The Tra-dish Knish

Having been blogging almost daily for some four years now, I’ve really gotten to know my readership. When I put up my Kentucky Knish post last Friday, I had every expectation that I’d be getting a lot of grief for it. Sure enough, within minutes the first complaints came trickling in. “Too flat”, “too French”, “too fluffy”, “too fancy”, “on the line between knish and calzone”, “not Jewish enough”, and perhaps my favorite so far: “borderline racist.” I was prepared for all that, so those shots just bounced off me like so many howitzer rounds off of Megalon, the giant subterranean insect terror. One email, however, managed to penetrate my meters-thick exoskeleton and strike tender flesh. It was this from reader Paula:

These travesties show very clearly that you have never made a real knish, nor have slightest concept about what a real knish is about.

Madam, I’ll have you know that I did my baking training on Chicago’s North Shore, where knishes are a way of life. So out of the way, please, baker coming through. I need to use the hand sink.

Using the standard knish dough recipe below, whisk together your dry ingredients.

Then make a well in the center and add your beaten egg…

…followed by the wet ingredients.

Bring the dough together with a spatula…

…then knead it lightly into a ball. It will be somewhat oily feeling. That’s what you want. Let the dough rest and hydrate for an hour. It may weep a little bit of oil as it sits. That’s perfectly OK.

Meanwhile make your filling. Here I’ve got three medium red potatoes (cooked), about half a cup of deeply caramelized yellow onions (one onion diced finely, cooked gently in two tablespoons of vegetable oil over low heat for a little over an hour), about a two-ounce blob of goat cheese (OK, not traditional), and a teaspoon of salt.

Mashed. This isn’t nearly enough filling for this amount of dough, but it’s a good “for-instance.” Knishes are great stuffed with just about any leftovers you have in the fridge.

When you’re ready to shape your knishes, generously flour a dough board. Pull off a piece of dough from the ball and start rolling. You’ll find that as long as you use enough flour, it’s a very flexible and forgiving dough that rolls out easily. Roll it out as thin as you can without the dough tearing. The precise shape of your sheet isn’t important. A rough rectangle is just fine.

When the dough is nice and thin, apply a long mound of filling to the bottom edge. I’m making rather small knishes, so my filling mound is small. For bigger knishes, well, you know what to do.

Then — and you can probably see where this is going — enclose the filling to form a long roll.

Roll the dough up in the sheet, but not terribly tightly. Knishes tend to want to break open in the oven. A little slack will help prevent this. Since this dough sheet is very thin, I keep rolling until the tube has about two layers on it. Some people really go nuts in this step and roll their dough out even thinner so as to give the tube four or five flaky layers. Me, I’m happy with two. Some like a thicker crust in just one layer. It’s really up to you.

When you’ve got as much crust on your knishes as you like, use a pizza cutter to trim off the excess. Add the scraps back to the dough ball for re-rolling.

Trim the excess, if there is much, from the ends.

Now to shape the actual knishes. This is very like making sausage. You want to pinch off about a three or four-inch length.

Give it a twist.

Then using your pizza cutter, cut it off.

The result is indeed like a small sausage. Pinch the ends shut to enclose the filling.

Turn the knish end-up on the pastry board…

…and with your palm push it down to form a squat cylinder.

Poke the top down with your finger to keep the center from crowning in the oven.

Lay the knishes out on sheet pans — these don’t need any proofing — and either bake, refrigerate (up to three days) or freeze (up to three months).

When ready to bake, paint with egg wash…

…and bake 30-40 minutes at 350 Fahrenheit until the crusts are golden brown.

No concept of a knish. Indeed.

This entry was posted in Knishes, Pastry. Bookmark the permalink.

43 Responses to The Tra-dish Knish

  1. Anna says:

    Hello,
    I tried this recipe and the dough was tough to roll out. Also when I trimmed the excess dough the edges did not stick at all. They are in the oven now but I am pretty sure that edge will come undone. Where did I go wrong? I used balsamic white vinegar and canola oil instead of what you said. Any of those at fault? Your dough looks beautiful.
    Thanks!
    Anna

    • joepastry says:

      Hey Anna! So sorry to hear the dough didn’t work for you. The oil and the vinegar shouldn’t have made a difference. If the dough is stiff next time, try working in more water, which should do the trick. Please keep me advised of the progress, since I hate to hear about knishes gone awry!

      - Joe

  2. Amy Bossard says:

    I think I’m in love.

  3. Mary Recupero says:

    A Resounding Bravo Joe!! Your site is absolutely wonderful and I truly enjoyed reading everything you had to say. You make it fun and enjoyable.

    I do have a problem that you may have a few suggustions for me. My body no longer will tolerate wheat. Sooooooo, I have resorted to Bob’s Red Mill Flours which do not contain wheat. They are really good substitutes although pricey and of course do not have the same texture as the wheat flour. Would you offer any helping tips when working with other flours?

