Have a sweet new year with this apple honey baklava and Indian rice pudding

Indian-Inspired Slow Cooker Creamy Rice Dessert (Photo/Faith Kramer)

Sample some different High Holiday dessert traditions this year with an apple honey baklava and an Indian-inspired rice dessert made in a slow cooker.

The baklava recipe combines Sephardic, Mizrachi and Ashkenazi customs for wishes for a sweet new year.
Several Indian Jewish communities serve a creamy rice dessert known as kheer or payasam during the holidays, particularly as part of the Yom Kippur break-fast. It is also part of the Bene Israel harvest celebration on the third day of the new year.

Both recipes are parve and vegan. The rice dessert (which uses just ½ cup of basmati rice) is also gluten free.

Apple Honey Baklava with Walnuts

Makes 16 servings

  • Vegetable oil spray or ⅓ cup vegetable oil (not olive oil)
  • 2 cups plus ½ cup shelled walnuts (halves or large pieces)
  • ¼ to ⅓ cup sugar
  • ½ tsp. plus ⅛ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. plus ⅛ tsp. ground cardamom
  • 12 oz. Pink Lady, Gala or Fuji apples (2 medium-large), unpeeled
  • 9 sheets phyllo, each about 7-by-12 inches, room temperature (see note)
  • ¾ cup light-colored honey
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice
  • ½ cup water

Spray or oil bottom and sides of an approximately 7-by-11-by-2-inch baking pan.

Place 2 cups of walnuts in food processor work bowl with sugar (use ¼ cup for a more intense walnut taste, ⅓ cup for a slightly sweeter baklava), ½ tsp. cinnamon and ¼ tsp. cardamom. Pulse until pieces are about ⅛ inch. Chop remaining ½ cup walnuts into ¼-inch pieces (keep separate).

Cut apples in half and remove cores. Cut halves into ⅛-inch thick slices.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Fold one phyllo sheet in half (about 7 inches by 6 inches). Place in pan. Spray (or brush) lightly with oil. Repeat with second and third folded sheets. Tuck edges down. After spraying third sheet, scatter half of the finely chopped walnuts with spices on top. Arrange half of apple slices in single layer on top of walnuts. Top with fourth folded phyllo sheet, spraying lightly with oil. Repeat with fifth and sixth folded phyllo sheets, spraying lightly after each. Tuck in edges. Repeat walnuts and apples and top with seventh folded phyllo sheet. Spray lightly. Repeat with eighth folded sheet, spraying lightly. After placing ninth folded sheet on top, tuck in edges, press down and give the top a heavy spray of oil. Sprinkle chopped walnuts on top. Cut into 16 portions. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until golden. Cool 10 minutes before adding syrup.

While the baklava is baking, make syrup. In a saucepan combine honey and ½ cup water with remaining cinnamon and cardamom. Bring to boil over medium heat. Lower heat. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 25 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Spoon over baklava. Cool completely.

Make a few hours in advance. Store overnight at room temperature in covered baking pan. Chill, covered, for up to five days.

Note: Follow directions on phyllo package for thawing and handling instructions. Trim sheets as needed if larger.

Apple Honey Baklava with Walnuts
Apple Honey Baklava with Walnuts (Photo/Faith Kramer)

Indian-Inspired Slow Cooker Creamy Rice Dessert

Makes 6 cups

  • ½ cup white basmati rice
  • 1½ cups water
  • 2 13.5-oz. cans (regular, full fat) coconut milk
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick (about 2-3-inches long)
  • ¼ tsp. ground cardamom
  • ⅛ tsp. crumbled saffron threads, optional
  • ½ cup raisins
  • Ground cinnamon, for garnish

Soak rice in 1½ cups water for 1 hour. Drain. Place coconut milk in covered slow cooker on high for 20 minutes. Stir in rice, boiling water and salt. Stir. Cover. Cook on high for 60-90 minutes. Stir in sugar, cinnamon stick, cardamom, saffron and raisins. Cover. Cook on low for 8-10 hours until very creamy (like a very thick soup) and the coconut milk has caramelized. Mixture thickens as it cools. Place plastic wrap directly on surface. Remove cinnamon stick, garnish and serve warm, at room temperature or chilled. Best used within three days.

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