Every year, millions of Jews mark Yom Kippur, Judaism's holiest day, fasting for 25 hours while reflecting on the past year and seeking God's forgiveness. Participants break the fast by indulging in assorted traditional and modern dishes.
NPR reached out to a handful of chefs, cooks and food fanatics from across the country to assemble a smorgasbord to break the fast after this year's Yom Kippur, which begins at sundown Tuesday and ends Wednesday evening.
Jerusalem bagels from Jamie Geller
Growing up in Philadelphia, Jamie Geller recalls breaking fast potluck style after hours of prayer at the synagogue. Family and friends indulged on a fish platter, quiches, pastas, pastries and, of course, bagels.
"It's almost sacrilegious to break that fast without bagels," Geller told NPR.
Geller, a bestselling cookbook author and business executive, says bagels are a cornerstone of any break-fast celebration. "A lightly toasted, whole wheat, everything bagel dripping with butter is one of my guilty pleasures and favorite indulgences," she said. "I'd rather this than a cake for my birthday!"
Bagels are a warm comfort food that can be schmeared with assorted toppings — butter, flavored cream cheeses, egg salads — and topped with fish, veggies and more.
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Geller recommends baking Jerusalem bagels for this year's Yom Kippur. Soft to the touch and smothered in sesame seeds, these better-than-your-average bagels take about an hour-and-a-half to make.
Jake Cohen's everything bagel tomato galette
"This is what I've always wanted to do," Cohen told NPR. "I started cooking dinner parties in high school for my friends and from there started staging in restaurants and went straight to the [Culinary Institute of America] from high school for a formal training."
Cohen said bagels were a staple for breaking fast as a kid, complete with salmon lox and schmear. His go-to dish as an adult is a spinoff of his beloved bagels — an everything bagel tomato galette.
"I started making these everything bagel tomato galettes as a nod to the bagel and lox since Yom typically falls at the very end of tomato season," Cohen said. "It's got scallion and caper schmear, lox, heirloom tomatoes, and fresh herbs packed inside."
The trick to fasting, Cohen said, is to avoid cooking when you're hungry. One of the benefits of his galette is that it can be prepared ahead of time and reheated when the fast comes to an end and served up like a pizza.
Honey cake from Russ & Daughters Cafe
The Russ & Daughters Cafe in New York is a family owned business spanning four generations. Niki Russ Federman co-owns the cafe with her cousin, Josh Russ Tupper.
The cafe closes during the daytime on Yom Kippur, Federman said, but hosts a Yom Kippur break-fast with a line of people outside eager to grab a bite the moment the fast ends.
The family specialty is the honey cake, Federman said. The rich flavor and texture can be attributed to honey, molasses, brandy, coffee, orange juice and warm spices in the batter.
"It's sweet but not too sweet," Federman said. "Honey cake is also a traditional treat for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year. So, eating at the end of Yom Kippur reminds me that it's still a moment of new beginnings."
You can see how Federman and the family make their honey cake on TikTok here.
Tips for easing the fasting experience
Going a whole day without consuming any food or water is no light undertaking. It's important to take the proper steps before and afterward to ensure you have a safe Yom Kippur experience.
According to Cornell University, people with health concerns or who are taking medications should consult with their health care provider ahead of time.
Before fasting, drink plenty of fluids. Additionally, be sure to eat plenty of protein and carbohydrates, but don't overeat. In the days leading up to Yom Kippur, decrease caffeine intake from coffee, tea and soda to avoid withdrawals and headaches during the fast.
When the fast is over, start by drinking fluids and then working your way up to regular foods without gorging. The Food Network recommends eating white bread or bagels to replenish carbs, followed by easy-to-digest proteins and fruits and vegetables.
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