Quince Challah Knots

Quince Challah Knots ©Shutterstock

I first published this Quince Challah Knots recipe in The Washington Post Lifestyle and Food sections on October 6, 2011, under the 'Challah with Quince, an Unexpected Holiday Treat' headline. With some edits, I am republishing the Quince Challah Knots recipe just in time for Rosh HaShanah 2021, which falls on the eve of September 6 this year. 

Turns out, I initially baked these delicious beauties for Yom Kippur break-the-fast 2011, but they are a real treat for Rosh HaShanah as well. 

My son was still in High School and I completely forgot that I used him and his soccer buddies as my guinea pigs. And below is what I wrote back in 2011 for The Washington Post:

Challah with Quince, an Unexpected Holiday Treat

For our Yom Kippur break-fast this year (which will take place Saturday night), I was looking for an alternative to my usual apple-filled challah when I hit upon using quince, the firm-fleshed fruit sometimes known as golden apple. It can smell of pineapple or guava, and it looks a little like a plumped-up pear.

In this recipe, I’ve used it to fill knots of my very own challah dough — something I’ve strived to perfect over the years. The unfilled knots seemed to go over well when I served samples to my son’s college soccer teammates.
Quinces ©ShulieMadnick

The dough can be swirled to look like a snail instead of “tied” into knots.

Here’s how to fill and create the knots; the recipe for my Quince Challah Honey Knots follows on the next page.

The quince is a fruit whose firm flesh needs to be cooked before it is eaten. Here, it is used as filling for lovely challah rolls that are nice to serve at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Quinces are usually available at larger Asian markets.

Make Ahead: The dough needs to rise two times, for a total of about 2 hours. The baked knots can be individually wrapped in aluminum foil, then stored in resealable plastic food storage bags and frozen for up to 3 months. Reheat the foil-wrapped knots on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes.

Quince Challah Knots
Servings: 16 rolls

Ingredients:

For the knots:

About 7 cups (2.2 pounds) flour
About 5 1/2 teaspoons (7/8 ounce; 3 packets) active dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar in the raw

Date, Walnut, Silan and Sesame Challah

Date, Walnut, Silan and Sesame Challah ©ShulieMadnick

The Date, Walnut, Silan and Sesame Challah recipe originally appeared in Bonnie Benwick's  "How to make your challah lovelier and sweeter for the Jewish New Year," published in The Washington Post on September 8, 2015. I am republishing the Date, Walnut, Silan and Sesame Challah recipe, with some edits, just in time for Rosh HaShanah 2021 falling on the eve of September 6 this year.

In the Marzipan Almond Challah Crown recipe and post I published recently, I shared some feel-good quotes and testimonials written by Bonnie in the article above. Here I would like to share some of the heartwarming feedback on the Date, Walnut, Silan, and Sesame Challah recipe shared by a reader who baked it:

In 2015: 

"The Eastern Shore is a fancy food desert. I had no hope of finding silan out here, so I substituted golden raisins and walnuts. The bread came out great, and I also thank you for teaching me a new braiding technique. I usually do the long four-strand braid.

Tonight, I happen to be in Nashville, and there's a Middle Eastern market less than a mile from my hotel. So I went in there, showed the proprietor a picture of the product, and he took me to...a display of strawberry jam. Is it possible a Middle Easterner doesn't know what silan is? If someone here knows where in Maryland to get this stuff, maybe Wegmans, I'm all (virtual) ears. Nashville's Whole Foods didn't have it, either, which I was surprised at."

A year later by the same reader: 

"So, a year later, I'm here to tell you I learned how to make silan from scratch. I also found it in international stores in Chicago, Ft. Lauderdale, and Salisbury (!). This is now my go-to challah every year. Thanks for running this recipe!"

Date, Walnut, Silan and Sesame Challah

If you have a 9 1/2-to-10-inch springform pan, use it to bake this challah; it will help keep the bread's shape.

Make Ahead: The dough needs to proof twice: first for 1 hour, and again for 30 to 40 minutes after the dough has been filled, braided and shaped into a pan. The baked challah can be wrapped in aluminum foil, then plastic wrap, and frozen for up to 1 month. To reheat, discard the plastic wrap but keep the bread wrapped in foil; warm through in a 350-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

Where to Buy: Silan, often labeled date molasses, is available in Mediterranean markets. You can find roasted sesame seeds in the international aisle (Asian section) of large grocery stores.

