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Grandma’s Roly Poly

Marcy Goldman

I think of roly poly as a quintessential bubbe-style treat (circa 1950-1980s) that went out of fashion when boomer cooks took over the kitchen. Alas, roly poly disappeared along with old faithfuls, such as mun cookies and various haimish squares that were once the mainstays of canasta and bridge night. As part of traditional Jewish baking, roly poly, cookie-cum-pastry confection seems to have its roots (albeit this version is a steamed roly poly pudding) in vintage British cuisine. That, and the fact that traditional roly poly calls for Turkish Delight, seems to indicate that perhaps British Jewish immigrants brought that recipe with them when they hit the American shores. As a kid, I recall it was rare that a Jewish event (b'rit milah, b'nai mitzvah, wedding or Shabbat dinner) didn’t feature a platter of this absolutely amazing delicacy. Indeed, women who made it well became community legends, as in “No one makes roly poly like Ethel”.

I recently revisited roly poly and made several test batches to update tradition and give it some gentle tweaks for today’s palate. I swapped the usual bergamot or rose water-flavored Turkish Delight with kosher Gummy Bears to get that chewy sweetness. That was perfect until I lucked out and found natural berry Turkish Delight in my local spice store – a miracle! I also ditched the glacé cherries (they remind me of fruit cake) with dried apricots and tossed in some dried cranberries with the raisins, which was a huge success. I played around with the dough, but in the end, found that the traditional lean and easy roly poly dough was as contemporary and delicious today as it was years ago. Truth is, overall, there was not a whole lot to ‘fix’ in this sumptuous memory-lane recipe. The only real fix is to remedy the lack of roly poly in the landscape by making some for your next gathering, be it a holiday or Shabbat.

There is one caveat to roly poly, and that is to let them ‘cure’ overnight to give the filling time to soften the baked dough. The taste and texture is totally altered, resulting in pastry that is delicate of crust with an ambrosial filling of all the good things you can stuff into it. Incidentally, since roly poly is so hard to describe, if you like rugelach, you will love roly poly. 'Nuff said. You can play fast and loose with the filling, (i.e. a bit more of this or that doesn’t make a huge difference).

2 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 cups all-purpose flour, approximately
3/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup raspberry, apricot or sour cherry jam
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup plumped raisins or dried cranberries
1 cup ground walnuts
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2/3 cup minced dried California apricots
1 1/2 cups, approximately, Turkish delight, cut into small slivers*
*I use a mix of Gummy Bears and Turkish Delight for the perfect balance of color, taste and chewiness. Use red or pale yellow Gummy Bears - avoid green and orange.

Yield: Two 12-inch rolls, about 10-15 slices each

  • Stack two baking sheets together and line the top one with parchment paper.

For the dough

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, orange juice and oil. Fold in the flour, salt and baking powder to make a soft but rollable dough (you might need to add a few tablespoons more flour). Knead dough very briefly and gently on a lightly floured board only to make smooth and cohesive. Don’t overwork it. Cover dough with a towel and let rest 15 minutes or refrigerate until you need it (up to three days).
  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Stack two baking sheets together and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured board, roll out half the dough to a thickness of 1/4 inch thick, to form a rectangle 12 by 8 inches.

To fill the dough

  • Spread half of jam on each rectangle. Sprinkle on half of listed ingredients (coconut, raisins, nuts, cinnamon, cherries, and Turkish delight). Turn in ends, and roll up into jellyroll shape. Cut into 3/4-inch slices and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until golden brown all over, 35-40 minutes. Let cool a bit and then sift confectioners’ sugar on top.

German Lemon Tart

Tina Wasserman

Last summer I hosted a Shabbat dinner in my home for three German delegates from the American Jewish Committee’s Adenauer exchange – Matthias, Lucas, and Melanie. During dinner, Melanie told us a brief story about how she came to have the recipe for this lemon cake. In a subsequent letter, she shared with me both the recipe itself and the incredible story of how the recipe prompted her grandmother to reveal a long-held family secret.

Learn the long-held family secret that was uncovered thanks to this lemon cake recipe.

