L'Shanah Tovah! Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, starts tonight at sundown. And right on time, my box of Arkansas wine arrived, including a nice bottle of muscadine grape juice--much tastier than Welch's for the non-drinkers. More muscadine pix, and a visit to the winery and vineyards, to follow.
Right now, of course, what you need is a nice challah recipe (below), and an alternative to honeycake, which everyone (at least on the eastern-european side) feels compelled to eat, but no one likes very much. And here PQ can help you out, with the famous apple upside-down gingerbread. You can use half molasses, half honey, if you have to get the honey in there. And if you're having brisket and don't want to serve a butter-based cake for dessert, you can sub this no-dairy gingerbread recipe, adapted from the original Silver Palate Cookbook, below.
Very Useful & Easy Gingerbread, with upside-down option
In a glass measuring cup, measure the oil first, pour into a separate cup, and then measure the molasses. This helps the molasses run right out the cup when you tip it, which otherwise it will not do. I've also made this as more of general spice cake, using 2 tsp of mixed "pumpkin pie spice" (also called apple-pie spice--basically, a mix of cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves).
For optional apple/pear upside-down topping:
3 apples or pears, cored and sliced
3 tbsp butter or margarine (if you need to be non-dairy)
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1 2/3 cups flour
2 tsp powdered ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg, fresh grated if possible
1/4 tsp cloves
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger root, and/or 2 tbsp chopped crystallized ginger (optional, but I would add both if I were you)
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses, or 1/4 cup honey and 1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup boiling water
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a square 8 x 8 or deep, round 9" cake pan. To make topping: melt butter in a small pot. Add brown sugar and cook, swirling the pan, until thick, melted, and smooth. Pour mixture into prepared baking pan, spreading evenly. Arrange sliced apples or pears in concentric circles. Fit fruit in tightly, since it will shrink in baking. Set aside. Put 1/2 cup water on to boil.
Sift flour, spices, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, beat eggs, sugar, and molasses. Stir into flour, then quickly stir in oil and boiling water. Pour into prepared pan (over the fruit, if using) and bake 35-40 minutes. If using fruit, loosen cake and invert onto plate while still warm, pushing any errant fruit slices into place as needed.
A Nice Round Challah for a Sweet Year (adapted from my own book, Honey from Flower to Table)
1 tbsp (1 packet) dry yeast, dissolved in 1/4 cup lukewarm water, or a decent nubbin of fresh yeast, dissolved in same amount of water
1 cup lukewarm water
1/3 cup melted butter or oil
2 eggs plus 2 yolks
1/2 cup honey
2 1/2 tsp salt
4 - 5 cups flour
1 cup raisins, golden look especially nice
1/4 cup honey, for drizzling, or an egg wash of 1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp water
Mix up water, butter, eggs, and honey. Add yeast. Stir in 2 cups of flour and the salt. Keep adding flour (2-3 cups) until you have a soft, sticky dough. Turn out and knead well for 6 to 8 minutes, adding flour as needed. Doughs with honey are hydroscopic (they absorb water from the air), which means they tend to get more gloppy, not less. Knead with a little oil on your hands, or use a dough scraper. You can add more flour as you knead, but go easy, as you want the dough to stay fairly soft. Let rise until doubled, then punch down. You can do another rise, or go straight to shaping.
Flatten dough into a big rectangle. Sprinkle with raisins, and fold or roll until raisins are fairly well integrated into the dough. Shape 2/3 of the dough into a long, thick rope. Now wrap the rope around itself, starting about halfway down the rope. Tuck the "tail" into the top. Do the same with smaller piece, and nestle the topknot into the top of the dough. This makes 1 big loaf; you can also divide it and make 2 smaller ones. Let rise until nearly doubled in size. Preheat oven to 350F. Drizzle loaf with honey or brush with egg wash. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until puffed, golden, and shiny. Serve with apples and honey.
Makes the world's best French toast the next day.