Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Knishnaut: One is Not Like the Other

Left: Old & Busted. Right: Like Will Smith in MIB, it makes this style look good.
Knishes are baked...unless they are fried. Among the pizzaratti, there is something called the "Pizza Cognition Theory." It states that:
The first slice of pizza a child sees and tastes (and somehow appreciates on something more than a childlike, mmmgoood, thanks-mom level), becomes, for him, pizza. He relegates all subsequent slices, if they are different in some manner from that first triangle of dough and cheese and tomato and oil and herbs and spices, to a status that we can characterize as not pizza.
Now take out the word pizza, and insert the word knish. For the average New Yorker, the defining knish is not Mrs. Stahls, the same way most pizza-heads can't really claim Di Fara's as their ur-slice. For many (particularly non-Jewish) people, if they have an early, formative experience with a knish from the days before foodies and artisanal mayonnaise, it would be... this:

Deep fried squares, usually sold from a cart along side hot dogs, an echo of the time of knish-carts from the time of our grandparents. These are Gabila's knishes, a.k.a. Coney Island–style knishes, and while I may take time at a later point to delve into this history, only three things are of import here:
  1. They are not too available on carts anymore due to DOH & Giuliani, but are still widely available in supermarkets.
  2. They are fully enclosed in dough.
  3. They are deep fried, not baked.
So a few days ago, in an attempt to eat healthier after eating way too much crap for the week before and few weeks after my son Lil' Knyshy was born, I decided to make some spinach knishes, strictly for home use. With some left over dough and some plain potato filling, I strapped on my knishnaut helmet and I went to work on exploring the outer reaches of what my knishtchen could produce....
Mandatory nudie knish pic, you pervert.
Well, it's square--so, square I made it. Well, rectangular, anyway. It's hip to be a square, and it's post modern to be a rectangle.

For ODB, as he likes his knishes raw.
Then I folded it up, used a bench scraper to seal the edges and then....
Little did he know that it was not a Jacuzzi...
In culinary school, we spent weeks on each method of cooking -- sautéeing & pan frying, roasting & baking, poaching & braising, curing & smoking & more. Only one method got a single solitary day: deep frying. In the lecture part of the class, the chef explained that if you have your time and temp right in deep fry, you are pretty much guaranteed to come out delicious -- and that's why the combination of fancy egg-timer-technology and non-trained high school drop outs can make perfect french fries at McDonalds for 50+ years all over the globe.

But a handmade knish does not come with time and temp instructions, so I had to wing it. Using a quart of peanut oil (peanut, because it has a high smoke point) that I zapped up really hot -- 500 degrees (french fries go good at around 450), I decided to just eyeball the frying until it looked about right. Unlike fried chicken, I would not have to worry about pre-cooked innards being raw, and a higher fry temp would prevent much oil from being absorbed by my knish.

Boil, boil, toil & trouble.
The knish started looking pretty golden at about 30 seconds, and I let it go for another 15 to get some nice mahogany spots all over the crust, guaranteeing some nice brown flavor. I cut it open, and it was nice and hot on the inside.

I am an American. If you deep fry it, I've been trained to automatically like it. When I went to try this knish, I was thinking, "Well, I didn't make any consideration for this method -- I'm using the same dough and the same filling as a baked knish, so let's pay attention to how this needs to be adjusted." After taking a bite, my only thought was, "Oh my. I need to take another bite." And my second thought was, "If my grandma was from Mumbai instead of Israel, this would be her very oniony, very underspiced samosa." And my third thought was, "Oh shut up, stop thinking so much, this is kinda good." I have a few ideas for improvements, but this was a very auspicious Coney-style knish v 1.0.

I had a few Gabila's knishes lying around (because if you are a Knishman, Rule 38.3 of the Lifestyle Code dictates you must always have a few Gabilas lying around) so I put them down, head to head.
Two generations.
Which one would you like to eat?

ADDENDUM: I was hoping to do a round of holiday knishes for special order for Hanukkah/Xmas/New Years ever for special order, like I did for Thanksgiving. While making this recent round of knishes, I took responsibility for caring for Lil Knyshy:

Lil' Knishy rides a bouncy table full o' Spinach Knishes
Caring for an infant while making 72+ knishes is like working with one hand tied behind your back. It took me a little longer, but all the knishes came out to my satisfaction, and in the evening I got into mad-scientist mode with the boiling oil after everyone went to sleep.

