Saturday, January 7, 2012

Rollin' into 2012

Eeny meeny mighty minis!
Life with a new infant (and a toddler on school vacation) did not allow much time for me to make -- and sell -- holiday knishes. But I was able to knock out some miniatures that seemed to be a big hit at the season's social gatherings (where I was inevitably asked: "So, how's the knish business coming along?" Sigh). At this point, even if I don't have the time to produce mass amounts of my product I still have to keep my knishnaut helmet on. Thus:
  1. I made my first batch of mini-knishis;
  2. I tried out the rolling method of assembly;
  3. I reformulated the chocolate hazelnut knish.
Why? Because:
  1. Two- to three-bite appetizer knishes are low-commitment kings at potlucks and multi-food family gatherings;
  2. Rolling is how knishes are made in large quantities quickly in professional settings;
  3. While the chocolate hazelnut knish easily got the largest, happiest raves at the Knishening, I want to eliminate Nutella from the recipe, a very lazy ingredient.
In culinary school, it was impressed upon us why appetizers are so expensive: despite the smaller quantity of food per serving, it's literally multiple times the amount of labor. So to make minis, some labor-saving techniques were called for. And if you do any amount of knish research, you'll find that the description "hand-rolled" is mentioned multiple times by those trying to hype their wares...even if hand-rolled says cigars and bagels to me. Hmmm.

Until now I've been cutting squares of dough, plopping a measure of filling in the middle, then folding it up, shumai-style. But if the same quantity of food that yields twelve knishes could do more than FORTY, why do three times the amount of labor? Hence:

Obligatory nikkit knish shot, perves!
Instead of 80+ tiny squares, we got three big ones with a carefully laid log o' potato-onion filling...

Then, once rolling it all up, I chopped it into 1-inch pieces. Surprisingly, the chopping action opened and spread the end that was just done...and sort of sealed the end being currently chopped. Thus, only a small amount of handling was required to seal the bottom and get the top to a nice symmetric look.

I came at the chocolate hazelnut cheese knish with the same rolling technique, but these were not to be mini -- perhaps smaller than what you get at Schimmels or what you got at Stahls, but the same form factor: a wedge of rolled knish, with two open ends.

The World's Largest Chocolate Cigar
My current chocolate hazelnut recipe tasted pretty good (so they say) but it's been rubbing me the wrong way, what with the from-a-jar Nutella. Knowing I could do better, I tinkered with a combination of dutch cocoa, hazelnut paste, and shortening. Then I sprinkled sugar on the crust after applying the egg wash, baked it and...

From here, some slicing and dicing and...

Voila: The look is right, far superior and less handwork than using a cupcake tray. However, the taste was all off, not sweet enough, too dry, hazelnutty in the wrong way. It left me some clues how to come correct next time, though.

Next up, in a couple of weeks: Off to a kosher kitchen for my first stab at 100% kosher knishing! Hopefully you'll all be pestered by a Kickstarter campaign coming soon, too...

Addendum 1:
My KitchenAid mixer died a loud and clanky death while making this round of knishes (I had to make the sweet knish dough by hand -- a shanda). Now I'm onto my third stand-mixer in less than five years. Why? One: I use them a lot. The other reason: Bagel dough.

Kneading bagel dough in a standard KitchenAid mixer will kill the motor if you walk away and let it knead the dough as much a you need it to. After spending a few years working with pizza in a professional setting, one becomes surprised that a 5-quart stand mixer just won't quite have the same torque and raw power at a 100-quart floor mixer. Oops. Due to common sense and a slumping economy, I was able to snag a 6-quart lift model (twice the wattage) for about the same price of the lower-level tilt head model.

Addendum 2: 
I ate an empanada recently. Send a knish to South America, have him marry a local, and their baby will be kinda like an empanada. Anyway. The actual shop is kind of what I envision a first iteration of a modern knish shop, minus, y'know, the pork sausage, the salsa, and the yeast dough. Metro Empanadas have a quality product, if you're into that kinda thing.

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