Joan Nathan writes in her book “Jewish cooking in America” that in Eastern Europe Jews served knishes on Saturdays, holidays and special occasions, “but on the Lower East Side in New York, and especially on Second Avenue (also known as ‘Knish Alley’), the knish became fast street food which was sold at outdoor bucket stands, and workers used to buy it as a comforting and quick lunch.” But this knish recipe is not like the New York staple. Here the knish is a pastry, either baked or fried, square or round, made of thin strudel dough filled with meat (for example, chicken liver), buckwheat, potatoes or cheese.
Chef Zion Brentz understood the comfort inherent in the knish the moment he baked the first round of tests: “The smell goes straight into the soul. Even though I didn’t grow up in an Ashkenazi Jewish home in Brooklyn, it filled me with nostalgia. There is something about it that envelops you in the warmth of home. After the first bite I understood exactly why the knish reached its status in the United States, and it really amazes me that it didn’t take hold Israel. It has all the qualities of bourekas, a crowd favorite – and maybe that’s exactly the point: bourekas managed to conquer Israel first, so there was no room left for the knish. When we started recipe testing, Doron, our pastry chef, and I called friends who know knish from home, and we got great tips that upgraded the recipe from the book (for example, the addition of roasted cabbage and green onions to the filling).”
Ingredients for Knish
For the filling:
- 1 onion large, sliced
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ white cabbage medium, cored and chopped
- ground black pepper
- 1 lb 7 oz (750 grams) potatoes peeled and halved (weight is before peeling)
- 1 egg
- ½ cup parsley leaves chopped
- ½ white onion finely chopped
For the Dough:
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup oil
- ½ cup water
- ½ tablespoon vinegar white
- ¼ teaspoon Salt
- 2 cups flour (you might not need the full amount) plus more for dredging
- a little oil for kneading and rolling
- around 6 tablespoons breadcrumbs to assemble the knish
Prepare the Filling:
1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan, add the onion, cover and cook over a low flame for about 20 minutes (the steam the onion gives off will do the cooking), until the onion softens but remains bright. Remove the lid, increase to a medium flame and fry until the onion is golden and turns almost brown. Set aside.
2. At the same time, put cabbage and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a separate pan, add salt and ground black pepper, and steam over a medium flame for about 15 minutes or until the cabbage softens. Stir occasionally. Drain the cabbage from the liquid it secretes during steaming and keep aside.
3. Put potato halves in a large pot filled with cold water, add salt and bring to a boil. Lower the flame and cook for about 15 minutes, until the potatoes soften. Drain and let cool for about 5 minutes.
4. Mash the potatoes, add the egg, parsley, chopped onion, salt and black pepper and mix. Add the fried onion together with the frying oil and mix well. Add the cabbage and mix to distribute evenly in the mixture.
Prepare the Dough, Fill and Bake:
5. Beat one egg and leave aside about a tablespoon of it for coating. Mix the rest of the egg with oil, water, vinegar and salt. Gradually add flour, and knead at first with a spoon and later with your hands, until a uniform and smooth dough is obtained. Make 2 balls from the dough, cover them with a kitchen towel and let them rest for about 30 minutes.
6. Roll each ball of dough on a floured surface into a thin rectangle, flour well and place between two baking sheets. Leave to rest for about 15 minutes.
7. Heat the oven to 375F degrees (190C) and line an oven tray with parchment paper.
8. Stretch each rectangle of dough with your hands as much as possible to an almost transparent sheet. Gently brush the dough with olive oil and sprinkle bread crumbs on each rectangle.
9. There are two methods for designing the knish. The first and most traditional: spread about a quarter of the filling on the dough, but leave ¾-inch (2 cm) of the edges of the dough exposed on the long side closest to us and on the opposite side. Using the parchment paper, roll the dough into a log, and while rolling, brush the upper part of the roll with oil twice. Slice the roulade into slices about 2.75 inch (7 cm) thick. Pinch the open parts on one side and close them. Place in a greased pan with the closed part facing down. Repeat with all the pieces of dough, and with the remaining ball of dough. The second method, which Zion uses: roll the dough into an oblong rectangle on a floured surface. Divide the rectangle into approximately 4x4 inch (10x10 cm) squares, place a row of stuffing close to one of the ribs, roll into a log and twist into a spiral. Repeat the operations with the remaining ball of dough. Place the knishes in the pan at intervals of about 2 inch (5 cm) from each other. Please note, you may have to bake in several cycles (depending on the size of your oven).
10. Mix the beaten egg set aside earlier coating with a little water and brush the knishes. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the surface of the knishes are golden but not brown.