Category Archives: Knishes

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.

Filed under:  Knishes, Pastry | 43 Comments

Traditional Knish Dough

One of the nice things about this dough is how easy it is to prepare and store. You just mix it up, let it sit for an hour, and it’s ready to use. Or, you can refrigerate it until you’re ready to use it, up to several days.

11 ounces (2 cups) all-purpose (AP) flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
4 ounces (1/2 cup) vegetable oil (very soft rendered chicken fat [schmalz], if you can find it, is even better)
1 tsp vinegar
4 ounces (1/2 cup) lukewarm water

Whisk together your dry ingredients, beat the egg in a small bowl, and combine the vegetable oil, vinegar and water in a separate bowl or measure. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the beaten egg and the wet ingredients. Bring the dough together with a spatula, then knead lightly into a ball. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough sit for an hour at room temperature to relax and hydrate.

Filed under:  Knishes, Pastry | 13 Comments

Joe’s Kentucky Knishes

As I’ve been saying, I don’t make “authentic” knishes most of the time (I think I’ve cast reasonable doubt as to whether such a thing even exists). My little ones turn their noses up at traditional pocket pie crusts. I don’t know if it’s the color, the texture or what. Who can fathom the depths of a toddler’s tastes? However they love brioche. And while brioche isn’t as easy as a simple stir-and-roll pie dough, it tastes a lot better. It’s also a very handy thing to have in your baking repertoire. There’s a tutorial for it under Pastry Components.

Begin by generously flouring a pastry board.

Apply a lump of brioche dough, straight from the fridge (about half of your standard recipe)…

…and rolling it out very thin, about 1/8 inch

Apply a round cutter to the dough. Here I’m using a 3 5/8″ ring, but you can go bigger if you like a bigger knish.

Apply a heaping tablespoon of your choice of filling. To go traditional, combine about two cups of cooked red potato with half a cup of finely chopped caramelized onions. Salt and pepper to taste. (Take it uptown by stirring in a couple of ounces of goat cheese.)

If meat is your thing, you can go that way, too. Sauté one small chopped yellow onion in a tablespoon of butter. Add half a pound of ground beef, lamb or — steady purists — pork. When the meat is fully cooked, drain off the fat. Lastly, add about a cup of diced potato that you’ve sautéed in butter until browned. Cool.

As I mentioned previously, my girls love country ham and cheese, which I guess makes this a true Kentucky knish.

However you decide fill them, apply another circle of dough to the top.

Press the edges down lightly to get the air out.

You can skip this next step if you like, though I find it useful for keeping the filling from spreading and/or leaking. Take a circle cutter just big enough to encircle the dough, turn it so the lip is facing down…

..and lightly press to seal the filling in.

Fold the edges in and press to crimp. I don’t worry about form too much…

…because I flip them when I put them on the baking sheet. This gives me a smooth top without a seam.

Proof these for half an hour while you preheat your oven to 350. Apply egg wash and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden.

Filed under:  Knishes, Pastry | 2 Comments