However, the preschool my toddler attends was put on emergency hiatus (another story for a non-food-blog post) and for the next two weeks I will have two arms and one leg tied up plus a rope around my waist tying me to a cranky radiator. So I will be forced to skip this holiday season and focus on some winter holidays -- please check out the poll on this blog as well as our Facebook page.

Thanks to everyone for their support!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cabbages, cabbages

Recently, I got an random email:

If you can even approximate a Mrs. Stahl's Cabbage Knish (Brighton Beach) you'll have a devoted customer for life. Please advise.

The Eggcreamer, Encino, CA

I replied:

Oh man. I grew up on Mrs. Stahl's, but because I was a kid, I only had access to what my parents would buy, and that did not include cabbage!!

Though I have not rolled them out yet, I have tinkered with a cabbage knish -- it's one of the few fillings that are as old and traditional as potato and kasha (and I keep a steady supply of home made 2nd Ave Deli-recipe health salad in the fridge.)

Could you do me a favor? Describe to me, in as much detail as you can muster, everything you can remember about a Mrs. Stahl's cabbage knish, and next time I take a crack at it, I'll keep what you say in mind. Thanks!

Anyone else out there have fond memories of a favorite cabbage knish? Though I love cabbage, I never had a cabbage knish that I would campaign for President of the Knish Klub...

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Knishes: Thank you!

A hot steaming pile of pumpkin.
My wife has a friend who once insisted that it was not possible to make a pumpkin pie from anything other than canned pumpkin. And that may be true, but I don't want my knish to taste like pie!

Anyway, thanks to everyone who ordered knishes -- we cooked close to our 1 day capacity, and everyone either came to HQ to pick up or were where they said they were going to be when I delivered in the afternoon and early evening.

Pumpkin knishes in search of yo turkey n' gravy.
So far all the feedback I received from the front lines of people's Thanksgiving tables have been good vibes -- if you had our pumpkin knishes, feel free to gimme a shout and give me a piece of your mind.

Until we start selling at some fairs in the Spring, the mind ponders....what holiday knishes can we sling next?....

Monday, November 14, 2011

Pre-order Pumpkin Knishes for Thanksgiving!

You can't keep a good knish down! It's savory (not sweet), full of big pumpkin flavor and spicing, and held together with the thin crisp/chewy/potato-y knish crust that'll make your Thanksgiving folk kvell!

So I recently got some feedback from a customer who sampled the pumpkin knishes at our Knishening event; she wants to serve those same knishes at her Thanksgiving table. It's hard to say no to someone who's excited about one's own product, so I decided to warm up the oven and make the following announcement:

Knishery NYC is baking pumpkin knishes for Thanksgiving this weekend! Place your order by Friday, November 18th, and you will be able to either pick them up on Sunday, between 11 am to 12pm, on the Lower East Side or have them delivered to your door Sunday afternoon and early evening.*
  • 1-9 pumpkin knishes: $3 each + tax
  • 10-19 pumpkin knishes $2.50 each + tax
  • 20+ pumpkin knishes: $2 each + tax
Cash only at point of pick up/delivery. They will arrive cold, and will hold up in the refrigerator quite well until Thanksgiving. [Reheat in oven at 300 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.]

To order, email knisherynyc(at)gmail.com; you will receive a confirmation email. We have limited capacity; orders placed will be filled first come, first serve.
Pumpkin knishes are vegetarian and dairy-free, not vegan (due to eggs) or gluten-free (due to wheat.) Depending on availability, they are 50 to 95% made with organic ingredients.
*Delivery zone limited to anywhere in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. Deliveries to be made via the knisher's own cargo bicycle. So here is your chance to meet KnisheryNYC in 3-D! Rough delivery times assigned the day before delivery. In case of scheduling issues, limited deliveries can be made on Monday. No extra charge for delivery. So be nice, not a nudgenik!

Explorations in Kasha

Kasha, all the way
With the left over dough from the last round, I decided to play with some kasha. Don't really have a formal recipe yet, so here goes:
  • 1 box of course granulation kasha (13 oz), cooked to directions, plus 2 extra egg yolks in the toasting stage (yield about 8 cups cooked)
  • 4 cups chopped caramelized onions
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 8 whole eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • Eggwash (whole egg and water) to coat
Which all looks like:

What a whole box of kasha wrought
400 degrees in the oven, convection setting, for 40 minutes. They came out pleasingly golden. I tasted the mix for salt before moving forward, but the baking changes things -- the eggs firms it up, the fat gets absorbed by the grain, the mouthful is mixed with the crust. Upon eating one the next day, was very happy to find the final product pleasingly fluffy and savory, the opposite of the dense, grainy, crumbly kasha knishes I've had in the past. Still had that buckwheat flavor, but...elevated. Hmmmm. I wonder what other people will think.

