Apples and Honey: Beyond the Dip

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Brown butter apple tart. Photos by Keri White

Apples and honey symbolize the Rosh Hashanah holiday in a meaningful way.

Traditionally, plates are offered around for the ceremonial dip to symbolize the sweetness of the new year. As ingredients, they are infused through the festive meal in tzimmes, for stuffing and glazing roast chicken, with dessert and so on.

I offer two recipes that give these culinary pillars a nod while mixing and mingling them in diverse preparations, different techniques and tasty ways.


The first is a brown butter apple-custard tart that is rich, delicious, involved, precise and impressive.

The second, the apple parfait, is more of a guide. The result looks pretty, can be done far ahead and you can either make honey caramel or just use honey as a layer. The same goes for the apple mixture — if you are not inclined to chop and simmer, you can use canned pie filling. Ditto the graham crackers — feel free to use bits of oatmeal cookies, honey cake, crumbled mandelbrot or whatever suits your taste and you have on hand.

Brown Butter Apple-Custard Tart
Makes a 9-inch tart

For the crust:
2 sticks butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup honey
2¼ cups flour

For the filling:
4 eggs
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup honey
2 sticks butter
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ cup flour
3 apples, peeled, cored and cut into thin slices
Whipped cream or ice cream for serving

Make the crust: Heat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the crust ingredients in a mixing bowl, and beat them with a mixer until the dough forms as crumbly bits the size of lentils. Press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch tart pan; prick the dough with a fork, and bake it for 15 minutes.

While the crust bakes, make the filling.

Whisk the eggs and sugar in a medium bowl just to blend, and set it aside. Place the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat with the vanilla. Cook, stirring often, until the butter foams, then browns (do not burn), about 5 minutes. Let it cool for 10 minutes. Slowly whisk the brown butter into the egg mixture; whisk in the flour and salt.

While the filling is cooling, line the tart shell with apples. Pour the filling over the apples. Bake it until the apples are deep golden brown and the filling is puffed, cracked and set in the center, about 60 minutes.

Let the tart cool in the pan on a wire rack, about 2 hours. Remove the pan sides.

Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.

Honey caramel

Honey Caramel Apple Parfaits
Makes 4 parfaits

This can be adapted to personal preference and mixed up as desired.

Don’t feel like making the apple compote? Use apple butter or applesauce. Despise making caramel? Skip that step, and use a drizzle of good quality honey. Loathe graham crackers? Chuck in your favorite cookie or cake instead.

The beauty of this recipe is twofold: It is supremely adaptable to personal taste, and it can be done far ahead of time — just be sure to wrap and seal the parfaits tightly to preserve the flavor.

Another boon of this recipe is that you can use both the apple compote and the honey caramel in other ways.

Not loving the ice cream as a vehicle? Drizzle the compote and/or the caramel over a traditional honey cake or a pound cake. If you have surplus compote, it is delicious in oatmeal or yogurt for breakfast!

For the apple compote:
2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1 tablespoon honey
¼ cup water (or more as needed)
Sprinkle of cinnamon

For the honey caramel:
½ cup honey
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons water
½ cup heavy cream

For the crumble:
1 cup crumbled graham crackers

2 pints vanilla ice cream, slightly softened

Make the compote: In a small saucepan or skillet, simmer all the ingredients until the apples are soft. Add water as needed to keep it from burning. The end result should look like pie filling.

Make the caramel: In a small saucepan, simmer the honey, butter and water over medium heat until they caramelize — this will take about 10 minutes; the sugars in the honey will begin to thicken as the mixture boils.

Remove it from the heat, and add the heavy cream. The mixture will bubble up and become thicker. Stir to integrate the cream, placing the pan back on low heat if needed to break up the caramel.

Cool both the compote and the caramel completely — when they reach room temperature, chill them slightly; if you mix it with the ice cream when they are the least bit warm, the parfait will melt into a gloppy mess.

Assemble the parfaits: Choose a small, attractive glass (about 8 ounces; an old fashioned/rocks glass or a white wine glass work well). Place a layer of crumbled graham crackers, a layer of vanilla ice cream, apple compote, ice cream, caramel, graham cracker, et cetera, finishing with apples. Seal the glass tightly with cellophane, and secure it with a rubber band or tape if needed.

Store the parfait in the freezer until you are ready to serve. Remove it from the freezer about 5 minutes before serving to soften it slightly.

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