Illustrated crown and round challah braiding techniques.

Ingredients:

For the challah:

1/2 cup lukewarm filtered water, plus 1/4 to 1/2 cup filtered water
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 packets (3/8 ounce) active dry yeast
17 ounces (scant 4 cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface

Marzipan Almond Challah Crown


Marzipan Almond Challah Crown ©ShulieMadnick

This sublime Marzipan Almond Challah Crown recipe first appeared in Bonnie Benwick's "How to make your challah lovelier and sweeter for the Jewish New Year," published in The Washington Post on September 8, 2015. I am republishing the Marzipan Almond Challah Crown recipe, with some edits, just in time for Rosh HaShanah 2021 falling on the eve of September 6 this year.

I baked with then Deputy Editor of the Washington Post food section, Bonnie Benwick, some of my challahs at her home that year before Rosh HaShanah. And amidst the couple of tumultuous years we had with COVID-19 and the looming Delta variant, these are much needed feel-good quotes and testimonials I re-visited from Bonnie's article above: 

"The Washington area food blogger and travel writer bakes challah every Sabbath, as was the practice in many of her friends’ homes when she was growing up in an Indian-Israeli community in Ashdod, south of Tel Aviv. Looking to complement her Rosh Hashanah dishes — lamb biryani, veal-and-beef-stuffed artichoke bottoms in a spicy red sauce and the cornstarch-thickened, sweetened milk custard called halwa — Madnick figured out a way to capture fruit and/or nut fillings within each rope of dough. She braids those ropes in such appealing ways as to create almost a new class of High Holiday challah."

"Madnick worked on her base challah dough over many years. It’s not too eggy and, like others, not so fussy. Her flavor combinations can be seasonal: apples and quince in the fall; cranberry, orange and nigella seeds in the winter; cherry and oats in the spring. Rosh Hashanah stuffed challahs call for something sweet: chopped dates, fresh figs, even marzipan. Each sub-portion of dough that might have been a simple rope in a braided loaf of challah is first rolled out to a thin rectangle, then swabbed lightly with a syrup or jam to help hold the chopped fruit or nuts in place. Once the dough is rolled up, the filling stays contained, allowing for the usual braiding and shaping."

"Except Madnick’s techniques rise above the norm, appropriately. She’ll do a four- or six-part braid, winding it in on itself like a nautilus.."

Marzipan Almond Challah Crown

Make sure the center vessel you use is both heatproof and freezer-safe (the latter if you plan to make the challah in advance).

Using a 9 1/2-to-10-inch springform pan will help the bread keep its shape, but you can bake on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet as well.

Make Ahead: The dough needs to proof twice: first for 1 hour, and again for 30 to 40 minutes after the dough has been filled, braided and shaped into a pan. The baked challah can be wrapped in aluminum foil, then plastic wrap, and frozen for up to 1 month. To reheat, discard the plastic wrap but keep the bread wrapped in foil; warm through in a 350-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

Illustrated crown and round challah braiding techniques.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup lukewarm water plus 1/4 - 1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 packets (3/8 oz) active dry yeast
17 oz (scant 4 cups) all purpose flour, plus more for rolling

Fig, Olive Oil, Sea Salt and Spelt Challah

Fig, Olive Oil, Sea Salt and Spelt Challah ©ShulieMadnick

The Fig, Olive Oil, Sea Salt and Spelt Challah recipe originally appeared in Bonnie Benwick's "How to make your challah lovelier and sweeter for the Jewish New Year," published in The Washington Post on September 8, 2015. I am republishing the Date, Walnut, Silan and Sesame Challah recipe, with some edits, just in time for Rosh HaShanah 2021 falling on the eve of September 6 this year.

In the Marzipan Almond Challah Crown recipe and post I published recently, I shared some feel-good quotes and testimonials written by Bonnie in the article above. I also shared here a recipe for the Date, Walnut, Silan, and Sesame Challah recipe and heartfelt feedback from a reader who baked it. The Date, Walnut, Silan, and Sesame Challah became this reader's new favorite for their Rosh Hashanah table. 

