The knish, a kind of stuffed bun, has an interesting history. It originated in Ukraine and Belarus, where it was known as knysh and was a kind of pirozhok usually filled with buckwheat, onions or bacon. However, it almost completely vanished from the culinary repertoire of these two countries, and it was instead brought to America by Jewish emigrants at the beginning of the 20th century. It became a Jewish staple as a round bun filled with either potato or buckwheat.
I thought it was time to transform the potato knish once again. My version is unorthodox, but delicious! For the potato filling, I adapted Heston Blumenthal’s recipe for potato purée, and the dough is a choux dough mixed with cheese, like the one used in gougères. The puffs are then partly hollowed out (you want to keep a bit of the pastry inside to make thinks more interesting) and the purée is piped into them. You can choose pretty much any melting cheese of your liking for the dough — I’ve had good results with Pecorino and various tomme-style cheeses. I eventually picked aged gouda for its nuttiness and because it’s somewhat similar to some cheeses made in Russia.
Yields 8 servings (8 knishes)
1 lb peeled Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1″ slices
2 oz sour cream
5 oz butter
1 pinch black pepper
1 pinch ground nutmeg
- Bring a pot of unsalted water to 175 F. Add the potatoes, and cook for 30 minutes, maintaining the water temperature at 160 F (if you use a lot of water and cover the pot with a lid, the temperature should remain almost constant without you doing anything). Transfer the potatoes to a bowl of ice water, and let cool completely.
- Bring the pot of water up to a boil and salt the water. Add the potatoes and simmer until cooked.
- Pass through a food mill fit with the finest disk; if necessary, use some of the sour cream to get the grinding going. Mix the potatoes with the sour cream, butter, black pepper and nutmeg, then push the mixture through a sieve — you can either pass it through a conical sieve with a ladle, or rub it through a drum sieve with a spatula. Reserve.
Yields 8 gougères
4 oz water
1.5 oz butter
2.5 oz flour
2 1/2 eggs
4 oz aged gouda, finely grated
1 pinch ground pepper
1 pinch ground nutmeg
- In a saucepan, bring the water, butter and a pinch of salt to a boil. Remove from the heat, add the flour and mix well. Put back on medium heat, mix until the dough does not stick, then keep stirring for about a minute. Drying out the mixture enough is essential for the gougères to puff properly.
- Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl, and add the eggs one by one, mixing between each egg. Add the cheese, pepper and nutmeg and mix well.
- Form small balls of dough on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper, and bake in a 350 F oven for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.
Yields 8 knishes
- Make a hole at the bottom of each gougère using a pairing knife, and carve most of the dough (but not all) out of the puffs. Do your best, but don’t worry if you puncture the top of the gougère or end up with a large hole at the base, the result will still look and taste great.
- Fill a pastry bag with the potato purée, and pipe into the gougères until they start plumping up.
- Place on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper, and reheat in a 350 F oven for about 8 minutes. Serve immediately.