Basic Dessert Crêpes


11/2 cups flour
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup water
3 eggs
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla or almond extract
1/4 cup melted butter

In blender or food processor, combine all ingredients until smooth.

Remove to bowl and whisk in melted butter. Let stand at room temperature for at least one hour before using.

Brush a 7-inch pan, preferably nonstick with a bit of butter or oil and heat until hot.

Ladle about 2 tablespoons of crepe batter into pan and swirl until surface is coated with batter. Cook 12 minutes until lightly browned, lift with fingers and cook briefly on other side.

Remove to plate and continue until batter is used up, brushing the pan with butter after every three crêpes.

Stack crêpes with a piece of waxed paper in between each and place on flat plate.

Cover. Refrigerate or freeze.

Bring to room temperature before filling.

Makes about 16 crêpes.


Apricot, Wine and Honey Crêpe Torte


1 lb. dried apricots
2 cups kosher red wine
6 Tbsps. honey
12 basic dessert crêpes
2 egg whites
5 Tbsps. powdered sugar

Cook apricots, wine and honey on low heat about 1 hour. Let cool and purée. Set aside.

Butter a deep glass or porcelain pie dish.

Lay a crepe on bottom of dish and spread with apricot purée.

Continue alternating crêpes and purée until you have used up all of both. The last crêpe should not have purée on top.

They can be made ahead and refrigerated at this point.

Just before serving, beat egg whites until soft peaks form.

Slowly add sugar, and beat until stiff.

Spread the meringue on top of crêpe and bake in preheated 350° oven until brown, about 12 minutes.

Serves 6.


Chocolate Dessert Crêpes


1 cup flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup water
2 Tbsps. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla or almond extract
1/4 cup melted butter

Proceed as directed for basic dessert crêpes.

Makes 16.


Chocolate Crêpes With Rum-Raisin Ice-Cream


Chocolate Sauce:

8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 Tbsp. instant coffee
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsps. sugar
2 Tbsps. butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
8 chocolate crêpes
1 quart rum-raisin ice-cream

In a medium saucepan, melt chocolate with coffee, water, sugar, butter and cream. This sauce can be made ahead and stored in a covered jar in the refrigerator.

Fill each crêpe with about 5 or so tablespoons of softened ice-cream.

Roll them and store, covered in freezer until serving time.

To assemble, heat chocolate sauce and spoon over crêpes.

Makes 16.


Strawberry Cheese-Filled Crêpes



8 oz. cottage cheese
1/4 lb. mascarpone cheese or cream cheese
3 Tbsps. sugar
1 Tbsp. grated orange zest
1 pint strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced
16 dessert crêpes
powdered sugar

In blender or food processor, combine filling ingredients until smooth. Place about 2 tablespoons filling on center of crêpe and top with strawberry slices.

Fold sides over and place in a buttered baking dish, seam-side down.

Continue until the crêpes and filling are used up. These can be made ahead up to this point, covered and refrigerated or frozen.

Just before serving, sprinkle liberally with powdered sugar and place under the broiler until sugar melts, about 6 minutes.

Makes 16.

Louise Fiszer is a California cooking teacher and food writer. Among the six books she's co-authored is Jewish Holiday Feasts.



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