A Feast Before the Fast

Jewish holidays and food.  One simply goes with the other.  This is indisputable.  Certain symbolic foods and/or ingredients are sought out on special occasions, while others are avoided.  Food and observance are unconditionally linked, and it is often the case that we are either feasting or fasting, most likely the former.  And so, with the Eve of Yom Kippur at sundown on Wednesday, October 8th, we feast… before we fast (with a big feast to follow of course!).    

The final meal prior to sunset on Erev Yom Kippur provides us with the physical strength needed for the 25 hour fast of Yom Kippur.  The meal still needs to be somewhat light and easy to digest, and foods such as chicken and soup are common.  For those of you who observe this holiday, I wish you all an easy fast.

At the table where I’ll be eating tonight, the menu is as follows:

Matzoh Ball Soup

Homemade challot (traditional braided breads) served with honey

Chicken, boiled beef

Vegetables from soup – cabbage, carrots, leeks

Thinly sliced carrots cooked with honey and golden raisins

Fruit Salad (made with at least one dozen fruits, including fresh figs, mango, passion fruit, strawberries, grapes, mini kiwis, pineapple, orange and pears.  Red and golden raspberries added when serving)

Hazelnut Orange Cake (recipe to follow)

Hazelnut Orange Cake

The cake we made is a light, almost spongy cake, resembling angel food cake with its whipped egg whites and lack of butter in the batter.  Yet with all those eggs and the hazelnuts, it’s anything but tasteless.  It’s one of those cakes you cut in triangles and just eat with your hands.  Good for afternoon tea or a weekend brunch too.

Hazelnut Orange Cake

Hazelnut Orange Cake

3 2/3 cups (250 grams) ground hazelnuts, plus more to sprinkle the pan
6 eggs, separated
1 cup (225 grams) sugar
1 orange
1 Tbsp baking powder (or 1 standard sachet of levure chimique)
pinch of salt 
pinch of sugar
nob of butter for pan

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius).  Grease a round cake pan (10″ or 26 cm) with butter, either using your fingers or on a napkin or the butter wrapper itself.  Sprinkle a generous handful of ground hazelnuts into the pan and shake, to coat the pan evenly, covering all of the butter.

In a large bowl, blend the egg yolks and sugar vigorously to get a shiny and creamy homogenous mix.  Add the zest from the orange half, the ground hazelnuts, the baking power (or 1 packet of levure chimique) and the juice from the orange half.  Blend, start slowly to avoid a messy apron!    

With egg whites in another large bowl, add a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar.  Whip eggs whites to a frothy consistency.  Fold the egg whites into the hazelnut mixture in two parts.  Mix well, and pour in to prepared pan.  Bake for about 30 minutes, but check after 25 minutes to see if it is done.  The cake will get a nice dark golden color and rise nicely in the pan.


Hazelnut Orange Cake


My friend, with whom I baked this cake, recommended that if and when I make it again, I might try using both ground hazelnuts and ground almonds, perhaps even 2/3 almonds to 1/3 hazelnuts.  If you try before I do, please let me know how it goes!

2 Responses to “A Feast Before the Fast”

  1. Lani says:

    How delicious your dinner menu was. I can taste the cake…..smell the aromas of the challah and soup…
    I can see all 12 fruits that make the wonderful fruit salad. Love it…..

  2. Hertz Hasenfeld says:

    Great Page! Well written, captures the mood as well as the flavor of the meal.

    Good luck with your new endeavor

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