There is perhaps no stronger heartstring to the Jewish soul than the one tied to the Knish! Beloved of Ashkenazic (Eastern European) Jews, the Knish arrived on these shores with the second wave of Jewish immigrants from Poland sometime around 1900. Knish (קניש) is a Yiddish word that was derived from the Ukrainian knysh (книш) and Polish knysz.
The first knish bakery in America was founded in New York in 1910 on the Lower East Side at the Yonah Schimmel Knishery – still in existance today and one of the last Jewish outposts in the neighborhood.
As a New York-born Jew, the knish holds a special place in my heart and since you can’t get a decent knish to save your life in this part of California, I decided to make my own authentic version, with a few JH eccentricities. 😉
My knishes are a hybrid – traditional in all ways except that I’ve added two new spices to the traditional mashed potato mixture, to liven things up a bit. Specifically, I added a touch of ground cumin and a spice you’ve probably never heard of called asafoetida. This is used frequently in Indian cooking, and adds a lovely garlic note to the knish that I find very nice. You can leave the cumin out, or substitute garlic powder for the asafoetida (but it’s really not the same – garlic powder is a bit harsh, to my palate…).
Anyway – if you don’t approve of my heterodoxy, just ignore those two spice additions and you’ll still have an amazing 100% traditional knish that will knock your socks off. 🙂
Battle on – The Generalissimo
2 cups unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cold water
1 tablespoon corn oil
2 eggs well beaten
2 cups mashed, boiled potatoes
2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
3 tablespoons schmaltz (rendered chicken fat)
salt, black pepper
ground cumin and asafoetida (just a little) to taste (both totally optional)
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water
Mix flour, salt and baking powder together. Make a well in the center and add water. oil and beaten eggs. Mix until smooth and then knead (that is K-nead, which you must do to make a K-nish) for 6 – 8 minutes. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover with a damp towel and let rest for 1 hour.
For the filling, melt the schmaltz and saute onions until golden brown. Mix with potatoes, salt and pepper (and ground cumin and asafoetida, if using).
On a flour-dusted pastry board, roll half of the dough out to a 1/8″ thickness. Using a small glass or cookie cutter with a 3″ diameter, cut the dough into rounds. Place 2 tablespoons of filling – no more, no less – in the center of each round. Fold over and pinch the ends of each round together to form a knish. Secure the seal by pressing the pinched dough with the tines of a fork all along the edge of the seal. Place on a well-greased baking sheet.
Repeat this procedure until all the dough is used up (reroll scraps). There may be extra filling – save for another use, but do NOT increase the amount of filling in each knish!
Preheat the oven to 350. Brush each knish with the egg wash and bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Recipe makes 18-20 knishes, serve warm or at room temperature.
There is only one condiment to serve with a Knish – MUSTARD. If you have a sweet craving, try applesauce.