Fig, Olive Oil, Sea Salt and Spelt Challah
12 servings

Spelt brings a rich, earthy quality to this braided holiday bread, filled with fig jam and chopped fresh figs. It’s nice to cut this challah into long slices, which also makes for great toast.

Using a 9 1/2-to-10-inch springform pan will help the bread keep its shape, but a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet will work, too.

Make Ahead: The dough needs to proof twice: first for 1 hour, and again for 30 to 40 minutes after the dough has been filled, braided and shaped into a pan. The baked challah can be wrapped in aluminum foil, then plastic wrap, and frozen for up to 1 month. To reheat, discard the plastic wrap but keep the bread wrapped in foil; warm through in 350-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

Illustrated crown and round challah braiding techniques.

Ingredients:

For the challah:

1/2 cup lukewarm filtered water, plus 1/4 to 1/2 cup filtered water
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 packets (3/8 ounce) active dry yeast
8 4/5 ounces (scant 2 cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
8 4/5 ounces (scant 2 1/4 cups) spelt flour

Nut-Free Haroset

Haroset opposite the butter lettuce on the Seder Plate Copyright ©Shuliemadnick

It's been a year since our flights to Israel were canceled. We were headed to spend Passover with our son, who lives there. It's been a year since the global pandemic changed our lives, and we yet again find ourselves for the second year in a row having the Seder all by ourselves.

But do not despair. I cooked for a tribe, anyway. I made our traditional Passover lamb biryani, the only matzah ball soup that I like, a Moroccan carrots salad, a version of this beet salad (without the sugar), haroset, hazeret (horseradish), egg salad, and many other side dishes and starters. For dessert I made kosher for Passover brownies. 

Believe it or not, but this haroset is nut-free, and no Manischewitz wine was used in the process of making it. It is a hybrid Sephardic and Ashkenazi haroset I came up with, on the fly, years ago, and it stuck with us for over a decade, maybe longer. It's better than the nut and wine version in my humble opinion. I posted a recipe for haroset in the past but planned on re-photographing it. It was also an excuse to show you our Seder plate and tweak the language of the recipe. The haroset is opposite the butter lettuce. Not a beauty but delicious on its own on matzah, or layer it with hazeret (horseradish) on the matzah. 

Jonathan, uncharacteristically, guzzled down two glasses of wine before we had a chance to arrive at the second cup of wine blessing. He was determined to read every single word in the Haggadah. Thank goodness that Jonathan somewhat lost steam after dinner. He insisted on opening the door for Elijah. While I was concerned about the critters and fox in our jungle outdoors gravitating towards the light and inviting scents of food indoors. Red wine was (accidentally) spilled on the white tablecloth, and we pounded the table at Dayenu or was it another song (?!). In short, chaos ensued. 

If you haven't caught my recent "Why do the Jews of India call Passover' The holiday of the covered clay pot with the sour liquid'?" article, head over, it's a quick and fun read. And if you want to learn more about India's largest Indian Jewish Community's Passover traditions, head over to "Discovering the Passover Traditions of India's Largest Jewish Community."

Nut-Free Haroset

Ingredients:

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and cut into few pieces
14 dried apricots

Why do the Jews of India call Passover ‘The holiday of the covered clay pot with the sour liquid’?

iPhone screen shot by Shulie Madnick from The Forward from page

On Thursday, March 25, 2021, just before Passover on Saturday, my article, "Why do the Jews of India call Passover' The holiday of the covered clay pot with the sour liquid'?" was published in The Forward.

Today, March 29, 2021, the article was on The Forward's front page, in the News, since the morning and still now, at 3:40 pm as I am writing this post.

It's a quick, fun read. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as it was fun researching and writing it. It felt like an anthropological detective work trying to get to the bottom of the meaning of 'Anashi Dhakaicha San,' the name the Bene Israel Indian Jewish community for Passover and the tradition of the clay pot with the sour liquid. 

Biblical Rituals and Passover Traditions of the Bene Israel, India's Largest Jewish Community

 Bloody (korban) handprint in Revdanda, a village south of Mumbai ©ShulieMadnick

The  'Biblical Rituals and Passover Traditions of the Bene Israel, India's Largest Jewish Community' article was originally published in 2016 in Haaretz's English edition in Israel. It was also translated to Hebrew the same year. To curate my articles and recipes in one space, I am republishing it with some edits (listed at the bottom). 

