I fell down an Internet rabbit hole the other night. I ended up spending more time than I’m willing to admit watching videos of people making knishes. Weird, right?
It all started with my cousin Alison’s suggestion for this week’s post. She thought it might be fun to put a Mexican spin on a traditional Jewish dish, in honor of next week’s celebration of Cinco de Mayo. I’m not much of a baker and I don’t always have great success with pastry, so I dismissed the idea. But my competitive nature got the best of me—just because I’d never made them doesn’t mean I can’t. So what started as a little preliminary Internet research turned into a weekend’s worth of watching action-packed knish-making YouTube videos. (I’m not being sarcastic. Have you ever watched an experienced cook form a small army of knishes? It’s riveting.)
After my knish boot camp, I felt I was ready to attempt making my own. First up was the dough. I had every intention of making my own, but several reputable food blogs, including one of my standbys, Smitten Kitchen, highly recommended Joe Pastry’s Traditional Knish Dough recipe. And from my experience, when Deb Perelman from Smitten Kitchen tells you to do something, you do it. I tried out a batch and was pleasantly surprised with the ease and flakiness of the dough. I also found that in addition to this recipe, he has great step-by-step instructions for forming the knishes. Joe had no idea he was teaching me so much.
The filling in this recipe, however, is all mine. Knishes are usually filled with a mixture of white potatoes and onions. In order to incorporate Mexican flavors, I started with mashed sweet potatoes, then dressed them up with black beans, corn and cilantro, and lots of Mexican smoke and spice in the form of chipotles in adobo, cumin, dried oregano and cayenne pepper. And instead of a dollop of mustard, I recommend dipping these in a smoky sauce spiked with a shot of lime juice.
When I pulled them out of the oven, the golden brown, piping hot knishes certainly looked the part. I ate several while I was photographing them and was pleased with the results, but I needed confirmation. That came in the form of a scribbled note on the kitchen counter the next morning. My roommates had tried to sneak a few bites of the knishes, but it turned into them devouring the entire container of leftovers.
Sweet Potato Knishes with Mexican Flavors
Featuring Joe Pastry’s knish pastry recipe
Makes about 12 knishes
11 ounces all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
½ cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon white vinegar
½ cup lukewarm water
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch chunks
1½ tablespoons half-and-half or cream
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ teaspoon dried oregano
2½ teaspoons canola oil
1 (15.25-ounce) can corn, drained well
1 small onion, sliced thin
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 (15.5-ounce) can black beans, drained
1 chipotle in adobo, minced
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ cup cilantro, minced
1 egg, lightly beaten
Chipotle and Queso Fresco Dipping Sauce
¼ cup sour cream
¼ cup queso fresco, crumbled
1 chipotle in adobo, minced, plus 2 teaspoons adobo sauce
2 teaspoons lime juice
1. For Dough: In stand mixer or large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Combine egg, vegetable oil, vinegar and water in medium bowl or liquid measuring cup. Make well in center of dry ingredients and pour in wet ingredients. If using stand mixer, use dough hook on low until dough comes together, about two minutes. If mixing by hand, bring dough together with spatula, then turn out onto lightly floured countertop and knead lightly into a ball. Transfer to bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let dough sit at room temperature for two hours.
2. For Filling: While dough rests, combine sweet potatoes, half-and-half, butter and oregano in medium, heavy-bottomed pot. Simmer over low heat, covered and stirring occasionally, until potatoes are fully cooked through, about 25 minutes.
3. While sweet potatoes cook, heat 2 teaspoons canola oil in 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add corn and onions in one layer and cook, stirring occasionally, until corn has started to brown, about 8 minutes.
4. Once corn has browned, add remaining ½ teaspoon of canola oil to center of pan and add jalapeno and garlic. Stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in black beans.
5. Once sweet potatoes have cooked through, use potato masher or fork to mash potatoes until no big clumps remain. Stir in corn and bean mixture, then salt, cumin, cayenne and cilantro. Set aside to cool until dough is ready to roll out.
6. When dough is ready to roll out, preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheet with parchment. Turn dough out onto lightly floured countertop. Using rolling pin and additional flour if dough is too sticky, roll dough until it is very thin and the shape of a rough rectangle.
7. Add heaping 1-tablespoon scoops along bottom edge of rectangle, starting about a half inch from edge and leaving an inch between scoops. Roll dough away from you over filling, and roll until filling is fully covered, about three full rolls. (You may not use all of the dough. Use chef’s knife or pizza cutter to trim off excess. If there’s enough left, use it to make more knishes.)
8. Pinch dough closed, then, using your fingers, pinch and twist the space between scoops. Place dough rope back on countertop, and use pizza cutter to cut through twists. Pinch ends shut so filling is fully enclosed. Using your palms, form knishes into squat cylinders. Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet.
9. Brush each knish with egg wash and bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.
10. For Dipping Sauce: While knishes cook, in small bowl, stir together sour cream, queso fresco, chipotle and sauce, and lime juice. Serve knishes hot, accompanied by dipping sauce.