    • joepastry says:

      Hi Mary!

      I wish I knew more about non-wheast flours, but I confess my experience is rather limited there. Overall the challenge for non-wheat flours is finding a reliable substitute for the stretchy gluten that makes breads rise. You’ll want to find steady sources for replacement gums like guar and xanthan gum, both of which are natural products and do a remarkably good job of raising doughs. I’d suggest you check out, if you haven’t yet, Gluten Free Girl. She has all sorts of creative approaches to non-wheat cooking & baking.

      Cheers and thanks for the note!

      - Joe

  4. kpks says:

    Hi,
    Will this work with other flours or combinations? I was wondering if I could use corn/millet and all purpose flour…
    I guess i am trying to understand “How important is gluten in this kind of a dough”.

    thanks a lot for any insight!

    • joepastry says:

      Hello!

      This dough does rely to a great degree on extensibility/stretchiness, so gluten formation is important. Which is not to say you couldn’t add other grains, just not so much that they totally undermine the gluten. Up to about 50% of “something else” would by fine, I would think.

      - Joe

  5. Minx says:

    Thanks for a great recipe- turned out amazing! I found the dough easy to work with- and I usually shy away from recipes requiring rolling out dough:) Any other recipes, other than knishes, that this dough would be good for?
    Thanks!

  6. joepastry says:

    No problem, Laurie!

    - Joe

  7. Monica says:

    Got to you through smitten kitchen blog, Deb said your instructions for shaping the kishes were fantastic, and actually I have something to confess… My Grandma gave me here recipe for knish when I was 14, now I am 28, she explained to me how to shape them (grandma type explanation) and I never tried it when she was alive ( and never really understood how to shape them). Have always been scared to do potato knish as I didnt know how to shape them until now. Thanks to your pictures now I understand what grandma explained me years ago. You made my heart smile with this.
    Thank you very much! I send to you a very big hug.

    • joepastry says:

      You made my day, Monica! What a delightful message. Please get back in touch when you try them. I want to know what the results were!

      Cheers,

      - Joe

  8. Noos Sara says:

    Hi Joe,

    I made this last night. Thank you very much for the recipe! The dough comes out great, crispy and flaky. And easy to work with. By the way, your web site is amazing! Got a lots of tutorial and clear instruction. I found your site on smittenkitchen while searching for potato knish. Will definitely bookmark and come back for another recipes. Thank you! :)

    • joepastry says:

      Thank you very much! I’m so glad you liked the knishes. PLease do come back often and by all means get in touch should you have any questions.

      Welcome!

      - Joe

  9. Donna says:

    Hi Joe!.
    Have you ever tried olive oil in this recipe? Thank you!

    • joepastry says:

      Hi Donna!

      I haven’t, but I’d sure be interesting in hearing how it turns out! Feel like an experiment? ;)

      Get back to me with the results please!

      - Joe

  10. Donna says:

    Joe!
    Experiment complete! I did a batch with olive oil and another with coconut oil and they were both wonderful! Actually I couldn’t tell the difference between the 2 both in dough handling and test! I seldom (if ever) use vegetable oil anymore so I was very pleased that it worked out. The coconut flavor does NOT translate to the final product. Cheers!

    • joepastry says:

      Excellent, Donna! Great to know! You’ve made a great contribution to the site and I thank you.

      - Joe

  11. Joshua says:

    I tried this recipe out this evening (using kasha varnishkis as the stuffing), but I ran into a problem with the dough. I followed the recipe to a tee (I even weighed out the flour rather than trying to convert it to dry cups), using canola oil and rice vinegar. While sitting the oil separated from the dough. When I took the dough out and started working with it, it broke very easy. I’m not sure what I did wrong. Any suggestions?

    • joepastry says:

      Hey Joshua! So sorry to hear that. I’m wondering…did you knead the dough very much? Because a good deal of kneading is useful with this dough.

      - Joe

      • Joshua says:

        Kneading before the resting? I shall try again tonight and see how it comes out! Thanks. I’ll let you know.

        • joepastry says:

          That might help incorporate the fat a bit better. It will weep a little oil when it rests, but shouldn’t separate out entirely. Keep me informed!

          - Joe

          • Joshua says:

            I made two batches. The first I kneaded more. I used my Kitchen Aid and a dough hook and kneaded it for five minutes. Came out a little better. The second batch I used a smidge less oil and a smidge more flour and kneaded it for the same amount of time and it came out well! Thanks for the recipe!

          • joepastry says:

            Whew! Glad to hear the experiments worked, Joshua. As they like to say in commercials: your results may vary. Thanks for pressing on and finding the tweaks that worked for you!