Wanna here something nasty? You just wanna hear about that nasty Ham & Swiss thing at the top. You're all the same. I had enough dough and space in the oven after using up the kasha for two more knishes. No chocolate in the house thanks to a very pregnant wife, and the mac n' cheese in the fridge is kid-friendly knish-repellent Kraft dinner.

But looking at the supplies on hand for my kid, I have some freshly sliced cold cuts and cheeses for variety on her dinner plate. Thin-sliced Swiss cheese and thin-sliced country ham. Hmmmm. Ham & Swiss in a pressed sandwich, panini or croque monsieur is an obvious. The rough n' tumble potato dough might be a good match. So to each standard sized knish dough, I crumpled two slices of ham, 2 halves of a Swiss slice, and a dollop of caramelized onion. And....
Ham & Swiss Knish...nikkit!!
As you can see by the top pic, it came out looking nice. I would have maybe reduced cooking time by 5 to 10, but the only thing that actually burned was a little onion peeking out the top, and it actually gave a very mature, smokey overtone to the whole mess. I really enjoyed it much more than I should have, but I think it needs work. My ideas:
  • Cubed precooked meat (turkey, pastrami, something a little less trief)
  • Cubed cheese (Swiss is a gimme, gotta explore eastern European cheeses more)
  • In the interest of respecting Jewish custom, maybe some hashbrown-styled cubed potato for instead of cheese.
  • Onion as condiment is a winner. There is a certain umami that could do some of the heavy lifting cheese usually does.Maybe pre-mustardize the insides, too.
And the money shot:
You can call me Ms. Jackson.
I had dinner with my Knish Rabbi last week, who was not amused by this very nontraditional mix. It's not that she's particularly against trief things or doesn't find a warm n' gooey ham & cheese unappealing, it's that it kind of dilutes the Jewish identity of what a knish is. I'm not kosher myself, and I don't plan to immediately court of the kosher marketplace, but she does have a very good point that I can't help but feel has something crucial to it. More thought and study is required.

This post was written last week, but was delayed in posting due to the appearance of one particular, peculiar, and distinctly piping fresh knish:

Baby Knish, limited edition of 1. Much rarer than the McRib.
 All is well, and knish baking to resume sooner than, uh, my wife realizes....

    Friday, November 4, 2011

    Knishnaut: Peanut Butter Chocolate

    Person 1: "Hey! You got PB& chocolate in my knish!" Person 2: "Hey! You got knish in my PB & chocolate!"
     Having fully recovered from the Knishening this past weekend, the main thing on the to-do list was....make more knishes. A full quart of left over potato filling needed attending to, and with the help of a bag o' the green stuff, I popped out a couple dozen potato and spinach/roasted garlic samples to get off to various people who might be able to help KNYC in the spring. However, there was the vexing question of enough filling for 24 knishes but enough dough for 25....

    They're so innocent and full of potential when they're young.

    I'm not about to cook a whole batch of some filling prevent the waste of one little scrap of dough, so I go hunting - bubbe style: I search for left overs. The mac n' cheese made from scratch on Wednesday have already been devoured by certain unnamed members of my family, so I was gonna have to go deeper. I did have a handful of chocolate chips.... but not enough to fill a knish.

    Peanut butter goes well with chocolate, and when I have limited amounts of chocolate, PB is a good extender. I took out a work bowl, threw down one heaping table spoon of natural peanut butter. To it, a teaspoon of shortening, a teaspoon of sugar, one egg yolk, a pinch of salt, and a double pinch of flour. Tossed in the chips, rolled it into a ball, wrapped it in knish dough like it wasn't an unwelcome guest to the party, and into the oven after the egg wash.

