Date, Apple and Almond Desserts for a Sweet Rosh Hashanah

Pastry chef Tina Martinov serves up recipes for your Rosh Hashanah holiday table that make the best of local, seasonal fruits

Pecan Cookies.
Pecan Cookies. Dan Perez

In early summer, Tina Martinov, the pastry chef of Tel Aviv sibling restaurants Dok and Ha’achim, served an heirloom-apricot and almond-cream tart, meringues with nectarine sorbet and a peach compote flavored with white savory (micromeria fruticosa). Summer’s end is a race to preserve the last of the season’s fruits. Martinov’s latest passion is making fruit vinegars with fig, prickly pear (“sabra”), pecan and raspberry.

Martinov, who was born in Moscow in 1988, immigrated to Israel with her family when she was 2 and grew up in Jerusalem. Her first job as a pastry chef was at the city’s David Citadel Hotel, after which she worked for four years, as a cook and pastry chef, in the Machneyuda restaurant group.

“We quickly discovered that we speak the same language,” says Asaf Doktor, a chef who owns Dok and Ha’achim (“the brothers,” in Hebrew) together with his brother Yotam. Martinov has worked for the Doktors for two years.

“We both want to create simple, seasonal dishes without too many components,” Asaf says. “Tina has a knack for handling ingredients perfectly without any pyrotechnics. She has an old-school soul, and we have a mutually inspiring culinary dialogue going on.”

Date cake

This rich, moist treat was inspired by sticky toffee pudding, a popular English dessert based on dried dates, but it’s also wonderful with prunes or other dried fruit.

“It was born of the need for a dessert in winter, when few fruits are in season,” Martinov says.

“At first I was using local dried figs of the local variety. Now I use Medjool dates, and I serve the cake with sesame and silan (date molasses) ice cream.” Vanilla or coffee ice cream are great, too.

Date Cake
Dan Perez

 

Ingredients (for a 28-centimeter-round cake pan)

 

For the cake:

3/4 cup, packed) pitted Medjool dates

1 3/4 cup water

2 tsp. baking soda

1 cup flour

2 T. baking powder

1/2 cup softened butter

1/2 cup minus 1 T. sugar

1 tsp. salt

1 egg

 

For the sauce:

1/2 cup minus 3 T. brown sugar

4 T. heavy cream

2 T. butter

Pinch salt

4 tsp. brandy or whiskey

 

Preparation (cake):

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Grease and flour the pan.

Place the dates and water in a small pot and bring to a boil. Add the baking soda, stir and cook over medium heat five minutes. Remove from heat, cover for 10 minutes and mix with a stick or hand blender until smooth.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a clean bowl.

Place the butter, sugar and salt in a bowl and beat until smooth. Add the egg and beat well. Add the date mixture and mix well, then add the flour mixture and combine into a batter.

Pour the batter into the floured pan and bake for 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out covered with a few moist crumbs.

Remove from oven and cool for a half hour. With a skewer or fork, poke holes in the top of the cake.

 

Preparation (sauce):

Heat the cream, sugar, butter and salt in a small pot over low heat until it boils. Add the brandy or whiskey and remove from heat. Pour the sauce evenly over the cake, let it sit for 30 minutes before serving. Best served warm, the cake will keep, refrigerated, for about a week.

 

Pecan cookies

Small crispy treats dusted with powdered sugar, these are a surprising and addictive sweet-and-salty pleasure.

“I found this recipe in a forgotten cookbook that belonged to my husband’s family, from Georgia [the country]. It turned up in one of the boxes when we moved,” says Martinov. “I’ve been making them for every holiday, birthday or death anniversary ever since.”

 

Ingredients (about 50 cookies):

200 grams softened butter

3 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons real maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

2 cups white flour

2 cups pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

1 cup powdered sugar

 

Preparation:

In a bowl, combine the butter, sugar, maple syrup and salt until smooth.

Combine the flour with the pecans and add them to the butter mixture. Stir until evenly combined and refrigerate for two hours.

Shape the dough into small balls (2.5 centimeters in diameter), place on a baking sheet lined with parchment and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown.

Remove from oven, let the cookies cool completely before placing them in a tin. Add the powdered sugar to the tin and shake gently to coat the cookies.

The cookies will keep for about a week, unrefrigerated.

 

Apple terrine in phyllo pastry

“When my great-grandmother died, three years ago, I began having this need to make jams and apple cakes,” says Martinov.

“The jams reminded me of her small pots that were always bubbling with concentrated flavors, and she also really loved apple pastries. For six months I baked apples like a crazy person, in every way possible. I’m not sure just what I was trying to recreate, but this has remained one of my favorite recipes from that time. The long, slow baking of the layered apples lends it a wonderful, marmalade-like texture.”

Apple terrine in phyllo pastry.
Dan Perez

 

Ingredients:

9 large green (Granny Smith) apples

3 tablespoons softened butter

2 tablespoons Calvados (optional)

1 tablespoon sugar

150 grams good-quality phyllo pastry, made with butter

 

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Evenly combine the butter, sugar and Calvados (if using).

Grease a large rectangular (12 x 26 cm) baking pan and line with a double layer of baking paper.

Peel and core the apples, then slice thinly (3 millimeters) with a mandoline.

Layer the apple slices on the baking pan, spreading a little of the butter mixture on each layer.

Cover with baking paper and two layers of aluminum foil, closing well so that it is airtight.

Bake for an hour. Remove the aluminum foil, reduce the heat to 160 degrees and bake for another hour.

The apples are ready when the top layer is caramel colored. Remove from oven, cool to room temperature (without removing the baking paper). Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the phyllo so that it is large enough to cover the pan with the apples. Place baking paper on a flat baking sheet and place the phyllo on it. Perforate the dough with a fork, cover with another piece of baking paper and place another baking sheet on top of it (to keep the dough from rising).

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until deep golden. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature.

Remove the baking paper covering the apples and place the baked phyllo on top of the apples: Place a tray or platter on top of the baking sheet and carefully turn over. Remove the baking paper. To give the apples a little shine, you can brush them with some slightly warmed apricot jam. Serve at room temperature. Will keep an additional day in the refrigerator.