Plenty of Knish in the Sea

What defines a feast? Is it the number of dishes, the volume of the servings, the size of the crowd? It’s a curious term with particular significance when dinner parties are discouraged, or downsized at best. The answer lies somewhere in the annals of history, while remaining firmly rooted in this present moment.

Let me explain. Years ago, I first learned of the Feast of Seven Fishes. The origins are hazy, details are scant, but the basic idea is that Roman Catholics would eschew meat before holy days, such as Christmas, eating fish instead as a form of fasting. That’s simple enough, but why seven? Theories abound, but none hold water. Some say it represents the seven sacraments, seven cardinal virtues, the seven sins, or seven days of the week. When it comes to the celebratory meal, however, you may just as well find 10 different fish dishes on the table, or even 12. Others might take a shortcut by combining everything into one big stew. All bets are off for this helter skelter celebration. The “feast,” built upon the principles of abstinence, could be decadent or downright austere.

As you might have guessed though, my curiosity about the concept has nothing to do with seafood. The mere title started forming new, unorthodox neural connections in my food-obsessed brain. What if we replaced the fishes with… Knishes?

Now that’s something I can make sense of. Call it a Jewish hand pie, empanada, baked bao, kolache, or breakfast pastry; none are too far off the mark. Typically stuffed with mashed potatoes or toasted buckwheat, it’s humble fare with universal appeal. One knish could be a substantial snack, while two make a hearty meal. Three knishes might be somewhat extravagant, but seven? Seven would definitely constitute a feast.

Thus, I present to you a new holiday tradition: The Feast of Seven Knishes! Stemming from a single master mashed potato filling, it may be a bit time-consuming to complete, but not complicated. Traditional inclusions are typically very simple, humble ingredients, so I tried to stay true to the art with a few of the basics.

Caramelized onions make everything delicious, so they’re a fool-proof way to get this party started. My secret ingredient is a pinch of baking soda to speed the process along. Sure, they get a bit softer that way, but texture isn’t so critical when they’re wrapped up in a crisp pastry shell anyway.

Spinach is also a classic all-seasons addition, adding a verdant vegetable into the mix, even if it’s just frozen and thawed. Such is the case here to make light work of the process, though you could certainly wilt down a fresh bundle if you had some handy. Likewise, kale, collards, swiss chard, or any other dark leafy greens would be right at home here, too.

It’s hard to beat the rich umami flavor of even plain button mushrooms, but a dab of truffle oil definitely bumps it up to the next level. Just a drop will do, lending volumes of bold, earthy, savory taste to every satisfying bite. You could omit the extra flourish in a pinch, though it’s well worth the investment, even for a small bottle.

Departing now from the beaten path of knish history, tender red beets brighten the next filling with a bright, rosy hue. Kissed with the woodsy notes of liquid smoke, it’s the kind of thing I’d gladly eat straight out of the mixing bowl. Look out, plain mashed potatoes; this one might just beat you to the table next time.

Inspired by another one of my favorite potato pastries, samosa spices enliven this curry-scented knish polka dotted with toothsome green peas. Truth be told, if you merely wrapped the dough differently and tossed them in the deep fryer, they’d be identical with the Indian appetizer. Now that’s fusion fare I can get behind.

Finally, defying the odds, and perhaps common sense, I couldn’t leave you without a sweet treat to end the meal on. Yes, you can have knishes for dessert, too! Buttery brown sugar batter riddled with gooey chocolate chips evokes the nostalgic flavors of cookie dough. Mini chips ensure equal distribution of the chocolatey goodness, though you could also chop up your favorite dark chocolate bar for a variety of different sized chunks.

No matter how you define a feast, or what your personal interpretation looks like, there should always be room on that table for at least one knish. If seven varieties is too grand for this unique season, feel free to multiply just one filling that strikes your fancy by seven. There’s no shame in loading up on only your favorite flavors. That could still be considered a plentiful feast, too.

Yield: Makes 28 Knishes (4 of Each Flavor)

Feast of Seven Knishes

Feast of Seven Knishes

Inspired by the Roman Catholic tradition, the Feast of Seven Fishes, this Jewish potato pastry offers a fun twist on the concept. One master potato filling spins off into seven tasty variations, including one for dessert! You could multiply just one favorite flavor seven times to cut down on the options, if you wanted a simpler spread.

Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 30 minutes
Additional Time 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours 30 minutes

Ingredients

Knish Dough:

  • 3 Cups Bread Flour
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 Cup Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Cup Aquafaba
  • 1/4 Cup Water
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Apple Cider Vinegar

Master Potato Filling:

  • 2 1/2 Pounds (About 4 Large) Russet Potatoes, Peeled and Diced
  • 1/4 Cup Vegan Butter
  • 1/2 Cup Aquafaba
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt

Cheesy Broccoli Filling:

  • 1/2 Cup Chopped Broccoli Florets
  • 2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
  • 1 Teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper

Truffled Mushroom Filling:

  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 Cup Minced Button Mushrooms
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Onion Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Truffle Oil

Caramelized Onion Filling:

  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 Cup Diced Onion
  • 1 Clove Garlic
  • 1 Teaspoon Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Baking Soda

