Recipe from Jewish Traditional Cooking by Ruth Joseph, Simon Round (Kyle Books, 2013)Knishes are the Jewish equivalent of a wonton or tortellini-that is, a tasty filling enclosed in pastry. My mother's knishes were pillowsoft and golden with a meltingly tender filling. Like many delicacies, they came about as a means of extending a precious ingredient-in this case, a sliver of meat, the last of the cheese, or some leftover spiced lentils or rice-into a delicious treat to feed an entire family. In short, this recipe conjures leftovers into the food of dreams!
There is a bit of effort involved here, but the great thing is that knishes freeze well and make wonderful party food so your efforts will be worthwhile. If you're planning ahead, make the potato filling the day before and chill it in the fridge.
For the dough
- 4 cups organic white bread flour
- 1 tablespoon dried yeast
- 1 tablespoon honey-I like the darker honey
- 1 cup warm milk (or water)
- 4 tablespoons light olive oil or melted butter
- 2 large organic free-range eggs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- sesame or poppy seeds, to sprinkle
For the potato filling
In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon flour with the yeast, honey, and warm milk, and whisk until smooth. Leave to ferment for about 15 minutes until bubbles appear on the surface. In a separate bowl, combine the oil or melted butter with the eggs. Sift the remaining flour into a large bowl and add the salt. Pour in the egg mixture, add the yeast mixture, and mix to a soft, pliable dough. I use my mixer with the dough hook attached. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes until smooth.
- 4 large organic potatoes, scrubbed but skins left on
- 8 oz spinach, washed really well
- 2 large onions, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 organic free-range egg
- 1/2 cup fresh chives or parsley, finely chopped
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika or a grating of nutmeg
Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap, and leave to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour until doubled in size. Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a pan of water and cook in their skins until tender. Drain, peel off the skins, and mash thoroughly-or push through a potato ricer. Set aside. Place the spinach in a large pan and wilt over a medium heat. Drain thoroughly and finely chop.
Preheat the oven to 375F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. To make the filling, gently cook the onions in the olive oil until soft but not colored. Add the mashed potato and spinach, along with half of the egg. Stir in the chives or parsley and season with salt, pepper, and paprika or nutmeg. Turn out the dough onto a floured work surface and knead lightly. Depending on how much time you have available, there are various methods for assembling the knishes:
Method 1 (the quick method): roll out the dough to form a large rectangle, 9 x 12 inches. Spread the filling over the top and roll up, Swiss-roll style. Cut into 1-inch lengths and arrange the circles on your baking sheets with room to rise.
Method 2 (the traditional method): roll out the dough thinly and cut into 24 circles, 3 inches in diameter-I use a large pastry cutter. Place a teaspoon of the filling on each circle, wet the edges, and fold over to seal. Arrange on your baking sheets.
Transfer the baking sheets to a warm place and leave the knishes to rise for about 30 minutes until puffed up. Brush with the remaining beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds. Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes until golden. Either serve as a main course, accompanied by a watercress salad, or pass around as finger food at a party.