It’s almost impossible to find an edible knish anywhere, let alone a truly delicious one. So with my mom’s 93rd birthday coming up I decided to make a knish she would like. KCRW colleague Ariana Morgenstern agreed to help and we set a date for our knish project.
I started researching cookbooks and online resources and finally decided to follow Pam Reiss’s wonderful pictorial demo on egullet.com. So I set about making the “stretch” dough two days before Ariana was coming over. Traditional knish dough is like a strudel dough. The gluten is strong from the kneading, yet all the fat in the dough forces it to relax pretty quickly. The result is a dough that you first roll, then stretch until it’s super thin. I found it very forgiving. Any holes you get as you stretch the dough are camouflaged as you roll the cylinder. Because I’m almost pathologically incapable of following a recipe exactly I substituted olive oil and duck fat for the canola oil called for in Pam’s recipe. I also found the dough a bit too soft as I was beating it in the mixer. (It was nearly a batter, probably because my eggs were too big and I mis-measured the water) so I added an additional ½ cup of flour in two ¼ cup additions. When the dough looked more like Pam’s I stopped the machine and ended up finishing the kneading by hand. I only did this because the dough hook to my mixer went missing years ago. Pam says that she was taught to slap the dough on the counter 100 times. So I did that, counting all the slaps. The dough quickly took on a beautiful, soft, pliable consistency. I was happy to see the tiny air bubbles in her pictorial in my dough.
I refrigerated the dough and moved onto the filling. I was inspired by Rae and Noah Bernamoff’s, The Mile End Cookbook. They use potatoes, parsnips, celery root and onion along with two kinds of potatoes. I decided to use Windrose Farms potatoes, onions, celery root and kale. The only problem was not to eat it all for dinner.
Ps…Last night my mom decided to microwave a knish. It caught on fire and burned the microwave. So it goes….
Remember that your filling will be encased in a simple dough, so be sure it has lots of flavor.
4 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt
2 extra large eggs, lightly scrambled
½ cup extra virgin olive oil (light in flavor)
½ cup rendered duck or chicken fat
1 cup warm water
Put dry ingredients in mixing bowl and whisk or mix together. Add the wet ingredients and beat in a mixer with a dough hook for 8-10 minutes or mix dough with a spoon and turn dough out onto a board to knead, slapping it on the board 100 times. The dough will be smooth and pliable and you’ll be able to see tiny bubbles trapped in the dough beneath the surface. Cut the dough in half, put each half in a bowl (no need to dust with flour) and cover with plastic wrap. If using right away let the dough rest for at least an hour at room temperature. You can also refrigerate the dough for up to 3 days or freeze it (I’m told), defrosting it in the refrigerator before using. I took the dough out of the refrigerator about an hour before we were going to use it to let it warm up a bit.
4 lbs Yukon gold type potatoes, peeled
4 onions, peeled and diced
Rendered chicken or duck fat for frying
Extra virgin olive oil for frying
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced (optional)
1 large celery root, peeled and diced
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste.
1 bunch kale, stems discarded
2 eggs, beaten
poppy seeds, celery seed, sesame seeds or other appropriate garnish
Cover potatoes with cold water and add a tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil then turn heat down to simmer. Cook until potatoes are just soft when pierced with a paring knife. Drain potatoes and put through ricer or food mill with large disc.
Cook onions in chicken or duck fat (or olive oil if you must) until they are deeply brown in spots and translucent. It is easier to get browning if you salt the onions after they are golden. Add garlic if you choose and cook just until you smell the aroma. After you transfer the onions to the riced potatoes cook the celery root in the same pan adding additional fat if necessary. Add the bay leaves and salt and pepper to taste.
Cook the kale in lightly salted boiling water until it is tender. Drain and cool with running water. Strip kale leaves off larger stems if you desire. Squeeze dry and coarsely chop. Add the chopped kale to the potato-onion-celery root mixture.
Roll the dough and fill the knishes as shown in Pam Reiss’ s marvelous pictorial demo. It’s so much easier than I imagined and part of the fun is choosing what size knish you want. Ariana made what her Argentine Jewish family calls bocaditos (one biters). I made three biters.
Before baking brush the knishes with the beaten egg and sprinkle a little seeds you like. Bake at 375 degrees until golden on top and bottom. Alternately you can freeze the knishes uncooked in a single layer until they are hard. Then store them in a zip plastic bag until needed. Bake frozen as you would fresh.