Recipes

Knish shortage? Quit kn-itching and make your own potato pastry

Nov. 12, 2013 at 11:34 AM ET

Knish
Michelle Polzine / 20th Century Cafe
20th Century Cafe knishes are flaky perfection. Get the recipe below!

Hold onto your latkes, it’s going to be a bumpy first night of Hanukkah if people can’t get their mouths around some knishes.

For the uninitiated, knishes are mashed potatoes that are wrapped in soft, pliant dough and then baked – or, as Gabila’s in Coney Island does it, fried - until the outside is tender and flaky and the inside is creamy and warm. Gabila’s is by far the nation’s largest producer of frozen knishes, and after a September 24 fire that debilitated the machine that makes the knishes, there has been a shortage. Retailers, wholesalers, and consumers from the Atlantic to the Pacific have been without their mashed potato pastries, and as it nears the first night of Hanukkah, people are getting panicky. It’s created a bit of a knish frenzy among those who count on having them for their Hanukkah soirees. 

However, take a deep breath – the factory should be up and running by Thanksgivukkah. In case you can’t get your hands on the classic fried delicacies that are Gabila’s, here are a few other knishes you can buy or make to quell your knish craving.

Knish Nosh in the Forest Hills neighborhood of Queens, N.Y., might not fry their knishes, but they do have outlets in New York and Florida and their knishes come regular sized and in cocktail sized versions. If you are bored with the plain old potato style, spring for one filled with sweet potato, kasha (buckwheat groats) or pastrami.

Harold Jaffe, owner of Harold's New York Deli in New Jersey, shows off some giant knishes.
Harold's New York Deli
Harold Jaffe, owner of Harold's New York Deli in New Jersey, shows off some giant knishes.

If you are of the belief that size matters, you can head over to Harold’s New York Deli in Edison, N.J. This deli is known for making everything in mammoth portions, and their homemade knishes are no different. Whilst most knishes can be held in one hand, and some can be held three at a time, these need a forklift. They cover a dinner plate and easily feed two people.

pimento cheese knishes
Eating My Words

It isn’t just the northeast that gets the knish love, though. Jill Warren Lucas at Eating My Words uses pimento cheese in her favorite knish recipe. After years as an East Coaster transplanted to the South, she finally mixed the flavors that she grew to love with the nostalgic food of her youth. Creamy mashed potatoes, a flaky crust, and a sweet-piquant-creamy filling of all-American pimento cheese. Get her tips for making your own!

If you want a truly heavenly knish, look no further. Michelle Polzine, chef and owner of San Francisco’s 20th Century Café specializes in eastern European food and admits that the first knish she ever had was one that she made herself. “I just tried to make them what I imagined they'd be like,” she told TODAY.com. Her knishes have gotten high acclaim from knish lovers, with the San Francisco Bay Guardian Online saying, “If you manage to nab one hot out of oven, you may cry.” Polzine said that though she has experimented with fillings that run the gamut from sauerkraut to genuine Russian farmer’s cheese, she likes plain potato knishes the best. Here is her much lauded recipe – it takes some time, but until Gabila’s is back up and running – all you have is time, right? So, roll up your sleeves and go Knish krazy!

Dough:

  • 10.5 oz all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 t baking powder 
  • 3/4 t kosher salt
  • 1/2 c warm water
  • 1/2 c grapeseed or canola oil
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 t cider vinegar

Combine dried ingredients in a bowl. Make a well in the center.

Mix liquid ingredients together including the egg and pour into the well. Mix with a dough hook or by hand until you have a nice smooth dough.

Plop it down on a wooden board, knead it into a ball, cover with an inverted bowl and let it rest for 20 minutes.

Come back to it, knead it again. You should stop if you see it start to tear a little at the edges, or anywhere really. Give it another 20 minute nap. 5. Knead it again. It's ready when it's super supple and elastic. You will see lots of pretty little blisters just below the surface. (You might need to knead it another time.) Now, put it in a oiled, rectangular container and flip it for a serious rest, at least 2 hours.

Filling

  • 2.5 lbs potatoes peeled and quartered (preferably Yukon golds)
  • 2 clove garlic minced
  • 1-1.5 onions sliced 1/8" thick, from stem to stern
  • Ground coriander, mustard seed, and caraway
  • Splash of Vermouth 
  • Squeeze lemon
  • Chili flakes
  • Salt

Toast the spices and grind them separately in a mortar, so you can determine how much you want in your knishes.

Cook the onions in some fat. If I weren't cooking for vegetarians I'd probably choose duck fat, but butter grapeseed and olive oil taste great too.

Throw the garlic in there and some chili flake. I like it a little spicy.

Use lots of salt until it tastes good.

When your onions are like jam, throw a splash of vermouth and a squeeze of lemon. Adjust your seasoning. Set aside.

Boil your potatoes in salted water until they're done and drain well. Rice or mill your potatoes or just mash if you like them chunky.

Now combine with your onions and adjust seasoning again. Make sure it's very cool before you proceed.

Assemble and bake: 

Set oven to 375

Pull your dough from the fridge and bring it to room temp. It will stretch more easily if it's not cold.

Cover your dining table with a tablecloth or a sheet or a proofing cloth that has been floured.

Have some butter melted and add an equal amount of oil to it; this helps keep things fluid.

Take your dough out of the container and don't let it fold over on itself. This creates a bond that is difficult to open up, but weakens the points on either side of the fold.

Start to stretch the dough with your hands and arms, then carefully land it in your table. If one side seems wetter than the other, make sure that side is up. Rub a little plain oil over the surface if the dough.

Wipe your hands and dust them with a little flour and start to stretch the dough to fit your table. I like to go around the table, stretching as I go being aware of the middle gently pulling the dough so that it doesn't tear. We're applying the same stretching and relaxing principle of our mixing and kneading only after 20 minutes your dough would dry out too much and tear. So just go around your table like a shark, stretching, paying close attention. It will probably tear some, but it will be fine, just keep going.

Brush the whole thing very lightly with your butter/oil mixture.

Trim that thick rope of dough that runs the perimeter of your sheet away and discard.

Now take your filling and place along the long side of the dough golf ball (or ping pong ball for smaller pastries) sized scoops of filling with a small gap (1/4-1/2") between each one. Using the cloth to help you, lift the dough over the filling and start to roll it up. Be careful when you get to the edge of the table that you don't roll the whole thing onto the floor. 

Now, using the side of your hand, karate chop the indentations into the dough.

Next, starting at one end, trim the excess dough pinch the ends together forming a seal, then twist the other side of your indentation and separate it from the roll with a knife, kitchen shears or a vicious pinch.

Now, place that pinched side down on a baking sheet that is lined with parchment and brushed lightly with a bit of your oily/butter mixture.

Ok. Repeat. 

Sprinkle with poppy seeds to make them pretty, or bits of fried onion, and bake for 40 minutes, or until nice and golden. 

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