Tuesday, May 08, 2007

everybody loves knishes!

these small pastries, called k'nishes, are a much loved and uniquely [eastern european] jewish staple snack item — and cousin to the bureka, their sephardic counterpart. they were first brought over to the united states (and canada!!) by the waves of european jewish immigrants looking for a better life and escaping persecution. i wouldn't be surprised if they were the invention of some housewives looking for ways to use up scraps of dough and leftover mashed potatoes.

knishes were typically a homemade item and still are in some households [usually the more religious or observant ones]. today people mostly buy them already made from a bakery however, for convenience's sake. the knish became popularized in new york city by the romanian rabbi, yonah schimmel who made his own and sold them from a pushcart. the rest, as they say, is history. there are aficionados who will argue that schimmel's are the best even though there are many places to buy them, each with its own unique taste.

the original shape of the knish is small and round, as i show in this post. there are now a wide variety of shapes, sizes and fillings. the dough can also be made in a number of ways — of course, the richer the dough, fortified with eggs and butter or margarine, the more delicious it is. the most popular ones use a puff pastry type dough {no big surprise!}. i have several different recipes i use; this one is a very basic one and can be made without eggs, for those who do not use them. it is also parve [without animal products].

popular fillings are potato, potato and onion, potato and mushroom, mushroom, kasha (buckwheat groats), mixed ground-up vegetable, and the list goes on. they even sell "pizza" knishes where i live which is a mixture of ground up vegetables with an italian seasoning which replicates, or tries to, the taste of pizza. see the yonah schimmel link above for examples.

knishes are forgiving in that you can flavour the fillings to suit your fancy. i personally like lots of onions with a potato filling, which i have made here. over the course of time, i'll add the other versions of knishes with the different types of doughs. this one is a very simple one which, i find, tastes better the next day.

these little guys can be used as a starch component for a meal, often served along with a brisket or roast chicken — with gravy is "da bomb!" — or they can be eaten as snacks, as is. whichever way you have them, they're great! experiment with them to find the flavouring you like or follow what i put here. in the end, they're easy to make for those who are "pastry-challenged". of course, you can always skip the dough and cheat by purchasing and using a puff pastry from grocer or bakery. just follow the basic directions shown here for shaping. hope you enjoy!

update 2008: see this post for variations (flaky & strudel dough types)

potato knishes
seasoned mashed potato & onion filled pastries

this version is a beginners-type knish recipe. its very simple dough is quick to make and easily rolled out. in addition, it is a low fat knish in that there is very little [fat] used in the pastry and filling. note that onced baked, the texture for this type knish is softer and chewier than other kinds which use dough with a much higher fat content. recipes for those kind, though, soon to come!

makes 10, double quantities for more


1 c all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp margarine (non dairy/parve)
1/4 c + 2 tbsp lukewarm water

NOTE: if you don't want to make the dough, use a commercial puff pastry and follow the same directions in the recipe to shape them.


3 medium potatoes
1 large onion
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 or more tsp sugar
onion and garlic powder to taste, optional
1 egg for filling, optional

1 egg for egg wash*, optional

*a non-animal eggwash can also be made using a mixture of water mixed with cornstarch: 1 1/2 T cornstarch per cup of cold water; one can also use a non dairy creamer like Richs.

another possibility is to just use milk or cream to "wash" the pastry.


the dough:

mix dry ingredients together in a bowl.

add the margarine and crumble it with your fingers until the texture is like coarse breadcrumbs.

add the lukewarm water gradually and make a ball of the dough. it may feel a bit tacky at first.

knead the dough for about 2 minutes only. over-kneading it will give it a tough final texture. the dough will be very soft and nice to handle.

refrigerate the dough and make the stuffing.

the filling:

peel the potatoes and cut into cubes. boil them until tender. the smaller you cut them, the faster they cook.

while the potatoes are boiling, dice the onion and fry it in the oil over medium heat until golden. some people prefer it when they are just turning brown. that will be your choice :)

place the browned onions in a bowl big enough to hold the potatoes.

drain the potatoes and add them to the onions.

mash the potatoes with a potato masher or use the spoon. if you use a spoon, the mixture will be more coarse. usually the potato knish filling is very smooth like mashed potatoes. alternatively, you can use a ricer and add them directly, riced, into the onions.