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons water, or more if needed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional - more for Western tastes)
1 egg
2 1/3 cups ground almond meal
3/4 cup sugar
Zest and juice from 3 large lemons (about 3/4 cup juice)
1 egg yolk for glazing the cake
Coconut oil or cooking spray for greasing pan
  1. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with coconut oil or spray.
  2. Combine all of the dough ingredients in a 2-quart mixing bowl and gently knead with your fingers until the dough forms a ball.  If needed, add a small amount of additional water until dough is moist and holds together.
  3. Divide the dough into 3/4 and 1/4.  Cover with plastic wrap and then refrigerate for 20 minutes to let the dough rest.
  4. Roll the larger piece of dough between two sheets of parchment or waxed paper into a circle that is about 1/8-inch thick.  Remove one piece of paper and then flip the dough into the pan, centering the dough as best you can.
  5. Gently press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Place pan in the refrigerator while you make the filling.
  6. Combine all of the ingredients for the filling and spread onto the dough in the pan.
  7. Roll out the remaining dough into a rectangle and cut 1/2-inch strips of dough with a knife or decorative pastry wheel.
  8. Place strips of dough crisscrossed across the filling pressing the ends into the side rim of dough to seal.  Brush with some egg yolk to glaze.
  9. Place the cake pan into a COLD oven and then turn the temperature to 350°F.
  10. Bake the cake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.

Cake may be served warm or at room temperature.

Pumpkin Muffins

Jan Rood-Ojalvo

I experimented with many recipes to create these moist pumpkin muffins with a crumbly streusel topping. They are popular over the autumn Jewish holidays of Sukkot and Simchat Torah when pumpkins, butternut squash and sweet potatoes are in season. I use mostly winter squash and sweet potatoes, since there are always leftovers in my fridge. There are never any leftovers from the muffins!

1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1/3 cup apple or orange juice
2 cups cooked, mashed pumpkin, butternut squash or sweet potatoes
1 3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger powder, optional (terrific for extra spiced taste)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, optional (terrific for extra spiced taste)
1 cup chocolate chips, optional (a favorite in our house)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
4 tablespoons cold butter

To prepare the batter

  • In a mixer, at medium speed, blend sugar, eggs, oil, juice, and pumpkin until smooth. Gradually add dry ingredients, mixing after each addition. Then stir in chocolate chips. The batter will be thin, but bakes beautifully.
  • Spoon into greased muffin tins, 2/3 full. 

To prepare the streusel topping

  • in a food processor, place flour, sugar, spices and the cold butter cut into small pieces. Pulse until mixture is crumbly and even, but not completely smooth.

To assemble and bake

  • Spoon streusel generously over top of each muffin batter.
  • Place in 350°F oven, bake for about 15 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. 
  • Let cool briefly on wire rack, then use a knife to loosen each muffin and remove from tin.

Note: These are especially delicious when still warm and the chocolate chips are melted.

Jan Rood-Ojalvo has longstanding ties to Congregation M'kor Shalom and the Katz JCC, both in Cherry Hill, NJ. Jan, who lives with her husband Steve in Haddonfield, NJ, loves baking, traveling, opera, and staying in touch with her six children – and two granddaughters.

Rosh HaShanah Noodle Kugel

Tina Wasserman

Here’s a delicious noodle kugel that incorporates all the symbols for a sweet and fruitful New Year. The kugel is moist, not too sweet, and contains no dairy products, so it can be served with a meat meal or for dessert.

12 ounces extra-wide dried egg noodles
1/3 cup vegetable oil (corn or canola)
4 large eggs
Two 3.9-ounce (snack size) containers or 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup wildflower or clover honey
1/4 cup frozen apple juice concentrate
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 Jonagold or Gala apples, pared, cored, and sliced into thin semicircles (reserve 8 slices for garnish on top of kugel)
1/2 cup golden raisins (optional)
1/4 cup sugar mixed with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (for topping)
Nonstick cooking spray or pareve margarine
  1.  Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 13 × 9-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.
  2. Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain but do not rinse. Place in a large mixing bowl. Add the oil and stir gently with a rubber spatula to coat and separate all the noodles.
  3. In a 2-quart mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a fork. Add the applesauce, honey, apple juice concentrate, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg and combine.
  4. Using a spatula, add the apple semicircles and raisins (if using) to the egg mixture.
  5. Pour the apple mixture into the noodles. Mix gently, but thoroughly, and pour into the prepared pan. Place reserved apple slices down the center of the casserole.
  6. Lightly grease the shiny side of a sheet of foil with nonstick spray and cover the casserole, greased side down.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes and remove from the oven. Uncover, sprinkle with the cinnamon and sugar mixture, and lightly spray with cooking spray or dot with margarine. Return the uncovered casserole to the oven for an additional 15 minutes or until lightly golden.
Tina's Tidbits: 
  • Because honey is 1–1 1/2 times sweeter than sugar, less is needed to sweeten most recipes.
  • Covering a casserole with foil, dull side out, will help the food absorb heat from the oven without drying out.
  • Always bake a noodle kugel immediately after adding the egg mixture or the mixture will settle and create a rubbery layer on the bottom and the noodles will be dry on top.