Smoky Beet Filling:

  • 1/4 Cup Steamed Beets, Roughly Chopped
  • 1 Teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Liquid Smoke

Spinach Filling:

  • 1 Cup Frozen Spinach, Thawed and Drained
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Onion Powder

Samosa Filling:

  • 2 Tablespoons Full-Fat Coconut Milk
  • 1 Teaspoons Garam Masala
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Coriander
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Turmeric
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
  • 1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 Cups Frozen Peas, Thawed

Cookie Dough Filling:

  • 1 Tablespoon Vegan Butter, Melted
  • 1/4 Cup Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
  • 3 Tablespoons Mini Chocolate Chips
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1/3 Cup Bread Flour

Instructions

    1. For the dough, begin by combining the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the oil, aquafaba, water, and vinegar. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and use a sturdy spatula or wooden spoon to incorporate. Stir until it forms a loose, shaggy dough.
    2. Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 - 10 minutes, until the dough becomes smooth and supple. Cover with a clean kitchen towel or piece of plastic wrap, and let sit at room temperature for at least an hour before proceeding. Alternately, you could prepare the dough ahead of time and store it in the fridge for up to a day before using. Just let it warm back to room temperature first.
    3. While the dough rests, prepare the fillings. Begin by making master potato dough. Place the potatoes in a large pot and add enough water to cover. Set over medium heat and bring to a boil. Cook the potatoes until fork-tender; about 15 minutes. Thoroughly drain and transfer to a large bowl. Add the vegan butter while still hot to allow it to melt in, along with the aquafaba and salt. Mash thoroughly until smooth and creamy.
    4. Divide the main potato mixture between seven bowls. If you have a kitchen scale to ensure equal measures, this would be an ideal time to break it out.
    5. For the cheesy broccoli filling, finely chop the broccoli before adding it to one of the bowls, followed by the nutritional yeast, vinegar, and pepper. Stir thoroughly to combine.
    6. For the truffled mushroom filling, heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and saute until softened and lightly browned around the edges; 5 - 6 minutes. Transfer the cooked mushrooms to another bowl of potato filling. Add in the onion powder and truffle oil, stirring well to incorporate.
    7. For the caramelized onion filling, heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the diced onion and garlic and saute for 2 minutes to soften. Add in the vinegar before sprinkling the baking soda evenly over the mixture. Don't be alarmed if it froths lightly. Stir vigorously and reduce the heat to medium low. Cook, stirring every few minutes, for about 15 minutes, until dark amber brown. Transfer to another bowl of the master potato filling and stir well to combine.
    8. For the smoky beet filling, simply add the chopped beets, vinegar, and liquid smoke to a bowl of master potato filling and mash vigorously to combine.
    9. For the spinach filling, add the spinach, garlic powder, and onion powder to another bowl of the master potato filling and mix well to combine.
    10. For the samosa filling, mix together the coconut milk, spices, and lemon juice in a small bowl until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowlful of plain master potato filling, followed by the thawed peas, and stir thoroughly to combine.
    11. For the cookie dough filling, add the melted butter, brown sugar, chocolate chips, and vanilla extract to the final bowl of master potato filling. Mix to combine, and once smooth, add in the flour. Stir until completely incorporated.
    12. At last, we're ready to roll! Begin by preheating your oven to 375 degrees. To assemble the knishes, begin by cutting the dough into seven equal pieces. A kitchen scale would be particularly helpful in this situation, too. Lightly flour your work surface and begin rolling one of the balls into a rectangle, as thinly as possible. The exact measure isn't critical, but aim for about 8-inches long by 6-inches wide.
    13. Take one of your fillings and mound it up in a thick line down the center, horizontally. Wrap the pastry dough around it, doubling over if needed, pinching the ends to seal. Cut the log into 4 equal pieces, about 2 inches long each. For each individual piece, pinch and press one of the cut ends in, wrapping it over the filling but still allowing a peephole at the top. Place the open end down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, gently pressing it down into a slightly flattened round. Repeat with the remaining dough and fillings, allowing at least an inch between each knish on the baking sheet. You will need two baking sheets to hold them all.
    14. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 - 35 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through until golden brown all over. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. They're best enjoyed hot or warm, but can be delightful at room temperature, too.

Notes

Knishes can be frozen for up to two months. Wrap individually in plastic and store in an airtight container. When ready to serve, simply reheat in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes, until warm all the way through.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

28

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 164Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 5mgSodium: 160mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 2gSugar: 3gProtein: 3g

All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.

6 thoughts on “Plenty of Knish in the Sea

  1. Those look so good:) I have never had a knish, although I lived in New York, where I guess it is not hard to find one. I really should try to make these one day.

    1. I must admit, this was actually my first time making them! I had only eaten the square frozen ones before. It’s so worth the effort!

  2. Love the title and love the sound of these! I’m currently making split pea soup which is terrible because it smells wonderful for hours before it can be eaten. :-)

    janet

  3. I am Catholic and I had never heard of this, learned something new today, thanks to you Hannah.
    Definitely this is not something for fasting and they look like something to be served on feasting! Looks amazing, would definitely love to try all of that

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