    That's the way this knish crumbles.
     The ingredients I laid down, in different proportions, could be three things: peanut butter chocolate pie, peanut butter chocolate cookie, or peanut butter chocolate fudge. What came out was somewhere between pie and cookie -- surprisingly light, moist, delicate, rich but not overwhelming. The glutenous potato-based dough wasn't a great match for it, but the flakier sweet knish dough I use would probably work fine. But it got me thinking:

    I'm not a huge fan of fudge, its most common occurrence is in poor quality at tourist traps. But fresh fudge made with the right ingredients can be delightful, except for its form factor: it comes in ungainly cubical blocks that have to be held with paper, or fudgy shmears are guaranteed on your fingers. If said fudge were contained on 2 or 3 sides by a nice thin sweet knish dough....now THAT could be like Mr. Nathan introducing hot dog to bun! Well, maybe not, but a knishman can dream....

    Tuesday, November 1, 2011

    The Knishening -- What We Learned

    C'mon ev'rybody! Let's put on a show!
    1.  I enjoy baking knishes en masse.
    2. The heaviest October snowfall in recorded history will mess up a start-up knishery's debut.
    3. People like free knishes. Many were generous with donations after tasting.
    4. People really like chocolate hazelnut knishes.
    5. Hell will freeze over when I bake 568 knishes in my home kitchen again. Or, Spring -- whichever comes first.
    6. Realized that if I don't do a proper debut in the spring, the Empenadas/Perogies/Shumai/Borekas/(insert ethnic dumpling here) will have won. That ain't right.
    7. The Lo Down has got my back. And rep is built one knish at a time.
    8. A friend will store two trays of knishes in her fridge, and when she getS stuck in her building's elevator with them for two hours, she will only eat two.  (I don't know whether to be happy, sad, horrified, or relieved she didn't eat more....)
    9. My wife. My wife!!:
    The Power Behind the Knish
    Imagine having your partner baking and making a mess 12 to 14 hours a day for 5 days straight, after a weekend of piling up potatoes, onions and other bulk goods all over your kitchen. Imagine that while working full time. Imagine that while looking after a rambunctious toddler. And now imagine that while NINE AND A HALF MONTHS PREGNANT. And now on top of that, imagine STILL being happy with your life, STILL pitching in as much as possible with your partner's knish fantasies, STILL picking up the slack no matter what happens. I don't have to imagine it, fortunately, I married that tough dame!

    So in the immediate future, a baby is popping in on us (names that come to mind: Potato, Lil' Spinachy, Knenny, and of course, in honor of the town from whence our dumpling came, Knyszyn. Who needs vowels when you got love?) Expect to see:
    • a Kickstarter campaign before 2012, 
    • a few top secret Knishery NYC plans for the winter, 
    • continued recipe experimentation recorded on this site,
    • and a proper, non-snowed out Knishery NYC debut in the Spring!
    Rumor has it that we'll be opening up a proper store in the new year. I think I might have said that because I was cold standing in the park with my knishes, thinking how wonderful it would be to be able to serve knishes right out of a hot, radiant hearth. Because love don't come out of no microwave!

    Thanks and good knishing,

    Noah Wildman
    That Guy, Knishery NYC

    Monday, October 31, 2011


    It was cold, it was windy, it was distinctly knishy. More to come shortly.

    Friday, October 28, 2011

    The Knishening - Delayed by a Day

    I was happy to have the last of about 165 potato knishes in the oven when this email comes through the wire:
    Dear HSF Vendors:

    We regretfully announce that because of the worsening weather conditions we will have to cancel tomorrow's fair.  Given that it was to be our last day of the season we really wanted to keep the fair open but because of the combination of wind, rain, snow, we felt it could not be helped.

    Apologies for any inconveniences.
    So what's a guy with 500+ knishes supposed to do? Does he throw down his dough? Cry into his seltzer? NO: The show must go on...in his own L.E.S. backyard!

    Please join Knishery NYC for an early afternoon FREE tasting. Menu to include:
    • Potato, Broccoli Cheddar, Spinach and Pumpkin for the savory team
    • Apple Cheese and Chocolate Hazelnut for the sweet team
    Come one, come all. Take a doggy bag for a loved one! Sunday, October 30th from 12 to 3pm. Map and directions below.

    Thanks and hope to see, and feed, you on Sunday.

    View The Knishening, Sunday October 30th in a larger map

    The Park behind 500 Grand Street, entrance on Grand between Willett and Columbia Streets. Take 14A bus to Grand & Columbia, or 14D to Delancey and Columbia. F/J/M/Z at Delancey/Essex or B/D to Grand Street.

    I'm just an innocent, newly born potato knish. Please find a home for me....IN YO BELLY!!!

