Religion & Jewish Life

Luscious Sukkot desserts make most of seasonal fruits

While most people equate Sukkot with autumn vegetables, I picture the holiday as a tea party. Among Jews who build sukkot (huts), the evening meal is the most popular time to gather inside these modern-day harvest huts, but I much prefer spending afternoon hours inside a sukkah with a favorite book and a sweet treat.

Held at the end of the growing season, Sukkot began in ancient Israel as a harvest festival. Just before the crops were gathered, Jews erected huts adjacent to the edges of their fields and lived inside for a week.

Even in a world where food is gathered in supermarkets, many Jews still build sukkot in their backyards or attach them to one side of their homes. Sometimes they share a communal sukkah constructed at their synagogues.

A contemporary sukkah is a quickly assembled shed made from wood or other materials. It has a lattice-work roof that supports greenery. This allows sunshine and moonlight to filter inside.

While people no longer live inside their sukkot, it is customary, weather permitting, to eat as many meals as possible inside the huts.

My favorite part of social gatherings revolves around dessert. Over time I’ve gravitated to desserts typical of Sukkot celebrations — those composed of baked fruit such as pears, plums and late-season berries.

Fruits that are abundant in seeds — notably pomegranates — also are popular in Sukkot baking. Their plentiful seeds symbolize fertility and hopes for a bountiful harvest.

Another group of dessert recipes popular at Sukkot are pastries that call for an etrog, a citrus fruit with a heady lemony scent. Known in English as a citron, an etrog is one of the four species that Jews wave in each of the four directions of the globe during Sukkot.

The other three species are contained in a lulav, which is made of three myrtle twigs, two willow twigs and a palm frond. Together all four represent God’s dominion over Creation.

Because of the etrog’s role in Sukkot ritual, Orthodox and Conservative Jews usually don’t cook with them until after Sukkot ends. Instead, many traditional Sukkot pastry recipes call for lemon juice and zest.

The following recipes were developed by Linda Morel.


(Dairy or Pareve)

This seasonal dessert is a variation on the wildly popular apple crisp.


No-stick vegetable spray

4 firm but ripe pears, such as Bosc

2 plums

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

Dash of salt


Coat a 10-inch, deep dish pie pan with no-stick spray. Cut pears into wedges. Skin and core the wedges.

Cut plums into wedges. Remove the skin and discard the pits. Cut pear and plum wedges into thin slices, about 1/8 inch thick. Place fruit in a large mixing bowl, add remaining ingredients and mix gently with a wooden spoon until well incorporated.

Spoon fruit into prepared pie pan.



1/2 cup unsalted butter or margarine at room temperature

1 cup walnuts, chopped

1 cup dark brown sugar

3/4 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Optional accompaniment: vanilla ice cream, or coconut or raspberry sorbet


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place topping ingredients into a medium-sized bowl. With your hands, mix ingredients together until crumbly. Sprinkle on top of pears and plums.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until topping browns and fruit is heated through. Cool to warm.

Using a serving spoon, place spoonfuls of Pear and Plum Crisp on dessert plates, keeping topping in place. It’s impossible to cut into even pieces. Serve with ice cream or sorbet, if using. Yield: 8 servings



(Dairy or Pareve)

Original recipes for pound cake called for a pound each of butter, flour and sugar, which is how this pastry acquired its name. This recipe is smaller in scale. An etrog can be used in place of lemon, if desired.

2 aluminum loaf pans (8-by-3 1/2-by-2 1/2″)

No-stick vegetable spray

1/2 pound (2 sticks) sweet butter at room temperature (if using margarine, keep refrigerated.)

1/2 pound sugar, about 1 cup

3 large eggs at room temperature

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel, or more, if desired

1/4 teaspoon lemon extract

1/2 pound flour, about 1 1/4 cups


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously coat aluminum pans with no-stick spray.

Place butter (or margarine) in a large mixing bowl and beat until it turns pale yellow and almost fluffy, about 2 minutes on an electric mixer’s high speed.

Add sugar a little at a time and beat until mixture appears fluffier. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the lemon juice, lemon peel and lemon extract, mixing until well incorporated.

Mix in the flour a little at a time, scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl a few times. Beat until well incorporated.

Pour half of the batter into each prepared pan. Place them inside the oven and bake for 40 minutes, or until tops of cakes are light brown and a tester inserted into the middle of each cake comes out clean. Cool to warm and slice or serve at room temperature. Cake freezes well. Yield: about 10 slices




Representing an abundant harvest, the seeds of pomegranates are difficult to handle. This recipe is an easy way to incorporate this festive fruit into Sukkot celebrations.

12 cups of pomegranate juice (found at most supermarkets)

12 cinnamon sticks

3/4 teaspoon ground cloves

4 tablespoons sugar


Place the ingredients into a medium-sized saucepan. Cover the pan and simmer on a low flame for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove cinnamon sticks with a slotted spoon and place on a plate. Pour mulled juice into tea cups, preferably glass to show off the pomegranate’s glorious color. Place a cinnamon stick into each cup and serve immediately.

To serve in a sukkah, carefully pour the mulled juice into two thermos bottles to keep it warm. Don’t forget to bring the cinnamon sticks with you. Yield: 12 servings.