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.
Quince is generally not eaten raw. I grew up in Israel, where the fruit was a staple at my North African neighbors’ and friends’ homes — often in the form of jams and pastes for tagines.
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.
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.
Steps 1-2. Roll out one of the 16 balls of once-risen dough to an oblong/rectangle of about 10 by 2 1/2 inches. Fill with 2 tablespoons of quince filling, as shown above. Pinch and seal well along the long edges. Looks like a cannoli, doesn’t it?
Steps 3-4. Pinch toward both ends, then fold over the ends and secure them, as shown above. Carefully turn one end over the other to create a loop. If the seam unravels, no worries; just pinch it again to seal it. It’s a very forgiving dough; keep that in mind for the next step.
Steps 5-6. Gently tie the filled dough into a knot, like a shoelace, so one end pops slightly through (on the bottom) and the other end distinctly pops above (on the top); two ways are shown above. Transfer the knot to a large, parchment-paper-lined baking sheet (one of two). Repeat to make 15 more knots. Cover with a towel and let them rise for 40 to 60 minutes
Steps 7-8. Just before you pop the knots into a preheated 350-degree oven, brush them with an egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Makes 16 rolls
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.
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
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup honey
2 large eggs, plus 1 beaten egg for brushing
1 3/4 cups water
1/2 cup canola oil, plus more for the proofing bowl
Sesame seeds, for garnish
For the filling
2 large quinces (1 pound; see headnote)
Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon (3 to 4 tablespoons)
6 tablespoons honey
For the knots: Combine the flour and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Beat on low speed just to blend, then add the sugar, salt, honey, 2 eggs, water and oil; beat on low speed for 12 minutes to form a soft dough. Scrape all the dough out of the bowl and off the hook; form it into a ball, then coat the inside of the bowl with a light film of oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it rest in a cool place for about 1 hour. The dough should almost double in size.
Meanwhile, make the filling: Peel and core the quinces. Cut into medium dice (1/2-inch) or matchsticks and place in a mixing bowl, immediately sprinkling them with the lemon juice as you work so the flesh does not turn brown. Transfer to a large saute pan and add the honey, stirring to coat. Place over medium-low heat and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring, until the fruit has softened yet still holds its shape. Remove from the heat.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Punch the air out of the dough, then divide it into 16 pieces of equal size. Keep them covered under a clean dish towel or plastic wrap as you roll and fill them.
Working with one piece at a time, roll the dough into a 10-by-2 1/2-inch rectangle. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the cooked quince down the center of the rectangle. Pull the long edges together over the filling; pinch and seal well to form what looks like a long cylinder. Fold in the top and bottom and pinch to seal well.
Use the cylinder to “tie” a knot, so that one end is tucked at the bottom and the other pokes out at the top. Place on one of the lined baking sheets; repeat to form the remaining knots, arranging 8 of them spaced well apart on each lined sheet. Cover with a clean dish towel and let sit at room temperature for 40 to 60 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Use the egg wash to brush the tops of the knots, then sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden. Cool to warm or room temperature before serving.