Saturday dinner was always at Grandma’s: There was always gefilte fish – it took me years to connect the fish swimming in the bathtub on Thursday with the grey blob on my plate on Saturday; the bread basket was full of sliced halla: “don’t eat too much bread kids. There’s lots of food”, and there were a few rotating dishes. One of my top three favorites was the potato stuffed knish. The pastry was flaky, oily and delicious. The potato filling was doted with caramelized onion and you couldn’t eat just one piece. The recipe, like all of her other dishes, was memorized and not written. I have a note that my father wrote, a few years before she died and when I was already living far away. He tried to get the recipe from her, but anyone who ever baked can tell that the amounts do not make any sense…. So I had a mission – re-create grandma’s knish….
A few weeks ago I was in the kitchen with my brother, cooking something else and contemplating making Knish. I looked at my brother and said – we have a problem…. I know that savta (grandma in Hebrew) used a lot of margarine in the dough. And I suspect that that’s what made it flaky, yummy and perfect. But I can’t bring myself to cook with margarine, so I didn’t need to hear my brother‘s one word answer: “Don’t”. I decided to use my favorite fool proof dough recipe:
3.5 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp salt
up to 1.5 cups water
1 egg, beaten
Mix the yeast and sugar with about 1/2 cup of the water, let stand for about 10 minutes until the the mix is bubbly. Add the oil, flour, salt and 1/2 cup of water. Knead the dough, add water as needed, until it’s smooth and doesn’t stick. Continue kneading for another 5 minutes. (I use an electric mixer). Let the dough rise, covered, for 1-2 hours.
The filling was easy – lots of thinly sliced onion, fried to perfection – in lots of vegetable oil, on low heat until it turns dark brown. A few potatoes, pilled and boiled, mashed and mixed with the onions.
To assemble the knish: Divide the dough into two halves. Roll the first half into a large triangle (about 1/4-1/2 inch thick), spread the filling over the dough, living enough of the edges to fold over. Close the sides and transfer, seam side down, to a cookie sheet or a baking pan. Repeat with the other half. Brush the top of the knishes with the egg. Now comes the real trick – slice the unbaked knish (see photo) almost all the way through.
Bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes and voila – it looks just like savta’s knish!
It tasted great too, although it lacked the distinct flavor of cheap margarine.