    Thursday, October 27, 2011

    The Knishening is Two Days Away

    Spinach & Roasted Garlic, on the way back from Brown Town
    It's getting closer. Day after tomorrow Knishery NYC shall fling some knishes on the proverbial wall, and hopefully some will stick. I suspect the pumpkins will stick rather well, though the kashas are a bit dense for that kinda thing.

    Yesterday was a catch-up day: in the morning finished baking pumpkin donuts, made a huge amount of dough (12x bigger than I've made before) then had to take off to school, a high school where I teach culinary once a week -- I could drop almost all of my obligations this week, but a regular class is not one of them.

    Today, half the day was dedicated to broccoli cheddar and the other half to spinach & roasted garlic. How much garlic, you ask? This much!
    Acquired from the Grand Street CSA.
     That's a whole lotta garlic, but made mellow, smooth and creamy by roasting it in a closed pouch with a little olive oil and salt. After a 12 hour cooking session, the task was done. Timing myself while peeling a five pound bag of potatoes, I found it took 8 minutes. That might not be remarkable to some, but on Monday when I timed it, I was at 12 minutes. The Knishening is Quickening.

    While the pic on top looks mighty sexy, how would you like to see them.....nikkit?!

    Why, hello. Didn't anyone teach you to knock?
     Tomorrow is the last day of production, where we saved the biggie for last: straight up potato knishes.

    Tuesday, October 25, 2011

    Four more days until Knishnageddon

    It's nice to be able rush out of your apartment at 9pm to your local supermarket in desperate need of kasha, then having to select from not one, not two, not even three but four different variations of said grain. (It comes in whole, course, medium and fine, referring to the level of grind the grain went under. Whole tends to fall apart to easy in a knish-application, and fine goes mushy. I got course.) I tragically underestimated the amount of kasha I'd need during the day, and ended up making a second batch during the evening's assembly/baking.

    Today we popped out a whole mess of kasha and several dozen pumpkin knishes. The pumpkin filling was supplemented with butternut squash, eggs, salt and shortening -- I was tempted to go crazy with the spices, but it's simple pumpkininess stayed my hand.

    Other than fillings, I cooked the 45 lbs of onions for about 10 hours during the day. The three white stinky trays at the begining of the day became one golden mahogany brown tray by time it was ready for assembly...

    Monday, October 24, 2011

    Five days until.....The Knishening

    So for the first day of production, started with those that'll keep best in the fridge. Knocked out dough, filling, assembly and baking of a whole mess of apple-cheese and chocolate-hazelnut knishes. I had picked up a can of fancy hazelnut praline paste to experiment with, but decided against it because why risk ruining a very large batch with an x-factor. Maybe next time.
    Ever wonder what 45 lbs of diced onions look like?
    Oh caramelization, take me away!

    I wore goggles, but still got a runny, stingy nose and a scratchy throat from breathing in the onion. Such are the daily dangers in the life of a knishnaut.

    Sunday, October 23, 2011

    Do these 150 lbs of potatoes and onions make my (bike's) behind look fat?

    Conversation in my elevator, while bringing up the groceries:
    Him: "That's a lotta potato & onions."
    Me: "Yep."
    Him: "Latkes?"
    Me: "Knishes"
    Him: "Cool."
    Yes, I live on the Lower East Side.

    Saturday, October 22, 2011

    No Knishitty!

    To paraphrase Blackstreet, "You gotta bag it up -- no knishitty!" One week until our Hester Street Fair debut!

    Wednesday, October 19, 2011

    Fruity Cheesy Knishy Experiments

    At some point you have to stop tweaking and go into production, but not today. Today was my last chance to experiment with some knish making. Dessert-centric cheese knishes could be an afterthought, which is good in two ways -- no one expects much, and the definition of what a 'sweet cheese' knish must be isn't as codified as the savory potato.

    I was not that thrilled with the apple-cheese knishes from last week, so for inspiration (and to dispose of 12+ lbs of CSA apples) over the weekend, I baked off 5 apple pies & crumbles. The essence of the pie is the flavorful liquid of the fruit that cooks out and becomes a thick, sweet jam-like substance. How that happens is simple -- the fruit is tossed in with flour, sugar, and a little salt, and between the gluten of the flour and the pectin of the fruit, when the juices cook out it becomes that wonderful goo. I don't want to make pocket pies, but I want some of the wonderful goo in my fruit-cheese knishes.

