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....

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