In order, from left: Matt Taylor-Gross/Jake Cohen; Jamie Geller; Cafe Russ & Daughters
Every year, millions of Jews celebrate 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 an assortment of traditional and modern dishes.
NPR reached out to a handful of chefs, cooks and food fanatics across the country to put together an assortment to break the fast after this year’s Yom Kippur, which begins at sundown Tuesday and ends Wednesday night.
Jerusalem Bagels from Jamie Geller
Growing up in Philadelphia, Jamie Geller remembers breaking the potluck fast after hours of prayer in the synagogue. Family and friends enjoyed a fish platter, quiches, pasta, pastries and of course bagels.
“It’s almost sacrilegious to break this fast without bagels,” Geller told NPR.
Best-selling cookbook author and business executive Geller says bagels are the cornerstone of any breakfast celebration. “A lightly toasted whole wheat bagel, all dripping with butter is one of my guilty pleasures and favorite indulgences,” she said. “I’d rather that than a cake for my birthday!”
Bagels are a warm, comfort food that can be layered with assorted toppings — butter, flavored cream cheeses, egg salads — and topped with fish, vegetables and more.
Geller recommends baking Jerusalem bagels for this year’s Yom Kippur. Soft to the touch and covered in sesame seeds, these better than average bagels take about an hour and a half to make.
Jake Cohen’s Tomato Bagel Patty
Matt Taylor-Gross/Jake Cohen
Not only is Jake Cohen a best-selling cookbook author, he’s also a culinary content creator with 1.4 million followers on TikTok and another 780,000 on Instagram.
“That’s what I always wanted to do,” Cohen told NPR. “I started cooking dinners in high school for my friends and from there I started staging restaurants and went straight to the [Culinary Institute of America] high school for formal training.”
Cohen said bagels were a staple for breaking the fast as a kid, along with salmon lox and schmear. His go-to dish as an adult is a derivative of his beloved bagels – an all-bagel tomato patty.
“I started making these bagel tomato patties just as a nod to bagel and lox since Yom usually falls at the very end of tomato season,” Cohen said. “It has scallions and capers, smoked salmon, heirloom tomatoes, and fresh herbs packed inside.”
The trick to fasting, Cohen said, is to avoid cooking when you’re hungry. One of the advantages of his galette is that it can be prepared in advance and reheated at the end of the fast and served like a pizza.
Russ & Daughters Cafe Honey Cake
Cafe Russ & Daughters
The Russ & Daughters Cafe in New York has been a family business for four generations. Niki Russ Federman co-owns the cafe with her cousin, Josh Russ Tupper.
The cafe closes during the day on Yom Kippur, Federman said, but hosts a Yom Kippur breakfast with a line of people outside eager to grab a bite to eat as the fast ends.
The family specialty is honey cake, Federman said. The rich flavor and texture can be attributed to the 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 Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. So eating at the end of Yom Kippur reminds me that it’s still a time of new beginnings.”
You can see how Federman and the family bake their honey cake on TikTok here.
Tips to make the fasting experience easier
Going an entire day without consuming food or water is no mean feat. It is important to take the proper steps before and after to ensure you have a safe Yom Kippur experience.
According to Cornell University, people with medical conditions or taking medications should consult with their health care provider beforehand.
Before fasting, drink plenty of fluids. Also, be sure to eat plenty of protein and carbs, but don’t overeat. In the days leading up to Yom Kippur, decrease caffeine intake from coffee, tea, and sodas to avoid withdrawal and headaches while fasting.
When the fast is over, start by drinking fluids, then progress to regular foods without binging. The Food Network recommends eating white bread or bagels to replenish carbs, followed by protein and easily digestible fruits and vegetables.