    So I scavenged around the kitchen and got myself a line up o' fruit. For the fresh team, we had
    • banana
    • apple
    • pear
    for the frozen team:
    • blueberries
    • cherries
    • mangoes
    I did up a mise-bowl of equal parts flour, sugar, and salt, and dredged the fruit handful by handful before inserting them into the open mouths of plain and chocolate knishes. Everything except bananas I paired with the plain sweet cheese, threw the bananas into the chocolate.

    I tweaked the recipes as I went. The main change was doubling the sugar in the plain cheese, as it just wasn't sweet enough before. This made the batter noticeably looser, which reminded me of what I was taught in c-school: sugar is always considered a wet ingredient, not a dry. Now I appreciate that more -- it dissolves or gets slushy in the presence of wet, adding to wet's mass and gluten-developing powers.

    Upon baking, it came clear that for the wetter fruit (everything but the banana), the fruit sweated enough to make a slight to large amount of gooey goodness on top of the cheese layer. As for the banana layer, the jury is still out, it may need some more thought.

    Another thought is that the chocolate-hazelnut is not hazelnutty enough. I'm depending on nutella, but amping it with dutch cocoa powder. I may go full on cocoa powder and hazelnut butter for production....

    Friday, October 14, 2011

    Our first press!

    The NY Times is to NYC as the Lo-Down is to the Lower East Side.

    Apple on Top

    Up until this point, the sweet knishes I've made were an afterthought, using left over dough. This time, it was all about the cheese knishes.

    Instead of using the tougher, potato-based dough that has been my go-to for the savory, I consulted a book I plucked off of Amazon recently, Love & Knishes, long out of print, my edition from 1958. There were two dough recipes, one with and one without baking powder -- I chose the latter, hoping for a flakier, lighter lift. 2 cups flour, 2 eggs, 2 tbsp "salad oil" (I assumed vegetable oil)1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt. The recipe warned that it could may be too dry to come together, and to add water. It did not come together, but water would just develop gluten without adding anything...so I threw in a 3rd egg and all was copacetic.

    For the fillings, I did a second attempt at chocolate hazelnut and a first attempt at apple. For the first one, used 1 pack of farmer's cheese, half a container of nutella, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 flour, 1 tbsp cocoa powder (dutched), 1 egg, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp vanilla. For the apple's cheese filling, the same, with nutella swapped out for sour cream. I peeled, cored, sliced, and fried three apples in butter with a little cinnamon, cardamom, salt, and brown sugar until firm (but still a bit soft). I made a slurry with 1 tsp of both corn starch and water, and added it to the pan once off the fire just to give the juices a little body, and prevent them from watering down the cheese mix.

    Used a cupcake pan again. After panning most of them, decided 4" square is enough dough for these pastries. For the apple, some I put the apples on the bottom, some on the top, but once they came out of the oven (300 degrees instead of the brown-inducing 425 for the savories, 20 minutes instead of savory 30-45), clearly the apple-on-top just looks more appetizing. Two hot ones went into my mouth with lunch and they were good, but the real test is when they are cold. The apple cheese didn't taste sweet enough (the apples were REALLY tart), but cold always makes things sweeter.

