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Recipe: Ida Gardner’s Knishes

Hearty thanks to Sandy Loeffler, who originally posted this recipe on http://www.jewishfood-list.com.

It’s been a source of great joy and fulfillment — and filling — to many, including he latest crop of International Knish Society bakers at the Hazon Food Conference in beautiful, sunny Davis, California.

Ida Gardner’s Knishes
Source: My mother, Ida Zelkowitz Gardner
Serves: Yields a few dozen, depending on the size

Dough:
5 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
2 eggs
1-1/2 cups warm water
2/3 cup oil

Potato Filling:
3 pounds of potatoes, peeled, cut in pieces and cooked
Salt and pepper to taste
1 onion, peeled, chopped and fried in a bit of oil

Meat Filling:
3-1/2 pounds roasted chuck
2 pounds of chopped, fried onions
2 pounds of boiled potatoes
salt and pepper to taste

Topping:
egg wash (1 egg yolk plus 1 tbsp. water)

For meat filling, after everything is cooked, grind all the ingredients together.

For potato filling fry the chopped onion in the oil. Cook the potatoes until soft but not mushy, and drain. Mash or rice the potatoes, and mix with the salt and pepper, onion, and oil.

Assembly:

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

In a big bowl, mix the dry ingredients. Add eggs, oil, and warm water, and mix together with the flour mixture. Knead the dough slightly. Form a ball. Divide the dough into 4-5 parts. Roll one section at a time into a thin circle (about 1/8th” thick) on a lightly floured board or pastry cloth. Brush lightly with some oil.

Put a ring of the potato filling on the dough around the outer perimeter of the circle, leaving a bit of dough to fold over the filling. Make a slit in the center of the circle. Lift the dough up and over the filing from the outside of the circle.

“Roll” by hand until you’ve reached the center, and the filling is encased by the dough. Using the side of your hand as a “saw,” cut through the roll of dough until you have as many pieces of whatever size you prefer (baseball knish-size, for example). The ends of each knish will look “twirly” or might be open a bit.

Pinch each end together and tuck into the knish, making a “pupik/belly button,” and tuck it into the knish.

Grease the baking pans and put the knishes on. Brush each knish with the egg wash. Bake at for about 20 minutes on the bottom shelf of a gas oven, then switch to the top shelf for the next 20 minutes.

These knishes freeze well, but once you taste them, you won’t have many left to freeze. They’re great!

Poster’s Notes: My mother, Ida Gardner (z’l), was a wonderful cook and baker. She and my aunt did their own catering of small parties and dinners, and Mom also worked for a few different kosher caterers in Baltimore as the “knish lady.” Schleider’s, the last caterer that Mom worked for before retiring, had a contract from Memorial Stadium to provide meat knishes at the home baseball games. It seems to me they only charged about a quarter for them–a real bargain for something of this quality that was as big as your fist. I don’t know if the caterer is still in existence or who now has the contract at Baltimore’s Camden Yards Stadium or if they are still made and sold. When the television show called “What’s My Line” was on, we kids thought about signing Mom up as a guest because we figured the panelists would never guess “Knish Lady.” However, Mom was very shy and would never consent to letting us send her name in to the show. Mom also once baked some potato knishes for one of the cooks at the Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, NY, when Isaac Bashevis Singer was in town and having lunch at the restaurant. He loved them, and I’m sure all of you will too.

Posted by Sandy Loeffler