This guest post comes courtesy of our author Lisa Stander-Horel, who with Tim Horel, is the co-author of Nosh on This: Gluten-Free Baking Classics from a Jewish-American Kitchen, publishing September 3 (just in time for Rosh Hashanah!). Lisa’s blog posts can usually be found at: glutenfreecanteen.com.It wasn’t the back–to-school frenzy for four children, or even the changing leaves that signaled the arrival of autumn when I was growing up. Fall arrived with a flourish when the house was being prepared for the upcoming Jewish New Year holiday, Rosh Hashanah. After the house was cleaned from top to bottom, the food preparation began. Briskets and tsimmes were braised and frozen. Honey cake and rugelach were made. Pies were rolled and the challah, though not baked at home, was reserved from the local Jewish bakery.
My father’s only assigned task was to fetch the challah from the bakery. The long line that snaked out the door gave him a chance to kibbutz with friends, wishing them l’shana tova. If we were lucky and he was in a good mood, that might mean he’d bring home babka and little butter cookies with fudge centers or even a black and white cookie.
Our Rosh Hashanah celebration was all about an abundance of foods prepared with traditional ingredients that made this holiday almost over-the-top special. Plenty of honey, apple and nuts were utilized in the family recipes. Today we might extend that to include pumpkin, pomegranate and even a variety of global fall fruits, fresh and dried.
The New Year festivities are solemn only in reflection of the year past but joyous in looking forward to what the coming year might bring. Traditions include eating challah in the round dipped in honey—to signify the seamless passing of one year to another, or challah studded with sweet, dried fruits to signify the hope for a sweet new year. Apples are also dipped in honey as part of the same tradition. Think of the use of honey as two-fold—to symbolize the hope for sweetness in the New Year and to satisfy that need for a sweet nosh.
Pecan honey fig shortbread squares are quick work, but provide an elegant and festive dessert for the holiday table. They can be baked ahead and will keep for a few days covered with foil. Slice right before serving. Using a serrated knife helps keep the squares neat. These non dairy bars will serve 9 but can be sliced into smaller bites to serve 18.
Pecan Honey Fig Shortbread Squares
Pecan Shortbread Crust
90 grams shortening (8 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (heaping)
50 grams granulated sugar (1/4 cup)
150 grams Canteen flour blend (1 cup plus 3 tablespoons)
65 grams roughly chopped pecans (1/2 cup)
Honey Fig Filling
350 grams dried whole figs (20-25)
85 grams good quality apple butter (1/4 cup)
120 grams spun honey (or any good quality honey) (6 tablespoons)
2 extra-large eggs
½ teaspoon kosher salt
340 grams roughly chopped pecans (2 cups)
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a 9×9 pan with foil.
- In a medium bowl, blend together shortening, vanilla, salt and sugar until combined. Stir in flour until the mixture comes away from the sides of the bowl. Add the pecans and mix until blended. Evenly press shortbread dough into the bottom of the foil lined pan. Bake 10-12 minutes. While the crust is baking prepare the filling.
- In a food processor, pulse the figs, apple butter, honey, eggs and salt until the mixture is combined and the figs are tiny pieces. Once the crust is out of the oven, spread the filling evenly and gently smooth with an offset spatula. Press the pecans into the filling using the offset spatula.
- Bake an additional 35-45 minutes or until the center is puffy. The center should be about 185 degrees on an instant read thermometer. Place the pan on a rack and cool completely – it will take a long time. Remove the bars from the pan using the foil and place on a cutting board. Use a serrated knife to slice into serving pieces. Makes 9 large squares or 18 smaller bars.