An Apple a Day Keeps the Haters Away: A Vegan’s Guide to Rosh Hashanah

Yes, you read that right. I know we’re few and far between these days, but I am indeed a Jew and also a vegan. Maybe there are more of them out there, but I can’t really think of any other fellow Jewish vegans out there besides myself. I know that this would have been super helpful to me when I was starting out, so low and behold, a guide for any of you other special unicorn Jewish vegans. But, even if you’re not vegan, and just looking to reduce your carbon footprint or have allergies or something, look no further! Here are some tips I’ve come up with to keep your Jewish New Year sweet without the meat (and dairy and eggs and even honey).

Challah

Okay, so this one can be tricky. Believe me when I say I have looked long and hard for egg-free challah. One option is the Honey Challah from Breadsmith (bless), but if you’re a vegan who doesn’t eat honey this obviously wouldn’t work. But more on that later.

Alternatively, you can make your own challah, which is my own personal preference. It takes a little extra work, but honestly, totally worth the effort. We all know homemade challah trumps all other challah, and then you can impress all your relatives with your egg-free challah! And of course, it wouldn’t be Rosh Hashanah without raisin challah, so don’t forget to throw those in for extra sweetness.

This recipe is pretty legit:

Ingredients 

1 cup warm water

1 packet rapid rise yeast

3-4 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons vegetable or coconut oil

Egg replacement mixture

2 teaspoons baking

3 tablespoons warm water

3 tablespoons vegetable or coconut oil

Plus extra flour for kneading and braiding

Directions

  1. Empty your yeast packet into a small bowl. Add a pinch of sugar and pour 1 cup warm water over top and stir lightly. Let the mixture rest for 5 minutes or so until bubbly and creamy.
    After that, add 2 tablespoons of oil to the yeast mix in the same small bowl.
  2. In a large bowl, combine 3 cups of flour, 1 ½ teaspoon salt, ½ cup sugar. Whisk well.
  3. Egg replacement time: in a small bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons veggie or coconut oil, 3 tablespoons warm water and 2 teaspoons baking powder (it will fizz). Then, pour into your yeast bowl.
  4. Add the yeast and egg replacement mixtures to your bowl of dry ingredients, stirring as you pour.
  5. Mix dough with a spatula or wooden spoon, then get in there with your hands and knead until smooth.
    Add up to 1 cup additional flour until dough leaves the side of the bowl.
  6. Coat the inside of a big bowl lightly with oil and drop your ball of dough inside.
    Cover with a damp cloth, and let rise on your counter for 2 hours.
  7. After your dough has doubled in size, dump it out onto a lightly floured surface.
    Gently knead the dough to get out any big air bubbles, then braid as desired.
    Place your braided dough onto a lightly greased and foil-lined baking sheet.
    Cover with damp cloth and let rise 1 more hour.
  8. Pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees, and toss that bad boy inside for 26-32 minutes.
  9. Once it is evenly golden brown on top, take your challah out of the oven, place on a cooling rack.
    Do not cover. Allow to cool, then put it in your face.

Recipe from ChallahHub.com

Kugel

Disclaimer: before I went vegan, kugel was what I most looked forward to for the high holidays. I have a major sweet tooth and my mom makes an insane apple kugel. Needless to say, I was pretty bummed when I realized the warm, sweet deliciousness I dream about was binded together with none other than the evil, evil Satan of foods. Eggs. Ok, that was a joke, obviously. I just get really frustrated when my favorite baked goods have eggs only because they’re probably the most challenging thing to substitute.

But don’t worry. There are solutions, my friends. Luckily, we don’t need eggs to make a delicious kugel!!!! WHAT???! I know! What is this nonsense?

You have a few options here. There are a ton of egg replacers out there, and it will depend on your personal taste. I really like the Ener-G Egg Replacer, and I think it’s one of the more popular ones for baking. Honestly, you don’t taste the difference.

If you can’t find this at your local supermarket or health food store, you can totally use a flax egg. This is super easy; you’ll want to prep it a few minutes ahead of making your kugel to let it get that nice egg-y consistency. Mix 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed + 3 tablespoons water. Stir and let sit. Voila, your flax egg is done!

Apples

Apples are already vegan! Amazing! You don’t even have to make any modifications for this one.

For real though, I just wanted to point out that there are so many things you can do with apples, and they’re so yummy and plentiful in the fall. Apple pie, apple bread, or just plain apples. A fresh salad with apples would be good, too, if you like fruit in your salads. I don’t know your life.

Also, one of my favorite parts of Rosh Hashanah is that we are encouraged to try a new fruit. What better way to start the new year than this? Like seriously, what a cool tradition to have. Vegan or not, I challenge you all: find the strangest fruit you can find at the grocery store this new year. It really is a fun time, I promise.

To Bee, Or Not To Bee? The Honey Debate

One of the most contested questions among vegans is whether or not we should eat honey. For the longest time, I wasn’t even sure where I stood on the whole honey “issue.” The vote is pretty evenly split down the middle, with half of vegans avoiding the sweetener all-together, and the other half unfazed by it. And then there’s the 10 percent who if asked whether or not they eat honey respond with, “Well…” (Hey, I never said vegans were good at math).

After all that, you’re probably wondering: Eliana, what do you make of all of this? And to be honest, I never think about honey all that much except during this time of year, since honey is such a staple of the Jewish new year celebration. But my honest opinion? I’d probably fall into the 10 percent category. Because I don’t think it’s that simple.

Here’s the thing: technically, by definition, honey is not considered vegan. Vegan means no animal products or by-products, honey being a by-product. And I won’t argue that. Many who oppose honey argue that the bees are exploited for the honey, similar to dairy cows, and that bee farmers use smoke and break up the hives, which is cruel to the bees and their livelihood.

But here’s another thing to keep in mind: Honey only makes up a tiny percentage of all commercial beekeeping. The majority of bees in America are used in pollinating many of the fruits, nuts and vegetables we all (yes, even vegans!) eat every day. And if you think the conditions are bad in honey production, they’re even worse for these pollinator bees, which is one of the main reasons our honeybees are in currently in danger.

So, my point here is, we are part of a culture that exploits honeybees. Honey or not, you can’t win — there’s a bigger problem here.

Wow, that turned into a huge rant about whether or not I eat honey. You’re probably already over it and you’re like, since when does anyone analyze honey this much? Vegans these days, am I right? Lol.

My sincere thought here is that I mainly just prefer other sweeteners to honey anyway! (Real maple syrup is like vegan crack). This may differ from person to person, that’s just my preference. If, however, you are looking to eliminate honey for whatever reason, there are some good alternatives that work just as well. Mayim Bialik uses agave, which is a popular vegan substitute. But I’d also highly recommend Bee Free Honee, which is actually a local company based out of Minnesota, so double whammy, you can support a local business! It’s made from apples, and it’s so delicious, it tastes just like the real thing.

My only advice, if you do decide to eat honey this year, is please, please, please, if you do nothing else, try to do some research about it and look into where your food is coming from. Not all honey is created equally, and there are some beekeepers who really care about treating the bees well. If you can, local honey is always a good option, or even better, find a local farm and a beekeeper you trust to source your honey this Rosh Hashanah.

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