mix together and add the salt, pepper and sugar. add the onion and garlic powder if using. taste and adjust. the filling is often very seasoned but that depends upon where you live as different cities have different versions they like. where i live it is often both sweet and peppery.

add the egg if you are using it.

making the knishes:

preheat oven to 350F.

on a floured surface, roll out the dough to a rectangle which measures 15 inches in length by 10 inches in width.

place the filling along the length of the dough from end to end about 2 1/2 inches up from the start of the dough. make sure to leave this edge.

smooth out the filling with a water moistened spatula. the filling should be about 2 inches wide; don't worry about how high it measures.

take the bottom of the dough and pull it over the filling along the length.

roll the whole thing until you get to the end and place it down on the seam side.

measure 1 1/2 lengths and with a moistened knife, cut the pieces.

place the knishes on a baking tray on the flat side. leave about 1 1/2 to 2 inches between each knish.

to form the knishes:

pull up the dough at the top of the knish just a bit, very gently, and squeeze it together so that it meets at the center. then push it down into the filling just a bit [see photos].

if the filling pushes out a bit in the center of the pastry, that is perfectly fine. just push it in the center. a little bit sticking out is normal.

what about the bottoms of the dough, you ask?? while baking, a crust forms on the potato mixture so that it all holds together. it will not fall out of the dough. (it better not!!).

egg wash the knishes with one beaten egg or the alternatives (see ingredients list).

bake the knishes for 35 minutes or until nice and golden brown.



Unknown said...

Beautiful knishes.

We make them here (at work) with a stretch dough, just like Babba used to make them. Do you ever use a stretch dough?

Favorite filling: Kasha. With a little potato and lots of fried onions.

burekaboy — said...

hiya pamela :D - nice to see you :) i shall not take that compliment lightly, coming from the queen of knishes. LOL LOL LOL.

thanks for bringing the stretch dough up, i forgot about that one. sort of like the shtrudel dough, isn't it? i haven't used that kind before. is it the same as the eG one you did?

the one here is a no frills one with only the basics (i.e. the peasant version!) figured i'd start off with an easy one.

you know, i've never had them with kasha. i have to try it. all my w'peg friends always talk about them. i've never see them here and we have a considerable J population. guess it's a regional thing.

thanks for the comment.

Unknown said...

hey BB ;)

I haven't been around much - Pesach killed me!!

Yes - the same as my demo. That's how we make them at work as well.

The type of dough used is, I think, regional. Not just the filling. All of the ones I've seen here use a stretch dough.

I urge you - yes urge you - to try kasha. Use medium kasha and cook it following the directions on the back of the wolff's box (crack an egg, in a pan over medium heat until the kernels separate, add liquid, etc.) Then saute lots and lots of onion ontil deep, dark brown - in schmaltz or oil - and boil a couple of red potatoes to mash in and add that too. Season with salt and black pepper. Enjoy. ;)

burekaboy — said...

pam - i can only just imagine the hell that it was (workload) .... poor you :| i hope you took a good rest afterwards! i know i was wiped out, too. not to mention chafed hands for 3 weeks from all the cleaning solvents.

as for the knishes, i will definitely try both, the dough and the filling. LOL, how well we all know the back of that wolff's box!

thanks for the directions on the filling, btw. when i first heard of these (kasha knishes) years ago, i thought it was just filled with kasha alone. that's probably why i turned my nose up at it. i'm not sure about one thing though: what's the ratio of kasha to potato?

will let you know how it goes. hope i don't screw up the dough. stretch dough was never my forte. it'll be my homework for the weekend (or next one).

another question before i forget: do you know if these are freezable? ...not that they'll last that long around me!

Jihan said...

Every time I come here I feel like moving to your neighbour hood. I feel so hungry... Gosh I have to remember not to come so late in the night.
I wish I wasnt so lazy when it comes to cooking...

Unknown said...

Ratio of potato to kasha? Er. Good question! I'd say 3 parts of buckwheat to 1 part potato. The potato is there to hold the kasha together.

Yep - you can freeze them. Make the knishes, but don't bake them. Freeze them raw on a baking sheet (lined with parchment). When they're frozen, transfer to a freezer bag and pull them out as you need them. They can be baked from frozen or after they've thawed.

