A basic primer on what Rosh Hashanah is, for everyone.
Chef Michael Solomonov was a featured speaker at the Union for Reform Judaism's 2017 Biennial in Boston, December 6-10, 2017.
Honey cake is traditionally eaten for Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year—the honey’s sweetness symbolizes our wishes for a sweet year. This is my mother's recipe, which she makes in Israel, freezes, and sends to me in the mail. I’ve stopped reminding her that I’m a chef and accept the package gratefully. The cake holds up really well and is very easy to make. I love a slice with coffee in the afternoon, but this cake also works in savory applications—think goat cheese spread on top, beneath a piece of seared foie gras, or—don’t tell your grandma—with chopped liver.
For dessert, we serve the cake with apple confit; apples that have been cooked very slowly in syrup until they are a beautiful, translucent amber color with an incredible jelly-like texture. Treated this way, the apples keep well in the fridge and I love to have them around during the fall.
For the Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350°F, with a rack in the middle. Line two 5-by-9 inch loaf pans with oiled parchment paper. Combine the flour and baking soda in a mixing bowl and whisk well. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a hand mixer and a big bowl), combine the eggs, sugar, honey, coffee, canola oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and cinnamon. Mix on low speed until blended. Add the flour mixture and continue mixing just until combined.
- Divide the batter evenly between the prepared loaf pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
For the Apples
- Preheat the oven to 275°F. Toss the apple slices with sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, honey, and cloves. Arrange in a single layer in an ovenproof skillet or a baking pan. Add enough water to just cover the apples. Press a sheet of parchment onto the surface of the water.
- Put the skillet over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer, cover tightly in foil, and transfer to the oven. Bake until the apples are just tender, about 1 hour. Cool to room temperature, transfer to a lidded container, and chill until cold. Serve apples on top of a slice of honey cake.
Excerpt from ZAHAV by Michael Solomonov. Copyright © 2015 by Michael Solomonov, Steven Cook. Photography © 2015 by Mike Persico. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Chef Michael Solomonov was born in Israel and grew up in Pittsburgh. He and Steven Cook are the co-owners of CookNSolo Restaurants, home to some of Philadelphia's most distinctive culinary concepts, including Zahav, Federal Donuts, Abe Fisher, Dizengoff, Rooster Soup Co., and Goldie. They are a combined four-time James Beard Award Winners, including the 2016 "Best International Cookbook" and "Book of the Year" awards for their first cookbook, Zahav, and a 2011 "Best Chef Mid-Atlantic" win for Solomonov and who in May, was named the 2017 JBF's "Outstanding Chef".