This post is generously sponsored by Shawn, in honor of Christina (Hey_Cinderella)’s birthday earlier this month!
When I told my dad I was going to make knishes he said “only G-d can make a knish,” which I strongly suspected wasn’t true, but now know for sure.
As long as I’ve been eating knishes, I’ve been listening to my extended family complain about store-bought knishes. Last year, we put together a mini Jewish food tour of New York, and during our knish, latke, pickle, and babka feast we realized it is possible to buy good knishes. I can recommend the Yonah Schimmel’s knishes and the Russ and Daughter’s knishes, but I think these homemade ones are better. The dough is crispier and the filling has actual flavor in it, a first for me!
In an episode of The Great British Bake Off the bakers were asked to make “savory parcels,” which seemed hilariously vague to me — but it’s the only way I can really describe what a knish is: a savory parcel with anything from potatoes, mushrooms, spinach, kasha, meat, etc. inside it. I went classic for this recipe, which has a delicious potato, mushroom, and onion filling.
This makes roughly 20 knishes, but that is dependent on how big you decide to make them. I first experimented with these during a blizzard so I was wearing snow pants for most of this baking experience. Very cozy, highly recommended.
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup Mazola corn oil (or other vegetable oil)
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 cup room temperature water
9-ish Idaho potatoes
2 teaspoons butter
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 yellow onions
1-2 cups chopped mushrooms
2 garlic cloves
optional seasoning (rosemary, oregano)
Egg and water for eggwash
Rolling pin or wine bottle
space for rolling out
pizza cutter or sharp knife for trimming dough
Making the dough:
From my research, this seems to be the standard knish dough. It’s a little crispier than the soft doughs storebought knish tends to have, which I like. You can also roll it as thin or thick as you want depending on your savory parcel preferences.
Mix dry ingredients in a bowl: flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk egg in a tiny separate bowl. Mix wet ingredients: water, oil, and apple cider vinegar in another bowl. Make a well in dry ingredients, pour in wet ingredients. Mix lightly using a spatula, then get in there with your hands. Once all the ingredients seem incorporated, I started kneading the dough.
Knead for a few minutes. The dough should feel slightly elastic and very oily. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for at least an hour. (This is when I made my filling, but you can also do it ahead of time.) Theoretically you can keep the dough in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap, for a few days; but I found it a lot more difficult to work with when I did that, and it did not crisp up as well in the oven.
Making the filling:
The weirdest part of this whole process was that I completely forgot how to boil potatoes and had to look it up. Also, I used Idaho potatoes because I like the taste better, but you can use any type of potato you want. To boil potatoes, put them in a large pot just covered with water. Turn heat on high and bring water to a boil. After about 30-40 minutes, try piercing a potato with a fork. Once it pierces easily, you’re done. Turn off water and pour potatoes into a colander. I peeled the potatoes at this point, while they were still hot, using an intricate system of forks. Put potatoes in a bowl and mash with a fork or a real potato masher if you have one.
I caramelized my onions for this, an idea I got from the Smitten Kitchen knish recipe — even though you can technically sauté the onions and it will take less time, I’d recommend caramelizing them. The number one issue I tend to have with knishes is that they can be very bland, and the sharp taste of the caramelized onions really works with the potato here.
Dice an onion. I use the dicing method where I cut it all still attached to the stem so it’s easier and less excruciatingly painful for my very sensitive eyes. Cut up and clean mushrooms and chop them into slices, or smaller if you prefer. (Mushrooms are optional; I’ve made knishes with and without and they’re delightful in different ways.)
Heat up oil and butter in a skillet and add the onions. Keeping the heat on about medium low, stir the onions periodically for 40 minutes. Add mushrooms after about 30-35 minutes. Throw in some minced garlic at the end, and the rest of your spices.
Mix the onions and mushrooms all together with the potatoes. Make sure it’s consistently mixed so some knishes aren’t wildly more interesting than others. Here you may also want to taste-test to make sure there is enough salt and pepper.
[At this point in the process I had to go shovel snow for an hour. My dog Cassie is perfect, but she doesn’t super “get” the point of shoveling snow.]
Making the knishes:
After at least an hour, the dough has rested enough and you can assemble the knishes. Make sure your dough is stretchy and close to room temperature.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. While assembling and baking my knishes, I tried to get caught up on “Steven Universe,” until my older brother told me it was stressing him out that I wasn’t paying enough attention so I put on “Happy Endings” instead. “Happy Endings” is finally on Hulu!
Knead your dough a few times to incorporate the oil back in. Put tinfoil down around your work space to make cleanup easier later. Flour your counter surface or mat and roll out the dough. This dough won’t really want to stay stretched, so you’ll have to work with it for a few minutes. Eventually it should flatten into a definitive rectangular shape. The long edge should be horizontal to you. You want the dough to be very thin, but not so thin that it’s transluscent. Reflour the surface as necessary.
Take your mashed filling and form it into a log on the edge of the dough closest to you. The size of the knishes will depend on how big the mound of filling is. I like a large knish, because splitting them is part of the knish experience. Leave a little bit of dough at the edge. Once you have your filling arranged along the dough, start rolling away from you. Roll 2-3 times.
Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, trim excess dough along the long edge and on both sides.
To form individual knishes, twist dough off of larger dough log. The twisted end will become the bottom of the knish. Twist and fold it so it’s more closed, then squish onto counter or baking sheet. Pinch the top mostly closed, but indent so there’s a small hollow at the top. (You can also try to pinch it so it’s fully closed, but I like to see some of the filling at the top.)
Twist off each knish at your preferred size. Repeat with next batch, or save extra dough for later.
Put knishes on parchment paper on baking sheet. Make your egg wash: whisk an egg, mix in a tiny bit of water. Using a pastry brush or a spoon, cover each knish in egg wash.
Put baking sheet with knishes in the oven for 30-40 minutes. Each time I made these I left them for 35 minutes, but results will vary depending on your oven temperature and knish size. I mostly wanted to get the browning on the sides and bottom of the dough, since the inside has already been cooked.
Knishes are done!! Best served warm, but these can stay in the fridge for a few days after baking. To heat up, put in an oven at around 300 degrees, or toast in a toaster oven. Don’t forget to bring knishes to your friends and your grandparents and your parents’ and grandparents’ friends. Create a tasteful Instagram collage of everyone eating and enjoying them.