Apple Dapple Cake

Deborah Rood Goldman

A good friend found this recipe on a Jewish New Year handout from her daughter's preschool. The first time I tried the recipe – the afternoon of Erev Rosh HaShanah – the batter was so thick, I called her in a slight panic. She reassured me, explaining that it's an extremely thick batter that has to be spooned in clumps into the cake pan before baking. As it turns out, this is a dessert I can't resist, and admit to sampling the drippings from the caramel topping before the cake is served. Use fresh apples in the fall to serve it on Rosh HaShanahSukkot, and Simchat Torah.

3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup oil
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
3 medium tart apples, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup milk (or mocha mix, if pareve)
1/2 cup margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the cake

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 10-inch ring-shaped or Bundt baking pan.
  2. Sift flour with baking soda and salt.
  3. Cream oil with sugar until light; beat in eggs one by one. Fold in flour mixture in three batches. Stir in apples with vanilla. [Note: Batter will be extremely thick.]
  4. Spoon mixture into baking pan. Bake about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.

For the topping

  1. Five minutes before the cake is done, combine topping ingredients in a saucepan. Melt over low heat, stirring constantly. Boil until topping coats a spoon (about 3 minutes).
  2. Turn cake out onto rack while still warm. Pour topping over cake. Allow to cool.

Deborah Rood Goldman is a longtime member and immediate past president of the Garden City Jewish Center in Garden City, NY. She is a digital communications producer on the Union for Reform Judaism's marketing and communications team.  A native New Yorker, Deborah holds a bachelor’s degree in American civilization from Brown University and a master’s degree in library science from Queens College. 


Chocolate Chip Nut Cake

Joanne Kesten Weinberg

My father, a CPA, brought home this Bundt cake recipe from his secretary, Dorothy, in the late 1960s. "Dorothy's cake" was typewritten on carbon paper, one of the first “from scratch” recipes I attempted as a pre-teen. It often required a short walk to the local grocery store for the ingredients, purchased with money saved from my allowance; I never loved chores as much as when I could splurge for baking ingredients! My favorite aspect of the recipe was incorporating the vanilla into the sour cream before adding the second batch of flour.

My husband – not a baker – once decided to surprise me with his “famous chocolate chip nut cake,” having extracted the recipe from his father-in-law - who was also his best friend.

If a recipe ever deserved to be dubbed a "family classic," this cake is it. Moist, with a bit of crumbling on the fork, it's a perennial family favorite - and as Jewish cooking expert Tina Wasserman explains, cooking with children can help connect them to our Jewish past and future. Sounds like a great reason to bake a cake!

2 sticks butter (or margarine), melted
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups flour, divided into 2 cups
1 pint sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons baking soda
4 teaspoons baking powder
10 oz. chocolate chips
1/2 cup walnuts (optional)
enough extra flour to coat chips and nuts
shake confectioner's sugar
  • Preheat oven to 350°F. With an electric mixer, gradually beat together melted butter and sugar until golden. Add eggs and salt; beat thoroughly. Add two cups of flour and beat until flour is incorporated.
  • Combine sour cream and vanilla in a bowl; then add to mixture and beat until golden. Add additional two cups of flour along with baking soda and baking powder. Beat thoroughly.
  • Fold in chocolate chips and walnuts until just incorporated. Pour batter into an ungreased tube or Bundt pan.
  • Bake for 60 minutes or until done. Let cool. Before serving, dust with confectioner's sugar.

