Recipes: For a sweet Jewish new year, bake with fruit

On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which begins on Monday evening, Sept. 6, eating fruit to symbolize the wish for a sweet year is the custom in many households. The time-honored Rosh Hashanah dinner begins with apples dipped in honey and often with pomegranate seeds and dates; some families include fruit in the main courses and in some of the side dishes as well.

Breads and desserts made with fruit are holiday favorites. At kosher bakeries and many supermarkets the challahs for Rosh Hashanah are round or spiral-shaped instead of being braided, and are often studded with raisins. Although we enjoy eating these store-bought breads, we find that homemade challah is the best. This year we plan to make sweet challah rolls with an apple and currant filling from the new book on Jewish baking by Beth Lee.

Since Rosh Hashanah falls this year in early September, summer fruit is still around, and we will be using it in our Rosh Hashanah desserts. We’re going to bake blond brownies studded with blueberries and we’ll serve them with fresh peaches. Grapes in the form of wine play a role in the traditional holiday dinner but this biblical fruit is also delicious baked in a cake.

We wish you a happy, healthy and sweet new year!

This photo of sweet challah rolls with apple currant filling is from “The Essential Jewish Baking Cookbook,” by Beth Lee, published by Rockridge Press. (Photo by  Callisto Media, Inc. )


Sweet Challah Rolls with Apple Currant Filling

These fruit-filled cinnamon-spiced little gems are ideal for Rosh Hashanah, and in fact are perfect all year round. The rolls are dairy-free and nut-free.

The recipe is from “The Essential Jewish Baking Cookbook” by Beth Lee (Rockridge Press).

Yield: 8 rolls



2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet or 1/4 ounce) active dry yeast or instant yeast

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading

1/4 cup sugar

1 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)

1 large egg

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt


1 cup (about 4 ounces) peeled, chopped sweet firm apple

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 cup currants or raisins

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 tablespoons sugar

Egg wash:

1 large egg

1 teaspoon water


1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the yeast, flour, and sugar. Add the warm water, egg, oil and salt.

2. Using a dough hook, mix ingredients on medium-low speed for 3 to 4 minutes, making sure the dough is thoroughly combined and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. When ready, the dough should be smooth and pulling away from sides of bowl. If dough is overly sticky, add flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, as necessary.

3. Remove dough from bowl, form it into a round, and place it on a sheet of parchment paper. Use your finger to poke a 1-inch hole through the center of the dough. Cover dough loosely with a kitchen towel and let rest for 30 minutes.

4.While dough is resting, make the filling: In a medium bowl, combine the chopped apple, lemon juice, currants, cinnamon and sugar. Set aside.

5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

6. To shape the rolls, divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Flatten a piece into a roughly 6-by-4-inch rectangle and spread a heaping tablespoon of filling down the center. Close the dough up around the filling and gently roll it out with your hands to a roughly 9-inch rope. Loosely coil the rope, tuck the end under, and pinch to seal. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough to create 8 rolls. Place on the prepared baking sheet.

7. Loosely cover the rolls with a kitchen towel, set in a warm location, and let rise for about 30 minutes, or until dough slowly springs back when poked with your finger.

8. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. For egg wash: Whisk together the egg and water in a small bowl. Use a pastry brush to coat each roll with the egg wash, getting into all the nooks and crannies.

9. Bake the rolls for 5 minutes at 375 degrees, then lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake them for about 22 minutes longer, until the rolls are golden brown all over, even on the bottom. Transfer to a wire rack and cool at least 30 minutes before serving.

Tip: To vary the rolls, Lee recommends using different dried fruits to make the filling. Alternatively, skip the stuffing and top the rolls with sesame or poppy seeds instead; or make one large loaf by dividing the dough in three parts, forming them into ropes, filling them if you wish, braiding the ropes and baking the loaf for 5 to 10 minutes longer.

Blueberry Blond Brownies are baked with fresh and dried blueberries, chocolate chips, pine nuts and walnuts. (Photo by Yakir Levy)

Blueberry Blond Brownies

These blond brownies, sometimes called blondies, are flavored with chocolate chips, pine nuts and walnuts. They are a nondairy version of the blond brownies recipe in my award-winning book, “Chocolate Sensations.” To make them fruity for Rosh Hashanah, I add fresh and dried blueberries.

Yield: 16 to 20 bars


1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup coconut oil

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup lightly packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup chopped red walnuts or regular walnuts

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons pine nuts, divided

2 tablespoons dried blueberries

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup fresh blueberries


1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 9- to 9-1/2-inch-square baking pan. Line with parchment or wax paper and let the paper hang over two sides for easy removal.

2. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl.

3. In a stand mixer or with a hand-held mixer beat coconut oil with olive oil, brown sugar and granulated sugar until blended. Add eggs, one by one, beating well after each addition, until mixture is lightened in color.

4. Beat in 2 tablespoons of the flour mixture at low speed. Add vanilla; beat until blended. Using a wooden spoon, stir in remaining flour mixture. Stir in walnuts, 2 tablespoons pine nuts, dried blueberries and chocolate chips. Stir in fresh blueberries.

5. Transfer batter to prepared pan; spread evenly. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/4 cup pine nuts. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until mixture is brown on top, pulls away very slightly from sides of pan and a wooden pick inserted into center of cake comes out nearly clean.

6. Set pan on a rack and let cake cool completely. Remove cake with its paper to a flat surface. Gently release the paper and remove the cake to a cutting board, using a spatula or pancake turner to help lift it onto the board. Cut in square or rectangular bars, using a sharp chefs knife or large serrated knife. Serve at room temperature.

This Grape Cake features the fruit baked in a lemony buttermilk cake. (Photo by Yakir Levy)

Grape Cake

We wonder why grapes aren’t used more often in cakes. In this cake the grapes become almost jamlike and are a tasty complement for the lemony, not-overly-sweet cake. If you use tiny grapes, you can leave them whole instead of cutting them in half. This cake is based on a recipe in by Melissa’s Produce.

Yield: 8 servings


2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 1/2  cups sweet grapes, washed, dried and halved

1/2 cup butter (4 ounces or 1 stick), cut in pieces, room temperature

3/4 cup granulated (white) sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Grated zest of 1 lemon (about 1 tablespoon)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup buttermilk

Powdered sugar (for dusting)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover the base of a 9-inch springform pan (or a 9-inch cake pan 2 to 2 1/2 inches deep) with parchment paper.  Butter and flour pan and parchment paper.

2. Coat bottom of prepared pan with brown sugar in an even layer. Add grapes in one layer, making sure they completely cover bottom of pan.

3. In a stand mixer using a flat beater, or in a large bowl with a hand-held mixer, beat the butter until softened. Add granulated sugar and beat until mixture is light and fluffy. Add eggs, one by one, beating thoroughly after each addition. Add vanilla and lemon zest and beat until blended.

4. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.

5. Add flour mixture and buttermilk to butter mixture alternately in three or four batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture and beating on low speed after each addition.

6. Carefully spoon batter in dollops over grapes and spread gently in an even layer.

7. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes or until cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into its center comes out clean.

8. Transfer pan to a rack. Let cool for 20 minutes before turning cake out of pan.

9. The cake is best at room temperature. Just before serving, dust cake with powdered sugar.

Faye Levy is the author of  “1,000 Jewish Recipes.”

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