    Saturday, October 8, 2011

    Knish 4.0: Knishnaut

    Well, THAT was educational! I paid closer attention to each one, each step of the way, and here's what I discovered:
    • Potato: This is the first time I used russets rather than Eastern. Easterns are good because they're potentially local, but they're like the AP flour of potato -- good for most things, but not if you're making pastries or hearty bread. Russets milled a lot lighter and flakier, but developed a nice smoothness when worked in with the other ingredients. For the basic potato, it was caramelized onions, eggs, some vegetable shortening, several grinds of black pepper, and salt -- nothing more. Had to go back and add salt and taste a few times before it started singing.
    • Sweet Potato: This was supposed be sweet potato curry, but realized at the last minute I threw out my curry powder last week because it didn't smell fresh. Since the sweet potato mash alone is very moist, I mixed about 2/3 sweet potato with 1/3 plain potato to get it firm, along with onion, egg, a little vegetable shortening, and salt. For this round, instead of curry, I added a bit of cayenne (not so much for spice as to round out the flavor). Due to moisture, they spread a little more than others.
    • Broccoli Cheddar: This is like the little twerp you think will be a drain on your baseball team but, in order to be fair, have no choice but to include...only to watch him turn out to be a strong member. Broccoli, shredded mild cheddar, potato, egg, and pepper (no shortening or salt needed due to the cheese). They baked up nice and firm, no problems.
    • Spinach: As with the sweet potato, added about 1/3 plain potato to the garlic-soaked spinach for firmness, along with some egg. No need for shortening as the spinach was already cooked in it, salt to make it hollah like yo momma.
    • Kasha: Problematic. I was hoping I might make this a "vegan" entry to the menu but the grain was just too....grainy, crumbly, loose. So egg and potato had to go in to firm it up, along with some shortening plus a bigger black pepper grind than the others. I had to trash a few with the original mix because they would just flop open when sealed.
    • Chocolate Hazelnut Cheese: Interesting. This is essentially V 1.0 of this knish. Lined cupcake tin with dough, scooped in the filling, folded flaps over the tops. They came out goonish, the filling expanded and burst, the bottoms burned. Despite these setbacks, the filling was firm, sweet, chocolate-cheesy in just the right balancce. Needs some cocoa powder, maybe some hazelnut extract, lower temp, less filling to account for expansion...but a solid first step.
    • Misc: Found out that adding scraps of dough to fill out the square pieces cut out of round sheets works well without harming quality -- good efficiency saving. Oven ran at 425 convection mode. First round I did the cupcake tray on the bottom, elevated by another cupcake tray which was fine, but on the second round put knishes on a broiler pan on top of tray; they burned. I added another protective pan and that did the trick. But! Doing so prevented the two trays above from browning. If I'm going to run three sheets per batch in my home oven instead of the standard two, I gotta figure this out.

    Tuesday, October 4, 2011

    Knishery NYC Debut: Saturday October 29th at the Hester Street Fair!

    It's a date! KNISHERY NYC will have a booth at the Hester Street Fair on Saturday, October 29th! For more information, visit their website. For now, the menu will include about a half-dozen varieties. Standard notions, such as potato and broccoli-cheddar, to be expected. Any special requests? Please let us know what's on your Knish Wish List and we'll see what we can do. Thanks!

    Friday, September 23, 2011

    Lunch Bag Knish

    My 2-yr-old daughter and I went straight home after preschool because of the rain. I unpacked her lunch bag and it seemed she ate most of everything except the quartered potato knish that Mama packed for her. I had a little nibble of the cold knish, and it actually tasted quite good. Having upped the vegetable shortening and added eggs for the first time to the base potato filling might have done the trick. I think I may be ready to actually start recording my recipes for further refinement, I might actually have something here.

    Thursday, September 22, 2011

    Knishy Haze

    Felt off my game, but busted out a batch of knishes, on autopilot -- a good test, cooking something without much thought, just feel.  L, who first inspired me with her knish class lecture this past summer, came over for dinner to taste my knishes. Overwhelmingly positive feedback, and she & B got along like a house on fire. I know my wares are not yet perfect but they're coming along.

    Wednesday, September 7, 2011

    Knish 3.0: The Chocolating

    Three trays of potato, spinach-potato, broccoli-cheddar-potato, kasha-mushroom, and cabbage. Rolling out the dough, shaping the knish, baked at 425 for about 30 minutes seemed to get the job done. Upon tasting the broccoli, though, I wondered whether baking the potato instead of boiling it was the way to go since the potato seemed a bit lumpy, alas. Gotta eat more to make an executive decision!

    I also made a chocolate cheese loaf. Winged it, based on a brownie recipe. Melted a stick of butter with about a cup of unsweetened chocolate. Turned off heat, cup of sugar, 16 oz. farmer's cheese, scrapings of 3 vanilla beans, pinch of salt, 4 whisked eggs. Tasted not chocolaty enough; added about a 1/2 cup of dutched coco, definitely amped up the flavor. Put in a loaf pan lined with the potato dough, covered totally, brushed with a milk and egg wash. Baked at 375 for about 40 minutes. It expanded a little and cracked the top -- note to self for next time.  

    Tuesday, September 6, 2011

    Experiments lead to Flashbacks. No LSD, just potato.

    While cooking today, a strong food memory pounced on me. As an experiment, instead of boiling peeled potatoes, I baked them whole for 2 and half hours, then split them while hot to let out steam before discarding the skins and sending the flesh through the food mill. The smell of the steam coming out of the over-baked potatoes sent me back....

