During the High Holidays everyone in our family eats sliced apples and honey, the traditional New Year snack, just like all the other Jewish people we know. But we also have another tradition that goes way beyond that.
I’ll call it the Hoffman Family Annual Apple pie/Apple cake Event. My Mom and her sister, my Aunt Beck, were very close and loved each other lots, but sisters will be sisters and they had this baking rivalry thing. So, before the holidays each of them would bake her special holiday dessert and announce to all who cared to listen that the pie – or cake, as the case might be – was better.
It was kind of fascinating for them to be competitive about a recipe, because although my mother loved to cook and was really good at it, Aunt Beck wasn’t much of a food person and never thought of herself as a kitchen type. In fact, my grandma, (Rachel Hoffman), who lived with Aunt Beck, did most of the cooking.
But somehow the sisters got themselves into this apple thing. Aunt Beck conceded her little sister’s culinary talents. With this one exception.
Aunt Beck’s family always raved about her apple cake.
My mother was the pie baker, so naturally my brothers and I favored the pie.
To tell you the truth, all loyalties aside, both desserts were really delicious, as are the memories of all those years when our families would visit each other and sample one or the other of them.
These days, before the Holidays come, I make both the pies and the cakes because I am in competition with no one. And the result is not only two delicious desserts but also delicious hours spent remembering my Mom and my Aunt.
Before my baking project I go to a local orchard to buy apples, always Rhode Island Greenings, which my Mom always said were the best for putting into pie or cake. In the occasional years when this variety wasn’t available I used a mixture of orchard apples, older varieties that aren’t as sweet as the ones available today in the supermarket (such as Winesap, Gravenstein, Northern Spy, Idared, Jonagold, Stayman, Gravenstein, Newton Pippin and Baldwin). If I couldn’t get to an orchard I would use Granny Smith and slice the apples thinner. Or Golden Delicious and/or Braeburn but cut down on the sugar in the recipe.
Actually, I will confess, I make more pies than cakes. Probably because that’s what I saw my mother do and for me at least, this is tradition. But also because my grandson Zev, who is kind of a picky eater, loves my apple pie more than almost anything so of course I want to have some for him when he comes to visit.
But there are always several of each, pie and cake, in my freezer, and we use them up during the course of an entire year (yes, when well-wrapped they will still be tasty in a year’s time). By September they’re done.
And then I start all over again.