Simchat Torah – a time to celebrate

My childhood memories of Simchat Torah revolve around attending the jubilant celebrations at my grandparents’ synagogue, the old Bais Yankev Shul in north-end Winnipeg with my younger sister Rhonda.

We joyfully marched in a circular procession with all the other children, proudly waving our flags impaled with shiny red apples. Afterward, we happily played outside the shul with our friends, kicking up the piles of golden autumn leaves, excited that we were allowed to stay up so late. The shul is no longer standing, my grandparents are no longer alive, but these poignant, colourful memories still flash clearly through my mind, like photographs from a slide show.

On Simchat Torah, which means “Joy of the Torah,” the last passage in the Torah is read and then immediately the first passage in the Torah is read. Thus, there is an unbroken cycle of reading Judaism’s holiest book, marking the ending and beginning anew of the annual reading cycle of the Torah.

Certain recipes have become Simchat Torah traditions. Cabbage rolls are often served because their cylindrical shape symbolizes the shape of the scrolls of the Torah. Other scroll-shaped foods that are popular are blintzes placed side-by-side on a plate to resemble the Torah scrolls, as well as plump, fruit-filled strudels. Of course, recipes that contain apples are always popular for Simchat Torah.

So roll up your sleeves and prepare some of these terrific rolled dishes that will be welcomed by family and friends for your Simchat Torah celebrations. Let the good food roll!


The late Lillian Kaplun was a culinary icon on the Toronto cooking scene, definitely a legend in her own time. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to meet her in person, but many Torontonians have told me that her recipes were “the best!” and that they learned to cook and bake from Lillian. To honour her memory, here are two recipes from Lillian Kaplun’s cookbook For the Love of Cooking and Baking (1987).

Her blintz recipe incorporates the Torah-shaped scrolls filled with apples, symbolizing two special symbols associated with this joyous holiday. The variation she suggests following her recipe for cabbage rolls includes something unique – adding leftover honey cake to sweeten the sauce.

It’s possible you’ll even hear Lillian’s voice as you prepare her recipes, coaching you carefully through the steps, always the teacher guiding her students. Her memory lives on through her recipes. Enjoy…


4 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 to 3 cups water
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. oil

On mixmaster in large mixer bowl, beat 4 eggs on high speed, add 2 cups water and blend – do not overbeat. On low speed, add flour and salt. Add oil, then gradually turn up the speed to high and blend thoroughly. Add the third cup of water if desired. The consistency should look like rich milk. If mixture is lumpy, put through a strainer. The secret of making thin, tender blintzes is to watch the heat of the pan carefully.

Heat a 6-inch cast iron or aluminum skillet, grease lightly but completely with a piece of cheesecloth dipped in oil, making sure no moveable oil remains in pan. Hold handle of pan with your left hand and with a cup pour on just enough batter to cover bottom of pan – any excess batter should be poured back into mixing bowl immediately. Fry on one side only. If the heat is right (should be moderate) the blintz should start to curl and no moisture remains in centre of batter. Invert on linen towel, ready for filling.

Note: The blintz should be inverted cooked side up.

N.B. Keep stirring batter.

Apple filling:
1 egg white
1 1/2 cups finely chopped apples
4 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3 tbsp. brown sugar
3 tbsp. melted butter
Beat egg white until it stands in soft peaks. Fold in apples, sugar and cinnamon. Fill blintzes and arrange on buttered cookie sheet. Sprinkle with brown sugar and butter. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes. Makes about 8.


1 large head cabbage
2 lb. ground beef chuck
1 medium onion, grated
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 1/2 tsp. salt
few grating fresh pepper
1/2 tsp. monosodium glutamate (Accent)
1/2 cup beef stock or water
2 tsp. prepared mustard
1/4 cup catsup
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce (available without anchovies)
1/2 cup rice
1 large tin Italian tomatoes
1 large tin tomato soup
1 cup sugar (brown or white)
juice of 2 lemons

Pull off tough outer leaves from cabbage and cut out the bottom core of the head with a paring knife. Cook in boiling salted water to cover, about 5 minutes or until leaves separate easily. Invert and drain well. Separate the individual leaves and dry well.

Combine the meat with the next 10 ingredients and beat well in mixmaster for 10 to 12 minutes. Place a heaping tablespoon of meat mixture in centre of each cabbage leaf and roll up, tucking in the ends securely. In pot place layer of shredded cabbage, layer of cabbage rolls, layer of sauce. Repeat until all is used.

Cook for 2 hours on top of stove in tightly covered pot over low heat. Remove cover and bake for 2 hours at 275 degrees. Sprinkle with paprika. Makes about 30 rolls. Make a day ahead for special flavour.

• Cook with sliced tart apple, unpeeled, or add sweet relish, sweet mixed pickles, gherkins, chiles, bay leaf, or pieces of leftover honey cake.

• For sweeter rolls sprinkle layer of raisins and dot with honey.

Glaze for Cabbage Rolls:

Strain sauce from cabbage rolls after they have been cooked. Mix together 2 level tablespoons cornstarch with 1/3 cup water. Add to sauce, add 1 tbsp. lemon juice. Cook until clear. Add 1/2 tsp. red food colouring. Pour over cabbage rolls.


Jamie Geller, author of Recipes from the Bride Who Knew Nothing (Feldheim), suggests this quick and easy recipe for Deli Roll for Simchat Torah. Jamie writes, “I never heard of deli rolls until I hit the kosher Shabbos scene. It was apparent that everyone I visited knew how to make them. So I figured I’d better learn if I wanted to be really kosher. I found out later that the dish has no real connection to Judaism, no mystical powers or deep significance. It just seems to have become a Shabbos standard in many homes. Torah scrolls are rolled on wooden spindles, so I choose rolled foods for my menu. These take 5 minutes to prepare – and that should make everyone happy!”


