A Less-Sweet New Year, For Desserts, That Is

A Less-Sweet New Year, For Desserts, That Is

A pastry chef offers some non-traditional options.

Every kid in Hebrew school can tell you what food Rosh HaShanah is about: apples and honey. But with the widespread criticism of America’s hyper-sugared diet (see New York City’s tax on sugary sodas), the sophisticated Jewish baker can whip up something a little less traditional, and a little less sweet this year.

Paula Shoyer is all about making classic Jewish desserts sophisticated and fresh. “Kosher chefs today want to have a combination of the old and new,” said Shoyer, a kosher pastry chef based in Maryland, “not ignoring the past, but something a little more elegant and contemporary.”

And that’s exactly what Shoyer strives to accomplish in her new book “The Kosher Baker: 160 dairy-free desserts from traditional to trendy.” The book, available online and in stores now, presents classic Jewish desserts and new innovations — all made pareve so religious Jews can eat them after a meat meal.

The book includes recommended lists of tools and ingredients, as well as a “Ten Commandments of Kosher Baking.” Number four: “Always bake for more people than you invited — people show up.”

Shoyer said that she would see desserts and foods and reimagine them as pareve dishes, making appropriate substitutions for butter, cream, yogurt and other baking ingredients.

“There’s been an explosion of soy-based products that make our lives so much easier,” said Shoyer, who spent over four years researching and testing recipes for the book. “Soy milk, rice milk, nut milks, soy cream cheese, soy sour cream.”

Shoyer, who was working as a lawyer when she took a pastry course in Paris for fun, eventually began her own dessert catering business in Geneva.

Next week, when the High Holy Days roll around and honey — for a sweet new year — makes its way into every dish, you might want to look for a lighter, more balanced, and yes, untraditional, dessert.

“This year’s holiday we’re still very deep in summer fruit and berry season,” said Shoyer, noting that Rosh HaShanah falls early in the calendar year. “It’s a nice change for people to stretch out summer.”

She also suggests making cinnamon palmiers — simple cookies that can be made with sugar, cinnamon and store-bought puff pastry. “They have the look of the fall but just a little bit different,” she said. Other suggestions include her babka cupcakes or rugelach, which can be prepared in advance of the holiday and frozen.

“The Kosher Baker” (Brandeis University Press) is available now online and in bookstores.


Makes about 32
2 cups flour
1 ¼ cups plus ¼ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 eggs plus one egg yolk
(reserve white)
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
¼ teaspoon of sugar
Whisk together the flour, 1 ¼ cups of the sugar, baking powder and lemon zest in a large bowl.
Add two of the eggs and plus one egg yolk, vanilla, lemon juice and rosemary.
Mix together with a wooden spoon or a hand mixer until combined.
Divide the dough in half. Form two logs, each about 3×8 inches, and place, several inches apart, on a baking sheet. Brush the tops with the reserved egg white. Sprinkle the remaning ¼ teaspoon sugar on top.
Bake on 350 F for 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes, and cut into slices.
Lay the slices back on the baking sheet, and bake an additional 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool.

4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
½ cup orange juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 cups peeled and grated carrot (about 5 carrots)
12 ounces pareve cream cheese
[Tofutti brand is widely available]
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ¼ teaspoons cinnamon
3 tablespoons honey
7 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 ½ tablespoons soy milk
Beat the eggs and sugars together for about 3 minutes.
Add the oil, orange juice and vanilla and mix.
Mix together the flours, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a separate bowl.
Add half of the mix to the wet ingredients and mix to combine.
Stir in the remaining dry ingredients, and the grated carrot.
Divide the batter between two, greased, 9-inch cake pans.
Bake on 350 F for 40 minutes, then cool in the pans for 10 minutes until removing to a cooling rack.
Beat the cream cheese, vanilla, cinnamon and honey together.
Add the sugar 1/3 at a time until well combined. Add the soy milk and beat until creamy.
Slice each of the cool cakes in half and layer — filling with the frosting – before spreading the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake.
Keep refrigerated.