Earlier this week, in order to observe Rosh Hashona, I did something that was long overdue: I disconnected from the world at large.
It’s a new year—5773, to be exact—and the days are solemn, which suits me just fine. They’re days of reflection and awe; of taking stock, making amends and making changes.
I had a long standing joke with a long ago boyfriend that it was a good thing that we were Jewish, we had two chances each year for a fresh start.
I still sort of believe this.
Maybe it’s because the days are slow going. I’ve alluded to it here, with my absence as much as anything else. Two steps in one direction, one in another.
On Monday afternoon, I got out the mixer and set about making challah. In a burst of ambition, I attempted the traditional shape, winding the cord of dough around itself until redoubled, letting it rise and bake up fragrantly and golden brown.
Except. Well, it didn’t quite bake.
Or, bake at all.
Instead, it was a perfectly browned lump of uncooked dough. I thought about using it for Tashlikh but then remembering this particular scene thought the wiser. And, I couldn’t get to the water anyway. No matter, it’s all metaphorical. Perhaps that’s the lesson.
There’s always something to learn from and a way to make sense of a year’s passing. I had an extra challah on hand, made in the more typical braided style. A lesson learned from experiences such as Monday’s. The greater takeaway: plan for the unplanned, if you can. And, if you can’t, go with it.
I meant to share a recipe for apple cake with you here, for the holiday’s sake. I always mean to, and maybe next year I’ll get to it. Instead, another traditional Jewish food—at least in my experience—the potato knish. Naturally, I meant to share this recipe with you months ago.
Forgive me, I’m running behind, as always, although now one step closer to catching up.
Recipe adapted from Joe Pastry
For the Dough:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 large egg, plus 1 yolk set aside (to glaze the dough)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp white vinegar
1/2 cup water, plus 1 tsp set aside
1 large egg yolk
For the Filling:
1.5 pounds russet potatoes (3 medium or 4 small), peeled quartered and boiled
1 cup diced yellow onion
1 TBS vegetable oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
To Make the Dough:
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Stir to combine, and set aside, forming a well in the middle. In another bowl, combine the whole egg, oil, vinegar, and 1/2 cup of water. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry, using your hands to knead them together until the mixture forms a smooth dough. Place the dough in the large bowl, covering with plastic wrap and set aside for at least an hour. While the dough is resting, make your filling.
To Make the filling:
Boil the potatoes in salted water, starting with cold water and bringing it to a boil with the potatoes in the water and then reducing the heat to medium. This ensures even cooking. The potatoes are done when they are tender. This should take about 20 minutes. When the potatoes are ready, drain them and set them aside to cool.
While the potatoes are cooling, cook the onions by heating a large pan over low heat, adding the vegetable oil once the pan is hot. Add in the onions and caramelize over medium low heat until they are golden brown. This will take approximately 45 minutes. When the onions are ready, in a large bowl, combine them with the potatoes, white pepper and salt to taste. Mash them until they are smooth, then set aside to cool.
To Assemble the Knish:
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Take half of the dough and roll it out onto a floured surface. Roll it out as thinly as possible, forming a square shape that’s approximately 12″ long . Place the potato mixture in the center, so that it is approximately 1″ thick, then roll the filling up within the dough, leaving a little room. You don’t want it too tight or it will open up while baking. Trim the ends of the dough. You want them to be about 1/2″ longer than the potato filling.
Make indentations along the filled dough every 2.5″ and twist the dough at these points, snipping it at each turn and then using your fingers press the ends together to seal tightly, twisting to ensure that it stays closed. Using your palm, flatten the knish. Then, using your palm, press the dough on the top of the knish, leaving it mostly open. You want the dough to run flat against the potato.
Please the knishes on parchment lined baking sheets, taking care to leave at least 1/2″ of space between each one.
Bake the formed knish:
Whisk the egg yolk and 1 tsp water together and using a pastry brush, glaze the top of the knish. Bake for 45 minutes, until they are golden brown.
Allow to cool for at least ten minutes before serving.
Makes approximately one and a half dozen knishes 1.5″ in diameter