Almonds and raisins are among my favorite pairings for joyful occasions and celebrations, not only because of their flavors but also because they share special significance.
Almonds symbolize hope, prosperity, happiness and even fertility. Raisins are served at happy occasions to represent the sweetness of life. Ashkenazi Jews often pair raisins and almonds as a wish for a good and fertile marriage. The combination became so well known that it formed the basis of the Yiddish lullaby “Rozhinkes mit Mandlen” (Raisins with Almonds), which includes these words: “Raisins and almonds are very sweet. My baby will grow up healthy and strong.”
These festive recipes continue these traditions. For more on lifecycle foods, see my column on round foods.
Raisin and Almond Challah Knots
- 1 pkg. (2¼ tsp.) active dry yeast
- ½ cup 110-degree water
- 1 tsp. plus 2 Tbs. sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 Tbs. plus ¼ cup water
- 2 Tbs. oil plus extra to grease bowl
- 1½ tsp. salt
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 cup slivered almonds
- 3 to 4 cups bread flour
Dissolve yeast in warm water with 1 tsp. sugar. Let stand until bubbly.
Separate 1 egg. Place yolk in small bowl. Mix with 1 Tbs. water. Cover. Set aside. Mix egg white and remaining eggs in large bowl. Mix in 2 Tbs. oil, remaining sugar, salt, raisins and ¼ cup water. Stir in almonds. Stir in yeast. Gradually add 3 cups flour. Mix dough until smooth and not sticky, adding flour if needed. Turn out onto a lightly floured board. Knead for 12-15 minutes, adding flour if needed. Place in greased bowl. Turn to coat. Cover. Let rise 45 minutes until doubled.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Punch down dough. Knead for 2-3 minutes. Divide into eighths. Form 10-inch-long ropes. Place rope on lightly floured board. Form loop by crossing ends, leaving 2-inch overhang on each end. Take top end and pull under and then though the loop’s hole, creating a knot. Tuck in ends to form roll. Repeat.
Place on ungreased baking sheet 2-3 inches apart. Let rest 30 minutes. Brush with reserved egg yolk. Bake 30 minutes until golden brown, the bottoms sound hollow when tapped and/or an instant-read thermometer registers 200 degrees. Cool on rack.
Raisin and Almond Twirls
Makes 12 slices
- 1 cup pomegranate molasses
- ½ cup water
- 1 tsp. grated lemon zest
- 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
- 3 Tbs. plus 1 Tbs. sugar
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 2 cups raw almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
- 2 cups raisins
- 2 Tbs. plus 2 Tbs. almond flour
- 5 phyllo dough sheets, about 13-by-17 inches (keep covered)
- ½ cup mini-marshmallows
- ½ cup oil
Bring pomegranate molasses, water, zest, juice, 3 Tbs. sugar, and salt to a simmer on medium low heat. Simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in chopped almonds. Toss raisins in 2 Tbs. almond flour and mix in. Simmer 5 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to handle.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cover baking sheet with foil. Place one phyllo sheet on worktop. Brush with oil. Place second on top. Brush with oil. Repeat with third and fourth. Top with fifth sheet (do not oil). Sprinkle with remaining almond flour. About 2 inches from edge of one of the long ends of the phyllo, spread 3-inch wide ribbon of raisin-almond filling, leaving 1-inch border along the short ends. Scatter marshmallows on top of filling.
Fold over the sides towards the center. Working from the long end closest to the filling, fold the phyllo sheets over filling. Roll firmly from that point, tucking in edges as needed. Place seam side down on baking sheet. Brush with oil. Sprinkle with remaining sugar. Score into 12 even pieces. Bake 25-30 minutes until golden. Cool. Slice into sections at score lines.