The article was years in the making. It took countless hours researching, spending time at the Library of Congress, and conducting many interviews. My eventual visit to India, after I have published this article, gave me a more in-depth perspective and understanding. The article is a long, in-depth read. I hope with the quarantine; you will find the time to explore this unique Indian Jewish community and its disappearing traditions.

Biblical Rituals and Passover Traditions of the Bene Israel, India's Largest Jewish Community

“And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.” Exodus 12:7

My mom has vivid childhood memories etched in her mind of visiting Virjoli, a village south of her hometown Mumbai, witnessing members of her Bene Israel community slaughtering a goat for Passover and marking their door posts and lintels with palms dipped in its blood. Virjoli, also known as Satamba, was my mom’s maternal grandparents’ village, where they owned much land and two homes.

Imagine my surprise, after growing up in a predominantly Indian household in Ashdod, living and breathing Indian Jewish culture and food, to only learn about this ritual on my most recent trip back to Israel last month. I had had myriad conversations with my mom and others in the Bene Israel community over the last three decades, yet only discovered this elusive-to-me custom during a Shabbat dinner in March. The stories were flowing out my mother that evening; on any other given day over the years she had been impatient with my questions and puzzled at my interest in the past.

The ritual, practiced in the community's native India but not imported along with the immigration to Israel, came from the only book the Bene Israel knew, the Torah. As inscribed: “For I will go through the land of Egypt in that night, and will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt... And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and there shall no plague be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.” Exodus 12:12-13.
“The Bene Israel, the Indian Jews, and the Beta Israel, the Ethiopian Jews, were the only two Jewish communities in the Diaspora who continued the ritual, which otherwise completely ceased to exist with the destruction of the second temple in Jerusalem in 70 C.E.,”  noted Dr. Shalva Weil, a senior researcher, in an interview at her Hebrew University office. The Samaritans also practice the sacrifice custom, pointed out Sharon Horowitz, librarian at the Hebraic Collection at the U.S. Library of Congress.

Lamb Biryani for An Indian Passover

 The Layers of Lamb Biryani (Rice, Lamb, Rice, Garnishes) Copyright ©ShulieMadnick

The crown jewel in my mom's culinary arsenal is this luxurious, aromatic lamb biryani. Only the regional biryanis I have had in India lived up to my mom's. The Mumbai biryanis made me think of how my mom, who still several decades later, manages to preserve the flavors and encapsulate the essence of Maharashtrian cuisine in Israel.

This sensational lamb biryani is at the center of the Bene Israel Indian Jewish Community's Passover holiday table. The rice is infused with saffron and then layered with the curry-spiced leg of lamb and garnished with cashews, raisins, crispy onions, and cilantro chips. The juxtaposition of sweet and savory flavors, crunchy and soft textures and many colors create a festive dish that is a Bene Israeli Passover (and Rosh HaShanah) tradition.

Biryani is originally from Persia. It was brought to India by the Arabs and Mongols. Over the centuries, the native Indian communities adapted the dish and made it their own. Although ghee, clarified butter, and yogurt are often used in the dish, Indian Jews replaced those dairy ingredients with vegetable oil to create a kosher rendition.

"Biblical Rituals and Passover Traditions of the Bene Israel, India's Largest Jewish Community," published in Haaretz newspaper in 2016 and re-edited and curated here, explores further the Bene Israelis foods of Passover (in India, the community primarily used goat meat). The article also explores the community's over 2000 year history in India and its unique Passover traditions. 

Author's Notes:

1. Allergen alert: Those with a tree-nut allergy can leave out the cashews or substitute them with peanuts. 

2. Some of the preparations for this dish can be made a couple of days in advance. The entire dish can be fully assembled the day of. This recipe is long, but the steps are not particularly difficult. The end result is well worth the effort. 

3. At times, my mom also makes this biryani with a layer of potatoes at the bottom of the pot. The potatoes get crisp and golden, similar to the potatoes in the Persian tahdig. She then flips the pot into a serving dish for a showy presentation. I might share a simplified version of biryani with potatoes in the future. 

