Last week, I wrote about my Manhattan deli search for the perfect knish. I came back from my trip convinced that nothing compares to a freshly baked homemade knish. Because many of you live in areas where buying a fresh knish isn’t possible, I’ve decided to share my knish recipe with you. This fully illustrated recipe will walk you through the process of making traditional baked square knishes. I’ve also included a modification for fried knishes. At the end of the blog, I’ll teach you how to make different knish shapes and sizes, like round, flowery, and jumbo-sized. By the end of the blog, if you follow the steps carefully, you’ll be knishing and k-noshing like a pro!
This knish recipe is pareve. That means it uses no dairy in the dough or the filling, so it can be served kosher with a meat soup or entrée. You can get a flakier, tastier crust using butter, but then you’re limited to how you can serve it if you’re keeping kosher. If you’re looking for a time-tested, old-fashioned knish, pareve is the way to go. The only thing that makes this knish dough a little bit untraditional is the use of sparkling water. I’ve found that it gives the dough a lighter, flakier texture. If you don’t have sparkling water on hand, regular will work just fine too.
This is a biscuit-style knish. Some people like a chewy dough, some like it flaky. I prefer a biscuit-style dough– a little bit flaky, with a somewhat neutral flavor that lets the filling’s flavor shine through. Everybody does knish differently– this just happens to be the way I like it! :)
The dough in this knish recipe can be filled with any number of fillings. Now, I know you all want me to share your favorite filling recipes—kasha, spinach, cheese, etc. I plan to include these fillings in my upcoming cookbook. For now, I hope you’ll be inspired to make these tasty potato knishes. They’re so yummy and comforting, the perfect accompaniment to a bowl of piping hot matzo ball soup. Enjoy!
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BAKED POTATO KNISHES
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
½ tsp baking powder
3 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk for optional egg wash
3 tbsp canola oil, plus extra for brushing
1 tsp vinegar
1 bottle sparkling water (you will only use part of this)
1 ½ pounds of russet potatoes, peeled (about 5 medium potatoes)
2 tbsp canola oil
1 large onion, diced small
Salt and pepper
You will also need: rolling pin, pastry brush
Makes about 16-18 medium knishes, or 9-10 jumbo knishes
Kosher Key: Pareve
Prepare your Knish Dough:
In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder. In a large mixing bowl, beat 3 eggs, then whisk in canola oil and the vinegar. Add ¼ cup of the sparkling water and mix gently (don’t overwhisk; this will flatten the beverage, you want it nice and bubbly).
Slowly add the flour mixture by ½ cupfuls to the egg mixture, stirring with a spoon till it’s thick and doughy. When it becomes too tough to stir with a spoon, use your hands and begin kneading the mixture into a soft dough. When all of the flour mixture is added, the dough may seem too dry. If it does, add more of the sparkling water in tablespoon-sized portions till the mixture is pliable but not sticky. If the dough seems too sticky, add a little more flour. Do not over-knead the dough; knead it only as long as it takes to reach a smooth consistency.
Divide the dough into three balls and cover with a damp towel. Let the dough sit covered for 45 minutes; this will relax the gluten.
While the dough is relaxing, prepare your Knish Filling:
Cut the peeled potatoes into large chunks and place them in a pot. Cover with water. Add 1 tsp of salt to the pot. Bring to a boil on the stovetop. Reduce heat to medium and let the potatoes simmer for about 25 minutes, or until very tender.
While the potatoes are boiling, pour 2 tbsp canola oil into a skillet. Add the diced onion to the skillet and turn the heat to medium-low. Cover the skillet and let the onions cook slowly in the oil for 20 minutes. Uncover the skillet, season the onion with salt and pepper. Turn the heat to medium and fry the onions till they’re golden brown. Remove from heat.
Drain the potatoes and mash them in the pot till they’re smooth and fluffy. Add the browned onions to the pot along with any excess oil from the skillet. Mix rapidly with a fork till the mashed potatoes and onions are blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste (remember, the potatoes were boiled in salt water so they’re already salty—season carefully!). When you’re happy with the taste, crack one egg into the potato mixture and mix it in with a fork till well blended. Cover the pot until ready to use.
Rolling out and stuffing the knishes:
After the knish dough has relaxed for 45 minutes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Pour a little canola oil into a small bowl and set aside—you will use this for brushing your dough. Flour a smooth surface where you will roll out your dough. Take one of the dough balls and pound it out with a rolling pin till it’s smashed thin, then gently stretch and roll the dough into a rough rectangular shape.