1 frozen puff pastry sheet (from a 17.3-oz. package), defrosted
1/3 cup deli mustard
4 oz. (1/4 lb.) sliced pastrami
4 oz. (1/4 lb.) sliced turkey
4 oz. (1/4 lb.) sliced corned beef
1 egg, beaten (see note below)
2 tbsp. sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease a 12×15-inch cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray.

Unfold puff pastry sheet onto prepared cookie sheet. Spread mustard over pastry sheet. Place meats over sheet in layers, first pastrami, then turkey and corned beef.  Roll dough as for a jelly roll, place seam side down and brush with beaten egg.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until slightly browned and flaking. Let stand 5 minutes before slicing and serving. Makes 8 servings.

Note: Brush with duck sauce instead of egg for a hint of sweetness.


This fabulous fruit-filled strudel is an adaptation of an old family recipe that comes from food writer Adell Shneer of Toronto. The strudel combines the seasonal flavours of apples and plums and uses oil instead of butter to keep it non-dairy – perfect to serve after a meat-based Rosh Hashanah, Simchat Torah or Shabbat meal. It originally appeared in Canadian Living Magazine, September 2004. For more holiday recipes, go to



1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups thinly sliced peeled apples
2 cups thinly sliced plums
1/2 cup raisins
2 tbsp. lemon juice
12 sheets phyllo pastry
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. icing sugar
Lemon sauce:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup water
1 tbsp.  grated lemon rind
1/3 cup  lemon juice
1 tbsp. cornstarch

Line 17×11-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

In small bowl, mix together sugar, flour and cinnamon; set aside. In large bowl, toss together apples, plums, raisins, lemon juice and sugar mixture to coat.

Keeping remaining phyllo covered with damp towel to prevent drying out, place 1 phyllo sheet on work surface. Brush lightly with oil. Layer with 5 more sheets, brushing each with oil.

Spoon half of the apple mixture along long edge in 3-inch wide strip, leaving 2-inch border on each short end. Fold short ends over filling. Starting at filling edge, roll up jelly roll style. Place, seam side down, on prepared baking sheet. Brush with oil. Make 6 diagonal cuts through phyllo top. Repeat to make second roll. (Make-ahead: Wrap rolls and baking sheet with plastic wrap; refrigerate for up to 6 hours.)

Bake in centre of 350 degree oven until pastry is golden and juices just begin to run, about 30 minutes. Let cool on pan for 10 minutes. Dust with icing sugar.

Meanwhile make the lemon sauce. In small saucepan, whisk together sugar, water, lemon rind and juice and cornstarch; bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Boil until slightly thickened and clear, about 1 minute. Let cool. (Make ahead: Refrigerate in airtight container for up to 2 days.)

To serve, cut each strudel into 6 slices; serve with lemon sauce. Makes 12 servings.


I’ve been working with Leah Ofir for the past several months planning a cooking fundraiser called Adam’s Applicious Event to take place on Nov. 4. The purpose is to raise funds for Adam’s Dream Fund, in memory of her little brother who died of cancer.

When I asked her to share a recipe with me, Leah wrote, “My Auntie Linda from England gave me this recipe to try just after I got married.  I was a complete “kitchen virgin” and if I can do this recipe, anyone can! My mum asked me to make this dessert for Rosh Hashana last year (now it’s a regular order for each holiday, including Pesach) for my aunt and cousin who are celiac, except everyone else ate it too!”

This log is ideal for Simchat Torah because it is shaped like a Torah scroll. If you’re ambitious or expecting a large crowd, double the recipe. Then place the logs side-by-side on a large rectangular platter to represent the scrolls of the Torah.


Pareve and flourless
Adapted from The Complete Cookery Course by Delia Smith

Note: For those with a compromised immune system, please note this recipe uses uncooked eggs in the filling.
6 large eggs, separated
5 oz. (2/3 cup) sugar
2 oz. cocoa powder
icing sugar

8 oz. pareve chocolate  
2 tbsp. water
2 large eggs, separated
8 oz. (1 cup) whipping cream or pareve “whipping cream”

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare a jelly roll pan (11-1/2x17x1-inch deep), oiled and lined with parchment paper.

Make the filling: Break the chocolate into pieces into a bowl and add water. Place the bowl over a pot of barely simmering water and let the chocolate to melt.  Once melted, remove from heat and mix well with a wooden spoon until smooth.

Beat egg yolks, first on their own, then into the warm chocolate mixture. Let mixture cool a bit, then whisk egg whites until stiff and fold them into the mixture. Cover the bowl and chill the fridge for about an hour.

Meanwhile, you can get on with the cake. First place the egg yolks in a bowl and whisk until they start to thicken.  Then add the sugar and continue to whisk until the mixture thickens slightly – but be careful not to get it too thick.Mix the cocoa powder into the egg yolk mixture.

Using a clean whisk and bowl, beat the egg whites to the soft peak stage. Carefully cut and fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture – gently and thoroughly. Then pour the mixture into the prepared tin.

Bake the cake on the centre shelf for 20 – 25 minutes until springy and puffy.  

When the cake is cooked, remove it from the oven, but leave it in the pan to cool (it will shrink quite a bit as it cools, but don’t worry, that’s normal)

When the cake is quite cold, turn it onto waxed paper, which has been liberally dusted with icing sugar. Peel away the parchment paper from the bottom of the cake (which is now facing upwards).  Then, spread the chocolate mousse filling over the cake.

Whip the cream softly and spread it over the chocolate filling.

Finally, gently roll up the cake to make a log shape. (Note: During the rolling up, the cake will crack, but this is normal.) Serves 8 people.

Although it’s unlikely that there will be any left, you can cover any remaining cake with an inverted bowl and keep it in the fridge.