Bake at 375-400 (we use convection) until done (golden brown).

burekaboy — said...

PJ - at least everything you SEE here will be fat-free or have no calories. consider it food for the eyes ;P i had a feeling you'd like these since they're made with potatoes!

pamela - thanks for the quick answer. i kinda figured the potato was mainly the "glue" part of it since you didn't mention egg in the filling (except for the kasha part). the one i posted here can be made with or without egg so it really doesn't matter in the end. it still holds together and is contained by the dough.

i've never frozen knishes before and was a bit apprehensive about the ones with potato (only) as it doesn't tend to freeze too well in other things.

anywho....i'll check eG and see what you posted there. i remember seeing the demo. merci again :D

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Wow, they look wonderful and neat!
I really enjoyed your detailed explanation (it very much helped me understand how it goes). I'll have to try that once as I love anything made with dough ;-P...

Nafeesah said...

These would be really nice for breakfast I'm thinking...I want to make the filling for these tonight and make the pastry tomorrow morning to have them with breakfast (^_^) I'll most probably add some ground beef in it too as my dad doesn't particularly care for too much potato, will let you know how it turns out! :)

burekaboy — said...

nafeesah - just make sure to taste the filling before you put them in the oven to see if it tastes seasoned enough because, once baked, you can't change it. adding meat will be fine; there are meat versions of these, too. hope you like them. oh, and this is only one type of (pastry) dough for making knishes. i will add more later on. this one has the least fat in it (only 2 Tbsp) but is still decent tasting. it is also the simplest to make. the other doughs have a higher percentage of butter/margarine and also have eggs, adding cholesterol.

hope you have an easy time with them. just follow the instructions and all should be fine :D

Richa said...

loved the shape of those knishes :)
you sure are meticulous, using a measuring tape & all!
thanks for this awesome recipe!

TopChamp said...

as always this is making me dribble a bit as it looks so yummy... And as i live with a potato fiend I may have to give it ago... then again it might just go into the link folder waiting for a spare afternoon that never comes again.

Unknown said...

The Knishes look fabulous! The only people who say they don't like knishes haven't had a real knishe. Even with such awesome direction, I don't know if I can make this. Usually pastries come out hard and heavy as a rock for me. oiy.

Nafeesah said...

Hi burekaboy! I made these knishes this morning! However I did make some changes to the filling as I said I would, I added some ground beef and I also boiled some carrots and mashed it along with the potatoes. Then I seasoned it with salt and black pepper and some cayenne pepper (I was always a lover of spicey things) and left out the sugar.
I followed your pastry recipe here but doubled it, and as I was putting together the ingredients I discovered that..horror of horrors,I only had 1 1/2 tsp b.p left! well..I just made do with It and it was really really good!

My brother ate four of them at one go LOL and I brought some for my co-worker and she loved them too.....I ate mine dipped with chilli sauce :)). But they're really good....next time I make them I will try omitting the b.p. and see if it makes a crispier pastry, as this one was soft and a bit chewy ( I dont know if it's supposed to be chewy though? lol :p )

Here's a pic of them if you want to see how they came out, not as pretty as yours though *hides*


Oh, and in response to your other comment, I'm originally from Malaysia :)

burekaboy — said...

hi richa - thanks :) they're made in a few different shapes these days but this is the original kind. as for being meticulous, who me? :o LOL actually, if i didn't measure i don't think i'd get the right amount each time! thanks for dropping by and commenting :)

TC - phew, i'm not the only one with one of "those" folders. i have so many things saved "to do", there is no way i'll ever be able to get around to it in one lifetime. as for making these, all you really need is a batch of leftover mashed potatoes. the dough takes LITERALLY less than 5 - 10 minutes to make.

lannae - thanks alot ;D i guess i find it strange why so many people have problems with recipes involving doughs and/or pastry. i have a good friend who always says, "if it sticks to my hands, i ain't touchin' it!" -- needless to say this person is a disaster in the kitchen.

honestly, though, this is a beginner's one as the dough is very user friendly [i.e. made quickly with minimal kneading; rolling it out is a breeze, too]. i doubt you'd mess it up, so no "oy-ing" allowed!" LOL. good luck if you ever decide to give it try.

