Simchat Torah has to be one of the sweetest celebrations of the year. The Torah cycle is completed and begins anew as congregants dance, sing and rejoice.
In many communities, traditional holiday foods heighten the happiness and completeness of the day. We eat symbolic foods — including items that are filled and stuffed — to focus on the success of the harvest.
Other items, such as candies and dried fruits, reflect the sweetness of the occasion.
This week’s two recipes fit right in.
Candied apples are associated with Israeli celebrations of the holiday and were fall favorites when I was growing up. This recipe gives it a twist — and a cinnamon kick.
The filled dates are drizzled with caramel or date syrup and feature pistachios and pomegranate seeds to help celebrate the harvest season.
Cinnamon Candied Apples
Makes 4 to 5 apples
4 or 5 small Fuji or Gala apples
six-inch skewers or craft sticks
vegetable oil or spray
2 Tbs. cinnamon red hot candies or cake decors
1 cup sugar
3⁄4 cup boiling water
1⁄16 tsp. cream of tartar
Wash and dry the apples. Skewer them securely through the stem end. Set aside. Line a baking tray with parchment paper, grease with oil or spray. Set aside. Fill bottom pan of double boiler (or improvised double boiler) with water, set top pan inside, making sure it does not actually touch the water below it. Put the double boiler on high heat. Once the water boils, lower and keep at a simmer.
Put the candies in a heavy-duty plastic food storage bag and seal. Crush the candies into fine bits with a rolling pin. Put the crushed candies into a saucepan. Add the sugar, boiling water and cream of tartar. Put on a low heat and allow to boil, stirring occasionally. Cover and cook until the sugar mixture reaches “hard crack” stage, about 300 degrees on a candy thermometer. (Hard crack is when a bit of the hot sugar mixture is dropped into ice water and it separates into hard, brittle threads.)
Carefully transfer the syrup to the top of the double boiler. Working quickly before the sugar mixture cools, dip the apples one at a time in the sugar mixture. Swirl them in the syrup or spoon the sugar mixture over them until they are completely coated. Place on the greased parchment paper until the glaze hardens.
The number of apples you can candy will depend on their size, how quickly you can work and how rapidly the syrup hardens in the top of the double boiler. Store the candied apples in a cool place.
Dates with Mascarpone
1 tsp. orange flower water (optional)
1⁄2 cup mascarpone cheese
16 large Medjool dates (about 1⁄2 lb.)
2 Tbs. caramel sauce or date syrup
1⁄4 cup pistachio halves or pieces
1⁄4 cup pomegranate seeds
Orange flower water, which adds a delicate citrus note, can be found in some liquor and gourmet stores, as well as in Middle Eastern markets. If using, beat it with the cheese using a fork in a small bowl until combined. Slit each date lengthwise to remove pit. Stuff each date with a generous teaspoon of the cheese mixture (or plain cheese).
Refrigerate until 20 minutes before serving. Just prior to serving, place on serving platter, drizzle with the caramel sauce or date syrup (found in stores specializing in Middle Eastern food products) and scatter nuts and pomegranate seeds on top.
Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. She blogs her food at www.clickblogappetit.blogspot.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.