On Rosh Hashana it is customary to eat sweet dishes to symbolize our hope for a sweet new year. Honey is an ingredient in many other holiday dishes, and not surprisingly, honey consumption goes up by some 12 percent right before and during Rosh Hashana.
Israelis eat quite a bit of honey - Israel ranks fifth on the list of honey-consuming countries, together with the USA; Germany and Greece top the list, with about one kilo a person per year.
Honey is much healthier than (refined) sugar, in part because it contains fewer calories than sugar and sweetens just as much, or more. Furthermore, the carbohydrates found in honey are quickly absorbed and provide the body with instant energy, making honey an excellent snack to take during and after exercise.
Honey varies according to the nectar it was made from. According to Dan Weil of Yad Mordechai, honey can be divided into three groups: dark honey, originating from avocado or eucalyptus flowers; honey with a scent of spring flowers, originating from wild flowers and from citrus trees; and honey made from zaatar or jujube flowers, which goes great with bread.
If you want to find out more about making honey, take a look at an encased beehive on display at the Nahalat Binyamin pedestrian mall in Tel Aviv. Since the beehive is made out of glass, it's possible to watch the bees in action. Different types of honey are offered for sale as well as cosmetics and candles made with honey.
To serve your honey-and-apples in an elegant and not too messy way you can use pretty silver honey dishes, offered at Hatzorfim from NIS 450 (until the end of October, this chain offers a 30% reduction), or try the Sheshet chain for much cheaper versions. Sheshet, which is located in certain branches of Mega, has a silver-colored dish in the shape of an apple with a spoon, sold for NIS 20, or a glass apple-shaped honey dish for just NIS 4.90.
Yad Mordechai also carries squeeze bottles of honey, which allows for easier serving, although the emptier the bottle, the harder to get at the honey. A special holiday package contains one of these 400-gram bottles with wild flower honey and an apple cutter that cuts apples into equal parts, priced at NIS 23.
Other Yad Mordechai offers include a 70-gr. jar of honey with a wooden spoon, sold at NIS 14.95, and a box containing three small jars of three different types of honey (wild flowers, avocado, and eucalyptus) and three small jars of jam, sold at NIS 23.95. You can find organic honey in health food stores such as the Organic India chain, where a one-kilo jar of honey by Adama, for example, is sold for NIS 62.10.
Honey is an ingredient in many dishes and drinks. Yad Mordechai sells honey candies at NIS 5 for 100 gr., and until the end of October, the Coffee Bean chain will offer caramel-apple flavored ice coffee with a piece of honey cake for NIS 25.
And then of course is the traditional Rosh Hashana honey cake. I personally find these cakes to be rather bland, but some bakeries have come up with interesting variations. The Hexter bakeries make a yummy butter-based honey cake with apples marinated in wine, lemon, and cinnamon - a round cake costs NIS 34. Honey cake with figs or walnuts can also be found at Hexter, as well as at Toshia bakeries and at the Tiv Ta'am supermarkets.
A bit pricy, but delicious cakes can be found at the Ben Ami bakeries: for example, a puff pastry cake with apples, honey, raisins and cinnamon runs at NIS 30; a honey mousse cake from NIS 57 to NIS 149; and variations on the classic honey cake such as honey cake with mint, with forest fruits, with nuts, or with apples from NIS 36 to NIS 120.
At the English Cake bakeries you can find special cakes such as espresso-honey cake, honey cake with apples or with dates, honey and orange cake, or honey cakes without sugar (prices range from NIS 20 to NIS 26). A specialty from the Roladin bakeries this year is a honey cake with figs marinated in sangria and cinnamon (NIS 39.90, or NIS 89 for a round one).
The Bonjour bakeries have come up with brioche bread with coconut cream, or brioche with nuts and honey, and a delicious rye bread with honey and nuts. Lahmi carries a yeast cake with honey (NIS 16.95 for 500 gr.), a cake that is also available in most supermarkets.
Of particular interest is the honey-apple-pennecota cream cake sold at the Dr. Lek ice cream stores. This cake is not an ice cream cake and it is parve, making it suitable for every holiday meal - a family-sized cake is NIS 84.90.
Osem and Elite are also selling their traditional honey cakes in all the supermarkets and both have added some new cakes to supermarket shelves this year. In the Osem Habayit series you can find a yeast honey cake with raisins (NIS 15.90); Elite has a healthier version of the honey cake, made with whole wheat flour (NIS 12.40), and honey-brownies (NIS 13.90) - all Elite honey cakes are made with Yad Mordechai's honey.
Finally, the SuperSol chain offers freshly-baked Gidron cakes such as a package of five honey cake muffins for NIS 5, or a simple honey cake for NIS 10.