Earlier this week my friend Keaton posted a vital (and familiar) question to the CITK Facebook page: “Do you have a good recipe for potato knishes? I have been craving them but haven’t found the quality that I have been looking for in Cincy.” That is a good question, indeed.
Oh, Keaton, unfortunately you are not alone. The knishes that I’ve been able to find around here are sad and sub-par at best. The fillings are bland and lack texture, the dough is mushy and falls apart. Not to mention that they’re usually the size of a basketball, since when is that a thing?
Let’s take a quick glance at understanding exactly what potato knish is. A potato knish (also known as a “bureka” in Israel) is an Eastern European street food that consists of a spiced filling covered in dough which is then either fried, grilled, or (most commonly) baked. The filling can range from potatoes to beef to cheese and veggies; basically, if you can stuff it into dough, you can make a knish out of it. The most traditional shape of a knish is round and about the size of a tennis ball, with a thin layer of golden brown dough and a perfectly seasoned filling. Street vendors sell these all across Eastern Europe as they are easily transportable and can be prepared in large bulk.
But fear not! I do, indeed, have a very special recipe for potato knishes that can satisfy your craving. My grandmother on my Israeli father’s side, who originally hails from Hungary, has passed down her love and finesse for authentic Hungarian cooking, including traditional Hungarian potato knishes. To put it simply, paprika is in my blood! Hungarian potato knishes are notoriously red on the inside from the addition of smoked sweet paprika to season the potato and sautéed onion filling. The dough, which is easy to make and manage, has the perfect texture thanks to the addition of vinegar to keep gluten content low, just as described in the blog post about Argentinean Beef Empanadas.
By combining a little bit of science, a lot of love, and plenty of paprika, I give to you my grandmother’s traditional Hungarian potato knish recipe. I hope I made you proud, Safta Dushi.
Traditional Hungarian Potato Knishes
For the dough:
- 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour*
- 1/2 Tbsp salt
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs, plus 1 additional for egg wash
- 1 Tbsp distilled white vinegar
- 1 cup lukewarm water
For the filling:
- 4 large red potatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds), washed, peeled, and cubed
- 2 large white onions, chopped
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2 Tbsp Hungarian paprika
- 2 tsp seasoning salt
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- In a large bowl, sift all-purpose flour and salt. In another bowl, combine vegetable oil, 2 large eggs, vinegar, and water and mix to combine.
- Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients while stirring with a wooden spoon. Once dough begins to come together, turn out onto a floured surface and knead until dough is smooth. Divide into four equal sections, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for minimum 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, place cubed potatoes in a large pot and fill with water up to 1 inch past the potatoes. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium and allow the potatoes to simmer for 10-15 minutes until easily pierced with a fork.
- Drain potatoes and allow to air dry before transferring to a large mixing bowl. Meanwhile, heat up the 1/4 cup vegetable oil in a nonstick skillet and sauté the chopped onions until translucent, about 3-5 minutes.
- Combine cooked potatoes, onions, paprika, seasoning salt, and garlic powder in a large mixing bowl. Mix with (clean) hands until about 80% of the potatoes are mashed (keeping some chunks intact provides texture).
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Roll out one of the dough sections to 1/8 inch thickness. Using a bowl or a large mug, cut out circles from the dough. Place one heaping tablespoon of filling in the middle of each dough circle, surround the filling with the dough, and pinch the dough at the top to create a small "purse". Repeat with all dough.
- Place uncooked knishes on a greased baking pan about 1/2 inch apart. Beat the remaining egg and brush onto the knishes twice. Cook at 375 degrees F for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.
*All-purpose flour can be replaced with gluten-free all-purpose flour. If doing so, omit the distilled vinegar and replace with an additional 1 Tbsp water.
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