    It was in the kitchen of the house I grew up on Staten Island. My mom was making some sort of chicken or lamb chop, along with mashed potatoes. This evening was a little unusual, because my mom had a friend over from work, it was her assistant or secretary, maybe one and the same. My brother was there, too. For some reason, I told my mom that I wanted baked potatoes, not mashed potatoes. I didn't have some big preference for one or the other, but for some reason I insisted that THAT was what I wanted. She took one of the potatoes she planned to peel, boil, and mash...and placed it in the oven instead. Two hours later, at the table, I cut my baked potato in half and a fragrant poof of potato steam came out of the spud, giving a wonderful scent all over the kitchen. Mom's friend said, "That's the potato yeast", and I could see her staring hungrily at my potato. Knowing what Mom's mashed potatoes tasted like -- lumpy, too salty -- I think it's safe to say that I enjoyed my potato dish the most! I was not picky when it came to food and special meals, but I guess that getting my mom to bend to my will (in front of one of her professional friends) was some how exciting.

    Back to today's prep for tomorrow's cooking session: Potato, sweet potato, cabbage, kasha, spinach, and broccoli cheddar. Dough needs to rest upwards of a day. Baked 5lbs of potato, caramelized 5 lbs of chopped onion. Found I didn't have enough potato, though today's CSA visit produced a bunch more.
    Cooked up a cup of kasha, added the sauteed onion as well as garlicky sauteed mushroom. Sauteed 1/4 of a cabbage with a little vinegar, salt, and sugar.

    Friday, August 19, 2011

    Knish 2.0: Electric Boogaloo

    As I went along cooking today, I kept thinking about how to do this times 10, what with all the potatoes to peel and chop and boil, onions to cry over.... Made double batch of dough, used half of it, the other half for some sort of sweet knishes later in the week. Cranked the oven to 425 this time (recipe calls for 375) and checked occasionally -- 28 minutes gave some nice browning to the tops. I think I may even go hotter next time. Potato knishes came out nicely, I'm happy with the potato-onion balance, and the dough is thin and even. Bit more salt and a healthy dose of freshly ground black pepper next time.

    Kasha: good, cooked with water, a little butter and salt, a little pepper, and sauteed fresh mushrooms with a little garlic. Also needed more salt. After it cooked, I mixed in two eggs, which helped firm up the mix in the final knish. I also made a handful of broc-cheddar knishes. A cup of broccoli quick-steamed, chopped, and mixed with equal amounts potato mixture and shredded mild cheddar (left over from recent burrito making!). They look and taste very good. My daughter agrees!

    Thursday, July 14, 2011

    Something Cheesy This Way Comes

    While stir frying and cooking rice, saw the lump of knish dough that had to be used or thrown out. So I looked up a recipe for a basic cheese filling in the Encyclopedia of Jewish Cooking. Very simple, just farmers cheese, cream cheese, egg yolks, vanilla, and salt. Lined a loaf pan with the dough and slapped the filling in, covered it up and baked under golden. Innards are a little too moist for my comfort but still pretty good, a good starting point for improvement.

    Tuesday, July 12, 2011

    Knish Beta

    Followed this recipe per last week's knish lecture. I guess the compromises it makes (modern chemical leavener vs. traditional yeast, volume measures instead of weight, lack of certain descriptives, etc), is to appeal to the general public, not someone hungry for the authentic, true knish with a culinarily precise, repeatable product. But the knishes came out well -- even if the dough was a little more brittle than I like on a knish -- perhaps in part to a few modifications I made to the recipe, including:

    1. Carmelized the onions longer and with more oil than recommended, which all ended in the potato mixture.
    2. I let the dough rest for a solid hour to make rolling and cutting easier. 
    3. The recipe describes an assembly that would result in a bagel-shaped knish. Instead, I did a simple square with a lump in the middle, then folded up the sides to make a kind of giant open-faced dumpling, aka Shao Mai.
    4. Used white pepper instead of black, which gave a distinctive sharp note. Also, I think it looks nicer in the finished product.

    Wednesday, July 6, 2011


    Woke up with sore feet, ankles and legs. I was wearing flip flops all day yesterday, and the walk from Grand Central to home did a number on my joints, much worse than any bike ride. So though I planned to bliss-out on an 80 mile bike ride today, instead I packed up some snacks and trundled off to a well air-conditioned multiplex to catch 3 movies in a row on a single matinee ticket.

    While there, my wifey found a little knish lecture at a small community outpost out in Carrol Gardens, and asked me to do it. So I did, a talk from a knish-crazed lady to about 10 random people from all over the city. It was pretty inspirational, and this week I'm gonna knock out some knishes -- can't be too hard to pass the low bar that Yonah Shimmel has been producing these days...