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Knishes for the Camper

Illustration of a camper van with the words "Have knish will travel"

Candleschtick is inspired by many ideas, including Jewish foods, family memories, and pop culture. From time to time, we’ll share posts about our product inspirations. In this post, co-founder Alison talks about learning to make knishes and why they have become a favorite camping food.

Pandemic baking, #vanlife, and potato knishes

During the past year, the widespread comforts of pandemic sourdough bread baking have been well-documented. Less popular--though I would argue equally comforting--is another form of pandemic baking: making knishes. Granted, I might be the only person on the planet who was on this trend, but when it came to pandemic comfort food, what I really craved was this savory Ashkenazi pastry.

Before the pandemic, my experiences with knishes were mainly confined to Jewish delis. This was not a food my family typically cooked, although I do remember sometimes eating the frozen ones that were baked and served during holidays. As a vegetarian, I only sampled the potato and vegetable varieties. I didn’t give the knish a whole lot of thought.

Then, during a 2019 visit to New York--our last before quarantine—I watched my eleven-year-old devour a substantial potato knish when I brought her to Yonah Schimmel Knish, which has been around since 1910. “Your grandfather and your great-grandparents probably ate here too,” I told her. We had just come from a Tenement Museum tour and family history was in the front of my mind.  Walking along a sunny Houston Street that day, my daughter nodded happily while we passed a knish back and forth between us like an ice cream cone. I think that’s when the humble knish took on a new meaning for me.

Fast forward to 2020, and as the pandemic months slowly passed, we were all tired of our own cooking. We were all tired of the indoors too. In the spring, my family decided to get a camper van. We would spend the summer “camping” in driveways to visit family without going inside houses. We’d be living the #vanlife—or at least some version of it. Food needed to be planned ahead and prepared for coolers. Portable foods would work best. That’s when I remembered the knish… Could I try my hand at making my own?

Smitten Kitchen is a treasure, and was my first stop for a recipe. Sure enough, "Potato knish, two ways" provided the guidance I needed for a classic potato and onion. Reassurance, too. And it wasn’t so hard!

Potato knishes on a baking tray.

I used olive oil-- no schmaltz for this vegetarian--and I opted for the larger “doorstop” variety. Once baked, my knishes were frozen, bagged, and ready for the road. When we set out, they reheated perfectly in our camper van’s tiny toaster. We ate them in the van, in backyards, and on the beach. Sometimes we added hot sauce. And they were delicious.

During the past year while so many have fed their sourdough starters, I’ve continued to make knishes. I’ve experimented a little and imagined many possible flavors to try.

So whether on the road or at home, knish me! I’m definitely pro-knish.

Kiss me, knish me t-shirt

Kiss Me, Knish Me T-Shirt