Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Once a year, at Rosh Hashanah, I make a number of honey cakes to send to Jewish friends for the new year. This year I also made small round challas with raisins to send along as well. I failed to take photographs of them before wrapping them for the post, so instead, I posted a photo of my son shopping for the ingredients. The base recipe comes from Cooking With Memories, by Laura Brody, though I have altered the recipe over the fifteen years that I’ve relied on her book. Because so many people are allergic to nuts (myself included) I omit the almonds in the original recipe. I also omit the cognac as it is something we almost never have on hand and hardly seems worth investing in just to make a few cakes once a year. I don’t think the recipe suffers for it. I’ve increased the amount of raisins to 1 cup and I use both goldens and flame. Some years, I substitute crystalised ginger. The recipe is flexible and forgiving and pretty much save for burning it or under baking, it can handle what you do with it. My husband likes slices of it warmed in the microwave and then spread with cream cheese and a bit of additional honey. I’ve been known to toast slices and spread it with marmalade or blackcurrant jam.

For shipping/freezing, I wrap them tightly in wax paper, and then again in plastic wrap. This seems to work well and it is a method I use for soft breads as well. The apples keep the cake moist and it should hold up well for at least a week, though I advise keeping it refrigerated once it has been cut. A few seconds in the microwave or toaster also revives the ends gone stale.

You Will Need:

3 ½ cups flour measured after sifting
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon cloves
1 cup honey
1 cup strong coffee (instant ok)
3 tablespoons cognac
1 teaspoon vanilla (I use 2)
4 extra large eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped (I do this ahead and sprinkle with lemon juice to keep colour)
½ cup golden raisins
½ cup flame raisins
½ cup almonds for topping

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. with the rack in the centre position. (325 if using glass pans). Grease either 2 9x5 inch loaf pans, or one large 12x15 baking dish. Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and spices together in a bowl and set aside.

In a saucepan, boil the honey and coffee. Cool slightly and add vanilla and cognac. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs, oil, apples, and sugar. Mix well. Add the flour in three additions alternating with the coffee mixture. Mix in the raisins. Pour into well greased pans and sprinkle the tops with almonds if desired. Bake 1 hour or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan ten minutes then cool on rack.