Joanne Kesten Weinberg is an art historian and researcher who loves to bake. She is an avid cookbook collector, with over 1,000 volumes in her home library. Her husband, two sons, students, family, and friends are often the recipients of her baked goods.

Queen Esther's Jaffa Poppy Seed Tea Cake with Orange Brandy Sugar Glaze

Marcy Goldman

For Purim, make this cake in miniature loaf pans (usually 12 mini loaves per baking tray) and pack 2 or 3 of them in each Purim basket. This an especially moist, fragrant cake. You can substitute half and half or orange juice (for a pareve cake) for the evaporated milk, but the milk makes for a fine-textured, delicately crumbed loaf.

1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups unsweetened evaporated milk or orange juice or half and half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon undiluted frozen orange juice or orange liqueur
2 tablespoons finely minced orange zest
1/3 cup poppy seeds
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup brandy (or ginger ale)
Zest of 1 orange, finely minced
1/2 cup sugar
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease two 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch loaf pans, one large 12-cup Bundt pan, or a 12-portion mini-loaf pan. (If using miniature loaves for a Purim basket, first spray the loaf pan generously with nonstick cooking spray, then line each mold with a paper baking cup widened to fit the loaf molds. This will make the loaves easy to remove and lend them that professional look.)

For the cake

  • Using a whisk or in an electric mixer, blend the sugar and oil. Beat in the eggs. Stir in the evaporated milk, vanilla, frozen orange juice, zest, and poppy seeds and beat well. Add the flour, salt, and baking powder, and blend until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s). Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, depending on the pan(s) used. When a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, the cake is done. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a cake rack.

For the glaze

South Indian Coconut Rice Pudding

Maunika Gowardhan

Did you know that India's Jews come from four distinct groups and can trace their roots there back to ancient times? As in all Jewish communities around the world, Indian Jews translated their culinary tastes and the laws of kashrut to embrace the foods of the region. Here's a recipe that's perfect for Shavuot and all year 'round.

My craving for a hearty rice pudding a few weeks back led to this gorgeous dish!

Rice puddings are a very common snack and dessert in Indian communities. My mum would cook us Indian rice pudding regularly with spices and toasted nuts. Southern Indian rice pudding, also known as payasam, is similar in ways to the kheer Indian rice pudding. Traditional payasam is made with rice and is a tad milky in consistency. There is a variety of ways to cook this dish and local communities also make a delicious version with broken or cracked wheat.

I have eaten ‘Thengai paal Payasam’ at weddings and pujas in the past. Coconut rice pudding is full of flavour, decadent, and almost always makes me go for second helpings! Topped with fried pistachios, cashew nuts, and puffy raisins; this pudding is a mouthful of gorgeousness. My favourite are the raisins, so asking mum to add extra raisins was the done thing. I have used jaggery to cook the payasam, which lends a lovely sweetness but also gives it that caramelly colour. Palm sugar or unrefined brown sugar would be a perfect alternative.

1/3 cup Basmati rice
1/2 cup full fat milk
1 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup jaggery or unrefined brown sugar
5 cardamom pods; seeds only - pounded to a fine powder
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon cashew nuts
1 tablespoon pistachios
1 tablespoon raisins
Pinch of saffron

To prepare the pudding

  • In a wide, heavy-bottom saucepan add the rice, full fat milk, coconut milk over medium heat and bring to a boil. Stir frequently.
  • Reduce to a simmer and add the jaggery and cardamom powder.
  • Cook for an hour, stirring often and scraping the bottom and sides of the pan making sure it doesn’t stick. Once the rice is cooked and the pudding is a creamy consistency turn the heat off and cover with a lid. Leave to cool slightly.

To prepare the topping

  • In a frying pan heat the butter and add cashew nuts and brown slightly. Add the pistachios and raisins and fry for a few seconds.
  • Pour the fried nuts and butter over the payasam and serve warm.

    Raised in Mumbai, Chef Maunika Gowardhan's food influences stem from traditional home cooking, and creating authentic and delicious Indian dishes full of flavour and spice. She is the author of Indian Kitchen: Secrets of Indian Home CookingMaunika’s career in Indian food, spanning over a decade, has stemmed from her love for authentic flavours, cooking techniques, and being able to share a fresh perspective on the cuisine. She regularly contributes to a number of publications, including the Sunday Times, Telegraph, and Jamie Magazine, and is the contributing editor for Vogue India where she shares all the latest on the global Indian food scene. Maunika has cooked curries with TV chef Jamie Oliver and Heston Blumenthal. 