4. I edited this recipe since, in versions published in both the Forward and the Hadassah Magazine, I used garam masala to make the process easier. My masala mix for this biryani contains 13 spices. I make a large batch and save it in the freezer. It can get costly and time-consuming, especially if you don't cook Indian food often. To make life easier and lower the cost, I suggest you buy a ready-made curry mix. Either a chicken/meat masala or a biryani one. Bonus points if you score masala from the State of Maharashtra, which Mumbai is its Capital. The dry masala mix recipe I will share one of these days.

4. In this method, I fully cook the rice and not cook it al dente in water like pasta, then finish it off layered in the pot with the lamb covered in the oven, not over the stove. I will share the al dente method when I share the simplified biryani (or tahdig) with the potato layer at the bottom (see number 2).

5. You can add more cashews, raisins, cilantro leaves and onions, depending on taste. Just make sure to fry them (see directions below).

Lamb Biryani

Lamb Ingredients

2.2 pounds deboned leg of lamb, cut into small/medium-sized cubes
Water to cover
1/4 - 1/2 tsp salt
2 - 3 bay leaves
8 -10 cloves

Quinoa Tabbouleh

©ShulieMadnick

In 2012 I published "Tabouleh - A Lebanese Parsley, Bulgur Wheat, Mint, Onion & Tomato Salad." at the time, I spelled tabouleh with one b. 

I shared many tips in that post. I won't repeat them all, but some still remain true, and some shifted somewhat. 

I recommended spinning dry the washed parsley after washing and before chopping, which is still the method I use today. If you have excess water in the salad, it will get soggy fast. 

I also mentioned that I prefer flat-leaf parsley, but the local market was out so I bought curly parsley instead.  Curley parsley tends to catch sand or soil, so wash it well before using it. The chopping part of the curly parsley was not as bad as I dreaded it. I rough chop and then use cleaver action to finely chop. The knife has to be sharp. I was also convinced the flavor is different, but I did not detect any flavor differences between the flat and the curly parsley. 

This time I used quinoa instead of bulgur (bulghur). Quinoa is protein-rich and gluten-free. You can use more quinoa than the 1/2 cup I used in this recipe. Cook the quinoa according to the instructions on the box (it's usually bringing up 2 cups of water to a boil, then adding in the quinoa and cooking for 20 minutes, covered, on low flame. But, for a 1 cup uncooked quinoa add 1 - 2 tbls oil and 1/8 - 1/4 tsp salt to the water before adding in the quinoa. It can be made ahead and refrigerated. Do not add quinoa while still hot/warm to the tabbouleh.)

If you do not like too much lemon, reduce the amount of acidity. Tomatoes get soggy, so you can add to individual serving unless you don't plan on leftovers when serving. 

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Ingredients:

3 large bunches parsley, bottom stems removed, and finely chopped
Leaves of  2 - 4 mint sprigs, finely chopped

Israeli Chocolate Balls

Copyright ©ShulieMadnick

Knowing that today will be hectic, I made a couscous soup, with meat and vegetables, and couscous last night and these chocolate balls, which are one of my son's favorite desserts. I hoped to mock a Shabbat dinner at lunch today since our son was flying back to Israel this afternoon. I had an environmental science class I am taking at a local university I had to hop on mid-day, so Jonathan heated up the food and had lunch with Sagie downstairs. While I had my lunch at a desk upstairs, muted and video turned off on Zoom. As Sagie headed into airport security and we hugged and wished him safe travels, I asked if he had some of the chocolate balls before leaving home. In our dash to get out the door, he forgot. 

Luckily these chocolate balls are easy to make. Since Sagie cooks Shabbat dinners for his roommates and himself, I am posting the recipe here for him and for you all. It's a tweaked recipe from a double batch recipe I first published on August 10, 2010.

There are million Israeli recipe versions to these chocolate balls, but this one is inspired by my mom's, whose main repertoire is Indian food but here and there mixed in with some Israeli recipes.

Israeli Chocolate Balls

makes about 20 balls

Ingredients:

250 grams Petite Beurre (or Israeli) biscuits (about 277 oz)
1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 cup milk or water
1/4 cup cocoa powder