Monday, September 26, 2011

Honey caramel Apple crisp for Rosh Hashanah

The weather is turning crispier, the sky is cool blue and the leaves are just beginning to turn dry… it begins to smell like fall.  This time of the year bring us the wonderful harvests of the long summer, the musty smell of re-used school books and the Jewish New Year – Rosh Hashanah.    Although I have very fond memories of my grandparent’s house and Rosh Hashanah gatherings, I rarely keep up with tradition myself.  Maybe I should? 
A few days ago I received a few requests for a simple apple and honey dish to welcome the New Year.  I was disappointed that I had not thought to do it myself.  So I immediately begun to work on something original, homey and something that anyone can make and I came up with this crisp.
Jews have a tradition of eating apples dipped in honey during the welcoming of New Year.  According to Jewish mysticism the apple represents the Shekhinah (the feminine aspect of God). It is believed that during Rosh Hashanah the Shekhinah is watching us and evaluating our deeds for the last year.  Eating honey with apples represents hope that the Shekhinah will judge us kindly and look down on us with sweetness, therefore granting us a prosperous and peaceful year ahead.
 I am very proud of this recipe; it reminds me of sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen and watching her and my mom cook endless feasts for the holidays.  It reminds me of candles that my grandfather used to light during prayers.  My kitchen smells like my mother’s apron, the scent I used to inhale when I would be only tall enough to hug her knees.   This dish signifies the warmness and generosity of our ancestral homes, despite, in most cases, very humble roots.  This may not be the prettiest dish I ever made; it does not have the complexity or fine finesse of macaroons or tarts, but it feels and smells like home and family, which is exactly where I want to be for Rosh Hashanah.

Honey Caramel Apple Crisp.
Makes 6 individual deserts or 1 large
6 tart apples like Granny Smith, Crispin or Empire, peeled, cored and sliced into thick slices
Juice of ½ lemon
8 tbs of butter cubed and at room temerature + 1 tbs for buttering the baking dishes
2 ½ cups of quick cooking oats
1 ½ cups of walnuts roughly chopped
1 cup raisins or dry currants
1/2 cup of all-propose flour
½ cup of brown sugar
¼ cup of honey

For the caramel.
1 cup sugar
½ cup honey
1 cardamom pod crushed (optional see Note)
Splash of water
½ cup of heavy cream or half-and-half
Note:  I find the “traditional” apple spices such as cinnamon, all-spice and nutmeg don’t work well with the strong taste of honey.  Cardamom provides a nice background scent without overpowering th distinct honey flavor.  Feel free to use any spices you like or none at all.

Make the caramel.  Combine sugar, honey, water and the spice and bring to a boil.  Do not stir once the mixture comes to a boil, just turn down the heat to low and swirl the sauce pan gently.  Once the mixture begins to brown, turn of the heat and pours in the cream.  The mixture will begin to bubble violently.  Place back on low heat and cook stirring with a wooden spoon for 30 seconds or until the mixture is smooth.  Let cool slightly before using.

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Butter 6 individual ramekins or one large glass or ceramic dish.  Toss the apple slices with lemon juice.  In a separate bowl, prepare the “crisp” by combining oats, flour, nuts, raisins, and the brown sugar.  Work the butter into the dry mixture with your fingers or a fork, until well combined.

Assemble the crisp.  Pour ¼ of the caramel onto the bottom of each dish.  Place the apples slices on top and top with remaining caramel.  Place the butter – oat mixture on top

Drizzle with honey.  Place the ramekins on the sheet tray covered with aluminum foil (to catch the bubbling over).  Bake for 30 min (for individual potions) or 45 min – 1 hr if making a large crisp.  When the oats are brown and crispy and the apples begin to bubble, it is ready.  Cool slightly before serving. 

I wish everyone a happy and sweet New Year!

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