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Exciting holiday desserts from the ‘Sweet Genius’

Amos Hayon. Credit: Courtesy Amos Hayon.
Amos Hayon. Credit: Courtesy Amos Hayon.

Your Jewish holiday desserts don’t have to be boring.

That’s what Amos Hayon—an Israeli pastry chef at Lola Restaurant in the Great Neck neighborhood on Long Island, NY—believes. Amos appeared on an episode of the Food Network’s “Sweet Genius” program in 2011. He took home the $10,000 prize after competing against three other chefs and completing three challenges that include using mystery ingredients and creating a theme-inspired dessert. Read more about Amos at

Here are six unique desserts, courtesy of Amos:

Apples with Dried Fruit and Marzipan (serves 8)

8 green apples, peeled and cored

200 g (7.05 oz) good-quality marzipan

The dry fruit filling:

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup almonds

1/2 cup pine nuts

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped dates

1/2 cup white sugar

2 tablespoon honey

1 egg white

1 tablespoon margarine


1. Mix together in a medium sized bowl all the dried fruit filling filling ingredients into a mixture consistency.

2. Take the apples and fill them inside with the mixture.

3. Take the marzipan, break it into 8 balls and roll out flat. Individually cover each apple

with the flattened marzipan.

4. Place the apples in a 13” x 9” fire-resistant baking dish.

6. Pour into the dish about 300ml (1.25 cups) of white wine.

7. Place the apples in the oven at 320 degrees (F) for 60-90 minutes until the apples


8. Place the apples on a serving plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar and cinnamon. Serve with vanilla sauce or vanilla ice cream.

Bread pudding with caramelized apples (serves 10-12)

6 green apples, peeled, cored and cut into medium sized cubes

1 cup sugar

½ cup water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoon cornstarch

Ingredients for bread pudding:

1 pound dried white bread cut into cubes

2 cups heavy cream

2 cups milk

1 cup sugar

5 medium eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ingredients for streusel mixture:

1 ½ cups white flour

1/2 cup of brown sugar

1/2 cup of melted butter

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Peel from 1 lemon

1 teaspoon baking powder


1. Boil sugar and water in a large skillet pot over high heat until you get dark caramel.

2. Cook the apple cubes in the caramel mixture for about 10 minutes.

3. When the apple consistency is nearly liquid, add the vanilla extract, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, ground cardamom and the butter, and continue to cook together over medium heat.

4. In a bowl, mix the cornstarch with a ½ cup cold water and add apples to caramel pot.

5. Continue to cook another 5 minutes until the apple caramel mixture condenses. Remove it from the heat and cool in room temperature.

6. In a medium sized bowl, mix the milk, heavy cream, sugar, eggs and vanilla extract. When the batter is smooth, add the bread cubes.

7. Let the bread absorb in the batter for about 20 minutes.

8. Line a 13”x 9” fire-resistant baking dish with baking paper.

9. Move the bread pudding mixture into the dish.

10. Now place the caramelized apples on top of the pudding.

11. In a separate bowl mix all the ingredients for the streusel until you get crumbling dough with a sandy consistency.

12. Spread the streusel crumbs on top of the caramelized apples.

13. Bake in 350F degree oven for one hour.

14. Sprinkle powdered sugar and cinnamon on top and serve with vanilla ice cream.

Pear and Almond Pie (serves 8-10)

4 cored pears cut into four even segments.

Ingredients for the pie dough:

1/2 cup of white sugar

2 sticks of margarine, diced into cubes

2 egg yolks

2 1/2 cups white sifted flour

1/2 cup of almond flour

Ingredients for the Almond cream:

1 cup + 1 tablespoon butter or margarine

1/2 cup of white sugar

1 whole egg

1 Egg yolk

½ cup of almond flour

4 tablespoons of white flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ingredients for the Royal Icing:

3/4 cup heavy cream

1 egg

1 tablespoon sugar

Pie dough directions:

1. Using a flat-paddle beater, mix the dry ingredients, white flour, almond flour and sugar in the bowl mixer.

2. Mix the margarine cubes into the dry ingredients until you get a sandy consistency.

3. Now mix 2 egg yolks into the mixture until you get dough. When you see all the ingredients turn to dough stop. It is very important not to over mix.

4. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

5. Roll out the dough, place into the pie dish and perforate the dough with a fork. Place the pie dish with the dough in the freezer for 20 minutes.

Royal Icing directions:

1. With a whisk mix all the ingredients together in a medium sized bowl.

Almond cream directions:

1. Beat the eggs with the sugar for 5 minutes.

2. Add the soft butter, almond flour, white flour and vanilla extract into the mixer.

3. Mix until smooth.

Making the Pie:

1. Pour the almond cream into the pie dough.

2. Cover entire pie with the pear quarters.

3. Pour the Royal icing on top.

4. Sprinkle almonds in the margins.

5. Bake in a preheated 350F degree oven for 35 minutes, at the bottom of the oven.

6. Serve with vanilla sauce or vanilla ice cream.

Caramelized apples and cinnamon cake (serves 10-12)

Ingredients for preparing the caramelized apples:

5 green apples, peeled, cored and small diced

1/2 cup brown sugar

3 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

Ingredients for the mixture:

2 cups white flour

6 tablespoons almond flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 cups white sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup butter or margarine

4 medium eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/3 cup sour cream


1. Place the sugar and water in a heavy frying pan over high heat and begin to make the caramel. When the caramel is dark and starts to smoke, reduce the heat and add the apples. Mix the apples so they’re completely covered with caramel.

2. Add the butter to the pan, mix, remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

3. Mix the dry ingredients– white flour, almond flour, salt, white sugar and baking powder in a bowl mixer using a flat paddle beater.

4. Add the remaining butter, eggs, vanilla extract and sour cream to the mixer.

5. Mix all the ingredients together in the mixer until smooth.

6. Grease a 9-inch round baking dish all over, including bottom and sides, and spread the caramelized apples all over the bottom of the dish.

7. Pour the mixture from the mixer on the apples.

8. Bake for 50 minutes in 350F degree oven.

9. Poke a toothpick in the center of the cake. If it comes out clean and dry, take the cake out and let cool at room temperature for 20 minutes.

10. Remove the cake from the baking dish by turning it over so that the cake is upside down and the apples are on top. Sprinkle powdered sugar and cinnamon on top.

Rich honey cake (makes 2 loafs)

Ingredients for bowl # 1:

1 cup high quality honey

½ cup water

1/4 cup apple cider

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 medium egg

1 egg yolk

Ingredients for bowl # 2:

2 1/2 cups sifted white flour

Ingredients for bowl # 3:

1/2 cup raisins soaked in three tablespoons brandy

1/2 cup walnuts

1/2 cup water

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon clove

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Pinch of salt


1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees.

2. In a bowl mixer using a flat paddle beater mix the ingredients in bowl #1 for a minute.

3. Add the sifted white flour and mix for another minute.

4. Add the ingredients from Bowl #3; continue to mix all the ingredients together until smooth.

5. Grease two loaf pans and split the mixture between the two.

6. Bake for 40-45 minutes until the cakes are brown and elastic to the touch. Poke with a toothpick. If it comes out clean and dry, remove from oven and let the cakes cool at room temperature.

7. Remove the cakes from the pan, slice and serve with whipped cream or frosting.

Panna cotta in honey syrup (makes 9)

Step 1:

Boil together (see below):

6 cups whole milk

2/3 cup heavy cream

1 cup white sugar

Step 2:

In a bowl mix:

1 cup of whole milk

4 tablespoons cornstarch

Step 3:

In a bowl mix:

2/3 cup milk

3 tablespoons gelatin


Boil the ingredients from step 1 in a medium sized pot. The more the mixture boils, the better it will taste but be careful not to burn the milk. Once the mixture is boiled, add the ingredients from step 2. Continue to mix on medium heat until the mixture begins to thicken. Remove from the heat and add to the bowl the ingredients of step 3.

Mix everything together into a smooth mixture, pass through a strainer to remove leftover remnants of cornstarch and gelatin. Pour into 4oz disposable aluminum dishes and refrigerate for at least about 4 hours.

Amos suggests making the Panna Cota a day in advance

Ingredients for the honey syrup:

3/4 cup of high-quality honey

2 tablespoons sugar

Pinch of lemon salt

1/2 cup water

Boil all ingredients together in a convenient pot for 15 minutes.

Cool about 1 hour at room temperature, and then store in the refrigerator.

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