Classic holiday desserts can be updated

(Shutterstock photo)

Shabbat Shalom! Sadly the summer is almost over and it’ll soon be time to start some serious holiday baking. Since the High Holidays are late this year, there’s time to experiment with some classic recipes or perhaps try some new ones.

Little Book of Jewish Sweets by Leah KoenigTwo recipes this week – Mocha Black and White Cookies and Honey Apple Cake come from Little Book of Jewish Sweets by Leah Koenig. The book was just released this month and is available online at Amazon and Indigo.

Max Gelkopf, 23, a second-year medical student at McMaster University has been baking since he was 12 years old. His Matcha Green Tea Scone recipe, one of several scone recipes he has developed, is featured in Millennial Spotlight this week.


Little Book of Jewish Sweets encompasses 25 classic Jewish desserts that span both Ashkenazi and Sephardic traditions. Koenig discusses the cultural roots of the recipes, but she also serves up all kinds historical culinary tidbits. For instance, the Sacher Tort, the decadent chocolate dessert that originated in central Europe in the 1830s, was the brainchild of Franz Sacher, a Jewish baker.

The Mocha Black and White Cookie recipe was inspired by the classic Black and White iced cookies that were a showcase classic in many a Jewish bakery in Canada and the United States. Baby boomers may recall eating this large soft cake-like cookie.

Koenig has revamped this recipe, by reducing the size of the cookie and infusing it with a mocha flavour. Her recipe – it calls for butter or margarine – makes a sweet ending for a holiday meal.

Ashkenazi Jews mark the New Year by dipping apples in honey, and so honey cake and/ or an apple dessert tend to be Rosh Hashanah dessert staples. Koenig’s Honey Apple Cake combines the best aspects of both desserts. She says the cake is even better on the second day.




1 1/2cup all-purpose flour, sifted

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp kosher salt

6 tbsp unsalted butter, or non-hydrogenated margarine at room temperature

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg plus 1 yolk

1/3 cup strong brewed coffee, cooled

11/2 tsp vanilla extract


2 1/2 cups icing sugar, sifted

3 tbsp strongly brewed coffee, cooled plus more if needed

1 tsp vanilla extract

milk or almond milk, as needed (optional)

2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 tsp instant coffee granules


Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Using a stand mixer or a hand-held electric mixer beat the butter and granulated sugar at medium speed until the batter is light and fluffy. Add the egg, yolk, coffee and vanilla, and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture in 2 additions on low speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl, as necessary.

Place rounded tablespoons of the cookie dough 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake, rotating the sheets halfway through the baking, until the cookies are gently puffed and the tops are firm, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Remove the sheets from the oven and carefully transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing: Stir together the icing sugar, brewed coffee and vanilla in a medium bowl until a thick icing forms. The mixture should spread easily, but should not be loose and liquidy. If necessary, add milk 1 tsp at a time until the desired consistency is reached.

Transfer about half the icing to a separate bowl. Add the cocoa powder and instant coffee to one of the bowls and stir to combine. If necessary, add milk 1 tsp at a time until desired consistency is reached.

Once the cookies are completely cooled, set the wire racks over a piece of parchment paper.

Using a butter knife or small offset spatula, carefully glaze one half of the flat side of each cookie with the lighter icing. Repeat on the other half of the cookie with the chocolate icing. Let the glazed cookies set on the racks for a few minutes.

Serve at room temperature. Store the cookies in a covered container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Honey Apple Cake from Little Book of Jewish Sweets by Leah Koenig



2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground allspice

1/2 tsp ground cloves

3/4 tsp kosher salt

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup strong brewed coffee

11/3 cups packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup honey

3 large eggs

11/2 tsp vanilla extract

4 cups finely chopped, peeled baking apples (3 or 4 medium)

Icing sugar for serving


Preheat the oven to 350°F [180°C] and lightly grease a 10-inch, bundt pan.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, 1 1/2 tsp of the cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, and salt into a large bowl.

In a stand mixer or if using a handheld electric mixer, beat the oil, coffee, 1 cup of the brown sugar, and the honey on medium speed until the ingredients are combined and the batter is fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla, beating to combine after each addition and scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add the flour mixture in two additions, beating on low speed until it is just combined.

Stir together the apples, the remaining 1/3 cup brown sugar, and the remaining 1 tsp cinnamon in a medium bowl.

Spread about half of the batter evenly into the prepared bundt pan and spoon the apple mixture evenly over the top. Spread the remaining batter over the apples. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the centre comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. (Start checking at 50 minutes to avoid over-baking.)

Remove the cake from the oven. Set the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes to allow the apples inside to cool and set.

To unmold the cake, run a sharp knife between the cake and the pan, then gently invert the cake onto a wire rack to cool completely. Just before serving, transfer the cake to a serving plate and dust the top with icing sugar.

Serve at room temperature. Store covered at room temperature for up to 5 days, or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 months.


Max Gelkopf


Gelkopf and his father, Dr. Marvin Gelkopf, a family physician, have been baking together for years. Their website, The Science of Baking – a father & son laboratory, features a wide selection of recipes with thorough baking instructions. The posts include multiple photos to illustrate the steps in the preparation of the various baked goods.

Max said that he developed a bit of a scone addiction a couple of summers ago. “It began when a colleague of mine suggested I try the scones at the coffee shop around the corner from work. Within a week, I had tried nearly every flavour…Naturally, as the curious person I am, I started looking up [scone] recipes. After trying a few, I settled on the Blueberry Lemon Scone from Sally’s Baking Addiction. Based on some helpful suggestions from friends and a couple of my own ideas, I tweaked this recipe slightly and played around with the flavours. My scone addiction has prompted me to expand my university kitchen. I now own my own food processor.”

Matcha Green Tea Scones (Max Gelkopf photo)



2 tbsp. boiling water

4 tbsp good quality matcha green tea powder, divided

2 cups all-purpose flour (plus extra for counters)

6 tbsp granulated sugar

2 and 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup (115 g) unsalted butter, frozen (Place it in the freezer about 20 minutes before starting the scones, and leave it there until it’s time to use it)

scant 1/2 cup heavy cream (whipped cream- 35 percent)

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 large egg

For the Glaze

1 cup icing sugar

2 to 3 tbsp milk

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract (or 1/2 of a vanilla bean, seeded)


Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Whisk the boiling water with 2 tbsp of green tea to create a tea concentrate. Let it cool on the counter.

In a large bowl, mix the remaining tea with the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, whisk the cream, vanilla, cooled tea concentrate and the egg.

Remove the butter from the freezer and grate it by hand or in a food processor. Add the grated butter to the dry ingredients. Use a pastry cutter (or fork) to incorporate the butter. Pour the wet ingredients over the butter mixture and incorporate all the ingredients with a rubber spatula. Do not over-work the dough.

On a floured work surface, shape the dough into a long rectangle. Cut the dough vertically down the middle to create 2 halves. Divide each piece vertically. Cut each of the four pieces horizontally to create 8 even pieces. Cut each piece diagonally for a total of 16 scones.

Place them on the prepared baking sheets. Bake 12 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven. Cool the scones on a wire rack.

For scones on demand, separate the pre-cut diagonal pieces with parchment paper and freeze them in an air-tight container. They can be stored in the freezer for a few weeks. Add two minutes to the baking time when baking the frozen dough.


In a separate bowl mix together the sugar, milk and vanilla until the mixture is smooth. Top the cooled scones with the glaze.