Second chances and fresh starts are so rare in our goal-oriented, no-stops world, so the message of Rosh Hashanah is even more valuable to me than many Jewish holidays. Often described as the Jewish New Year, it’s a time to celebrate, looking back on the successes of the previous twelve months, but also looking forward to the next, hoping for the best. That’s why it’s traditional to load up on the sweet things in life- or at least, in the kitchen- to ensure a sweet year ahead. Apples and honey are of course the best place to start, albeit with an easy substitution for the honey. For the first time since being vegan, I’m so excited to finally bring a substitute that really tastes just like bee-derived nectar, but truly, any syrup or dessert dip will carry the same sweet message.
Not one to stick with the easy answer for long, it was only a matter of time before my mind started spinning, concocting some exciting new dessert. Though I may not be prepared to embrace fall just yet, the smell of those apples and spices cooking over the stove nearly convinced me to make an early break from summer. Nearly. But the truth of the matter is, while the humidity has mercifully died down for the time being, it is still quite hot, outside and in. Instead of going the whole nine yards with a heavy, rich apple baked good, it made more sense to keep things light and refreshing, in the form of a semifreddo.
Dressed to impress, with a quick drizzle of “honey” and a handful of candied almonds, this stunning dessert is almost shockingly simple. Yes, I did take a little shortcut with a whippable vegan creme to save time, but you can also substitute whipped coconut creme with no trouble at all. Merging these traditional flavors in an unconventional final course just seemed like the perfect compromise, like the two seasons meeting in harmony for once.
And did I mention? It’s easier than pie to just pour the liquid semifreddo mix into individual molds, and make show-stopping plated desserts instead!
If you ask me, there’s no reason not to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, even if you’re not Jewish. We could all use a little bit more sweetness in our lives, after all.
Apples and “Honey” Semifreddo
1 Pound Apples (About 2 Fuji), Peeled, Cored, and Roughly Chopped
2 Tablespoons Finely Diced Candied Ginger
1 Tablespoon Fresh Lemon Juice
2 Tablespoons Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1 14 – 16-Ounce Carton Vegan Whipping Creme
1 Cup Cashews, Soaked
1 6-Ounce Container Vanilla Soy or Coconut Yogurt
1/2 Cup Honey-Flavored Agave, or Amber Agave
1 Tablespoon Limoncello, Apple Brandy, or Vodka
1/2 Vanilla Bean, Split and Scraped, or 1 Teaspoon Extract
In a medium skillet, toss all of your ingredients for the apple compote together, and cook over medium-low heat for 20 – 30 minutes, stirring ocassionally, until the apples are tender and there’s no excess liquid remaining at the bottom of the pan. The delicious autumnal smell will be an indication that you’re doing something right! Just try not to eat all of the apples before you get them into the semifreddo. Let cool completely before proceeding.
To make the base, begin by whipping up your carton of creme as the box instructs, and set aside. Place your nuts and non-dairy yogurt in a blender or food processor, and puree on the highest setting. A VitaMix is recommended here for optimal smoothness, but you can certainly still do without. Just be patient, as it may take up to 10 minutes for the average food processor or blender to completely puree the cashews. Once completely smooth, add in the “honey,” liqueur of choice, and vanilla bean seeds. Blend to combine.
Add about 1/3rd of the cashew mixture to your whipped creme, and with a wide spatula, very gently fold the two together, being careful not to knock too much air out of the creme. Don’t fuss too much about streaks yet; Once it’s mostly combined, add another 1/3rd of the cashew mix, and fold again. Repeat with the remainder, stirring until the mixture is all one even color. Very gently fold in the cooked and cooled apple compote.
Pour the semifreddo base into either a 9 x 5 loaf pan lined with plastic wrap, or a silicon loaf pan. For individual servings, I like to use jumbo silicon muffin molds. Smooth down the top with a spatula, and place on a level surface in your freeze. Let sit until frozen solid, at least 8 hours or overnight. You can also make this dessert well in advance- Up to a week, in fact! Just make sure you keep it well wrapped and covered so that it doesn’t start taking on off-flavors in the freezer.
To serve, simply unmold on a decorative plate, slice, and garnish with a drizzle of “honey” and crushed caramelized almonds as desired.
Serves 10 – 12