Classic Apple Crisp

With all the apple recipes out there, it's amazing how difficult it is to find a good, basic apple crisp. You know, one of those recipes you're desperately seeking (along with applesauce) when you've just gone to the orchard with the kids, and they enthusiastically filled two very large bags with apples. 

While this version of apple crisp may seem daunting, with a fairly long list of ingredients, many are simply optional enhancements. Basically, you're looking at apples, sugar, thickener, and a touch of spice in the filling; and flour, sugar, butter, oats, and cinnamon in the topping.

3 pounds whole apples, to yield 2 pounds peeled, cored, and sliced apples; about 9 cups
1/4 cup rum, apple cider or juice, or the liquor/juice of your choice; or water
1/4 to 3/4 cup brown sugar, depending on the sweetness/tartness of your apples
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons boiled cider, optional but good
1 1/2 teaspoons Apple Pie Spice; or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon + 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg + 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour or tapioca flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quick oats
heaping 1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup brown sugar, light or dark
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) cold butter, cut in pats
1/2 cup diced pecans or walnuts, optional

Yield: 9-12 servings

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease a 9" x 9" square cake pan, or similar-size casserole pan.
  2. Slice the apples about 1/4" thick. Toss them with the remaining filling ingredients, and spread them in the pan.
  3. To make the topping, whisk together the flour, oats, salt, sugar, cinnamon, and baking powder.
  4. Add the cold butter, working it in to make an unevenly crumbly mixture. Stir in the nuts, if you're using them.
  5. Spread the topping over the apples in the pan.
  6. Set the pan on a parchment- or foil-lined cookie sheet, to catch any potential drips. Bake the crisp for about 60 minutes, till it's bubbling and the top is golden brown.
  7. Remove it from the oven, and allow it to cool for at least 20 minutes before serving. If you serve the crisp hot/warm, it may be quite soft. If you wait till it's completely cool, it'll firm up nicely. A good compromise is to wait for it to cool completely, then reheat individual portions briefly in the microwave. Vanilla ice cream is a tasty accompaniment.


Cooking Tips

  • To make individual crisps, grease eight 8-ounce capacity baking dishes, and proceed with the recipe accordingly, baking the smaller crisps for 45 to 55 minutes.

Pumpkin Parmesan Rugelach

These savory little pastries are a fun alternative to their sweet counterparts, and are a great way to enjoy pumpkin in something other than pie. Delicious for Shabbat, to serve in the sukkah and to celebrate Simchat Torah.

(Psst: Prefer a sweet rugelach? Try this recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Rugelach.)

2 cups pastry flour blend
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, diced
1 cup cream cheese, diced
2 tablespoons garlic oil or plain olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion (1 small onion)
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon chili powder
1 cup pumpkin purée
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 large egg

Yield: 32 rugelach

To make the pastry 

  1. Combine the flour and salt. Work in the butter and cream cheese until the mixture comes together.
  2. Form the dough into two disks, wrap them in plastic, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

To make the filling

  1. Heat the olive oil in a pan set over medium heat. Add the onion, sage, and chili powder.
  2. Cook until the onions are translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the pumpkin, salt, and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes longer, until the purée has become a bit drier. Cool to room temperature.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease two baking sheets, or line with parchment paper.
  4. On a well-floured surface, roll one disk of pastry into a 14" circle.
  5. Spread half the filling onto the circle. Sprinkle 1/4 cup Parmesan and 1/4 cup walnuts evenly over the pumpkin.
  6. Cut the dough into 16 wedges. Roll each wedge tightly, starting at the wide end, and bend into a crescent.
  7. Place the crescents on one of the prepared baking sheets.
  8. Repeat with the remaining pastry and filling.
  9. Combine the egg with 1 teaspoon water and brush it onto the rugelach.
  10. Bake the rugelach for 25 to 27 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven, and transfer to a rack to cool. Serve warm, or at room temperature. Store at room temperature, tightly wrapped, for several days; freeze for longer storage.


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