You will want to roll it very thin, until there is enough dough stretched out to make a 10×12 inch rectangle; this will take several roll/stretch cycles. Flip the dough and re-flour the surface every so often to keep the dough from sticking to your rolling pin, or the rolling surface.
Once the dough is rolled out, use a sharp knife to cut that 10×12 inch rectangle out of the dough. Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be perfect—as long as you have a large, rough rectangle, you’ll be fine. Add the excess dough trimmings to one of the dough balls under the damp towel.
Add 1/3 of your filling (about a heaping 1/2 cup) in a layer at the bottom of the rectangle, reserving about ¾ inch of space at the bottom and on each side of the filling.
Grasping the bottom of the rectangle with both hands, carefully roll the dough up and over the filling towards the center of the rectangle. Use a pastry brush to brush the dough with oil.
Roll the dough again towards the center, brush with oil, then roll again until the dough is completely rolled into a snake-like shape, seam-side down. Pinch the ends of the dough together till they are sealed shut.
The traditional way to “cut” the knishes from this dough roll is with your hands. Use your finger to gently mark where your knishes will be “cut.” I usually cut about 5 knishes per roll. Use the side of your hand to cut the knishes, using a sawing back-and-forth motion to section off each knish.
It will take several sawing motions to separate each knish from the roll. Don’t use a knife for this—the sawing motion seals the knish shut. Repeat for all knishes on the roll.
When you’ve finished cutting your knish roll, repeat the process with the remaining two dough balls. With the excess dough trimmings from the last dough ball, I usually make 1 or 2 large knishes in any shape that I fancy.
Note: If you’d like to make a different shaped knish other than the traditional square, or if you want to make jumbo knishes, please see instructions at the end of this blog.
Grease a cookie sheet, then place the knishes at least 1 ½ inches apart. Crack 1 egg into a small bowl and beat it together with a little water.
Optional: Beat the egg yolk with a little water, then brush each knish with a layer of yolk for a nice golden sheen. If you don’t like an egg wash, you can brush the knishes with a little more canola oil.
Put the knishes in the oven and bake them for 35-40 minutes till golden.
FRIED POTATO KNISHES
Follow the recipe above, with the following modification:
Do not use the egg wash. Bake the knishes for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven. Pour a generous amount of canola oil into a skillet for frying. Heat the oil over medium till hot. Fry the knishes in the oil till golden brown on both sides. Do not fry the knishes without first partially baking them, or you’ll end up with undercooked knishes (raw dough inside).
KNISH SHAPES AND SIZES
Like I’ve said before, there are many ways to make a knish—and that includes different shapes and sizes! Here I will help you learn how to make some of the more popular knish varieties.
I don’t really know what to call this shape, but it kind of looks like a flower on the top so I’ll call it the flowery knish. This is my favorite shape—I like to squeeze spicy mustard into the top of the knish in the middle of the flowery opening. Yum! I also find it to be the prettiest way to make a knish. Zabar’s knishes have this shape.
Start by making the square knish shape described in the recipe above. With the seam side of the knish facing up, pinch all four corners of the knish in towards the center.
If any of you have ever made a “cootie-catcher” in elementary school, you will find this process familiar. Start with two corners.
Use your other hand to fold up the other two corners. Pinch all four corners together in the middle of the knish.
It’s okay if a little of the filling shows through the top; it adds character. Brush with oil and egg, and bake flower-side up.
The easiest way to make a round knish, in my opinion, is to make a flowery knish like in the instructions above, but seal it shut more tightly at the top, so no filling is showing. Then, turn the flowery part upside down, so the round smooth part bakes right-side up. Presto! Round knish. Brush with oil and egg, then bake round side up. There are other ways of going about it, but this is my favorite way to make a round knish.
Jumbo knishes can be made either square or round. Rather than making one knish roll for each dough ball, you’re going to make three large knishes from each 9×12 inch rectangle of dough. Slice the dough rectangle into three equal strips (3×4 inches each). Add about ¼ cup of filling to the center of each strip, reserving about ½ inch on the bottom and top sides of the strip.
Fold the two outer flaps of dough inward towards the center and press gently in the center to seal.
Press firmly downwards on the outer edges of the knish (the ½ inch strips) to seal the dough. Flip the knish so it’s seam-side down, then pinch the edges together to make sure they’re firmly sealed.
Brush with oil, then with egg. Bake seam-side down for 35-40 minutes on 350 degrees F until golden.
You can also fold these jumbo knishes into the flowery or round shapes described above. The process is exactly the same—the only difference is the size of your knish.
Have fun knish-ing! :)