            - Joe

  12. TonyB says:

    The recipe and photos look great, but why no “Print” option? Trying to scroll down without gooping up my laptop is awkward. Being able to print out a “just the facts” version would make it easier to actually try your recipes.

    Just a thought, offered with best wishes.

    • joepastry says:

      I’ll see what I can do, Tony. Custom web development ain’t cheap and I’ve got two kids in private school! ;)

      - Joe

  13. Kirk says:

    I am a competent cook, but not much of a baker. Seized with a hankering for the meat knishes of my youth, I googled knish dough and found your recipe and blog. I’ve now made this dough three times and each time it turns out just right. It is, indeed, a forgiving dough that holds together, can be rolled out tissue thin to make lots of flaky layers, and tastes great. I used schmaltz for the fat. I plan on keeping this recipe and using it for pot pies, pasties, and those Jamaican spicy beef turnovers you can get at 7-11 but taste so much better homemade. Cool technique on the shaping, too. I would never have figured that out. Thanks!

    • joepastry says:

      Great to hear it, Kirk! Thanks so much for checking in and letting me know that this recipe has been working so well. I appreciate it!

      - Joe

  14. pamelamama says:

    Found you via mitten kitchen! Giving this a try as I am in the knish desert of metropolitan Seattle and craving the good stuff. Thanks!

  15. esther says:

    Wow, these look amazing!
    I’m definitely going to be trying these sometime in the next week. You write that you can freeze them before baking, up to three months. I’m generally pretty wary of freezing anything with potato in it. Does this actually taste the same after its frozen, or can you tell they’ve been frozen?
    Thanks!
    Esther

    • joepastry says:

      Hey Esther!

      That’s an excellent point. The dough freezes very well, but that’s not necessarily true of filling, depending on what you put into them. My potato knishes were indeed a little soupy in the middle after being frozen, but the more vegetable-heavy iterations were not. A very fair point.

      Let me know how yours turn out, please!

      - Joe

  16. esther says:

    Thanks so much for your reply!
    So you think that if I add lots of onions and mushrooms to the potatoes they’ll freeze better, or should I just stick with a meat filling if I’m freezing?
    I’m new to the whole freezing thing if you can’t tell :)
    Thanks!
    Esther

    • joepastry says:

      I think either one of those strategies would work just fine. The thing to avoid is a marge mass of mashed potato that might end up soupy after a long freeze. Give me a full report if you will!

      - Joe

  17. esther says:

    I think I’ll make a trial run this week, with mashed potato filling with lots of onions. Then, I’ll freeze a few raw ones, a few baked ones, and eat the rest fresh.
    When I defrost the “experimental” knishes next week I’ll be able to determine which method works best.
    My science teachers would be so proud of me and my scientific method right now:)
    I’ll definitely keep you posted as to which method works best (hopefully at least one will work out :) )
    Thanks for the tips and for the lovely looking recipe!
    Esther

    • joepastry says:

      Thanks, Esther! I’m looking forward to hearing back about the results of the experiment!

      - Joe

  18. Beth says:

    Hi Joe,

    My husband and I grew up in a small, very Jewish town in Mass. We had a kosher butcher right in town and we always had knishes. We now live in Maine and there isn’t a kosher deli or knish for miles. I’m no baker, so I was apprehensive to try making knishes myself, but it was the only way to get knishes into our lives.

    I’ve made two batches now of meat knishes and both times the dough was a pleasure to work with and the knishes were flakey and oh so delish.

    Thank you for such an easy to make yet perfect to eat knish recipe. My husband is so impressed I can make knishes from scratch and now we have knishes to eat !!!! They were the perfect way to celebrate thanksgivukkah this year.

    ~Beth

  19. Hi! Curious how many knishes you think this dough recipe makes?

    Thanks!

    • joepastry says:

      Hello Adeena!

      That’s a good question since size is the determining factor. I got about 15 out of this recipe as I recall.

      - Joe

  20. Emily says:

    Hi Joe,

    I’m thinking of making these with strawberry/cherry and cheese filling. Do I have to worry about the cheese melting and oozing out when baking? This happens when I make calzones. If so, I may just do blintzes. Thank you!

    -Emily

    • joepastry says:

      Hi Emily!

      It all depends on how dry your cheese mixture is. If it’s a stiff mixture of farmer’s cheese and cream cheese then you shouldn’t have too much melting. Let me know how they go!

      - Joe

  21. Susan says:

    Joe,
    I use your website often. Thank you for sharing your experience and expertise.
    My question~ Will refrigerating the fully prepared knishes a day ahead before baking them affect the final result?

    Thank you.
    Susan

    • joepastry says:

      Hi Susan!

      Many thanks! I have fun doing this. To answer your question, you certainly can refrigerate them before baking…it won’t effect the finished product. Just let them come back to room temperature for 45 minutes or so before you bake so they warm all the way through.

      Cheers,

      - Joe

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>