hey nafeesah - what are you talking about!?! i looked at the pic and they look PERFECT! especially for the first time!! i hope you didn't have any probs making them (rolling, cutting, shaping type thing).

they can be flavoured any way you want. as for adding meat and making them spicy, that sounds amazingly good. [you also have to understand that eastern european jews, who invented these things, didn't exactly have a palate for hot and spicy food and most of what was available to them was, well, not very exotic -- much of the food was seasoned with salt, pepper, sugar, paprika -- all pretty mild. hungarian hot paprika is probably as hot as it ever got!] today, however, there are all kinds of different tasting fillings, so you weren't off the mark at all :)) all that matters is that you enjoyed them.

in terms of the dough -- yes, your description of the texture is right. the dough for these particular ones is a softer and "chewier" kind [as opposed to dry and flaky] which is why i serve them usually with a meal which has a sauce. a flakier crust requires significantly more fat content. sounds like yours would be really good with a curry of some sort :)

i wouldn't omit the baking powder though, nafeesah. you may end up with bricks! or, you could do an experimental batch using only a 1/2 c of flour and maybe less baking powder. i'll post another version in a little bit which has a flakier dough. i think using that version would be better for your purposes.

thanks for trying the recipe and the feedback. :)) p.s. try them tomorrow at room temperature after a rest in the fridge and see if they've improved. for some reason this recipe tastes better [for me, at least] the next day.

Anonymous said...

aaah i've always wondered what these were, i've seen the word frequently but didn't even realize they were a food! h

burekaboy — said...

hey sarina :) - these 'are them' :) now you know! they are pretty popular, too. worth giving it a try to see if you like them.

Emily DeVoto, Ph.D., said...

Thanks for this; they look great. So the filling really doesn't fall out, hmm? It had never occurred to me that they don't have a bottom!

Had a friend once who clearly didn't read the back of the Wolff's box, because his kasha was always pure mush, yet it was the only thing he "knew" how to cook. Sad.

burekaboy — said...

emily - no prob :) you should give 'em a try; they're fun to make actually, and pretty idiot proof too, if you ask me.

as for the bottom falling out, they totally don't but i didn't show how to cut them by hand which seals them, if you're good at it. since i was using this as the most very basic knish recipe (for beginners), i used the knife method. next knish one i'll show how you do it with your hands.

kasha has never been my ultimate fave. i have a few apprehensions still about the "earthy" taste of it. it also wasn't something that got made often in my house like at some of my friends' places. i think it is an acquired taste, i.e. more voos voos than cous cous, if you know what i mean. LOL.

i don't even wanna know what that guy's kasha looked like! yuck.

Unknown said...

"kasha has never been my ultimate fave. i have a few apprehensions still about the "earthy" taste of it. it also wasn't something that got made often in my house like at some of my friends' places. i think it is an acquired taste, i.e. more voos voos than cous cous, if you know what i mean. LOL."

:( Kasha is like . . . a little piece of heaven.

lol. If cooked correctly, I suppose. Never hurts to throw in a little juice from the brisket either.

burekaboy — said...

pam - i know, i know .....it's shameful ;P i promise to try to like it more -- i think i'd had a few too many bland kasha w/ overcooked bowtie renditions in the past (not my doing, of course!). actually, to be honest, if it's made with tons of fried onions and mushrooms and highly seasoned, i quite like it. and, as for brisket juice, you don't have to twist my arm for that addition!

i still have (your) kasha knishes on the "to make" list. perhaps that will forever change my mind :)))

burekaboy — said...

rosa - only got your comment today almost 3 weeks later!! blogger is acting very strange.

glad my explanation was helpful. sometimes i think i put way too much!

you'd probably like these. they are very, very popular here. great for snacks or a side dish.

Anonymous said...

Your knishes would make a nice lunch to bring to work.I nerver made some but I ate some a couple of times and each time I really enjoyed it.

burekaboy — said...

hi awoz - thanks for your comment and visit.

knishes are very easy to make at home. there are many different kinds of fillings and pastries used to make them. this one is a softer pastry than the regular puff pastry kind that is very common.

you're right, they make a good thing to bring to work for lunches.