The August 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge is to make pierogi from scratch, highlighting flavours and ingredients from where you live.
I grew up eating handmade pierogi from the Ukranian church around the corner from our house. They were fairly traditional, cheese and potato, and very good. I don’t think I realized how good they were until I started buying pierogi from the freezer section of my grocery store. Not quite so good, but edible. Years later, we found incredible pierogi from a vendor at St. Lawrence Market and we’ve been buying his ever since – saurkraut & mushroom, and jalapeno & cheddar. Amazing.
I was tempted to try making saurkraut & mushroom pierogi for this challenge, but then I realized I probably couldn’t compete with the market guy and might end up disappointed. Instead, I chose to go with the ‘local flavours’ theme and use things that I could get from my garden or from the farmers at the market.
Today’s pierogi are filled with ingredients that are local to my home province – Ontario, Canada.
I came up with a combination of potato, sweet potato, rosemary, crunchy garlic scapes, Canadian old white cheddar and onions caramelized in maple syrup and Ontario beer. This combination of flavours is more like what I would have in the Fall, but all of these things are fresh and local now. I was really happy with how the filling turned out. I could taste the hint of maple syrup and beer, I could feel the slight texture added by the garlic scapes, the woodiness of rosemary and thyme, and the creaminess of the blend of potatoes.
With that taken care of, I had to tackle the dough. I’ve made fresh pasta before, but that dough is drier and I found the pierogi dough to be more difficult to handle.
The dough was very sticky, and I had to add a LOT more flour to it. Apparently, this isn’t the way to do it — you’re supposed to slowly add the water to the flour and monitor the texture of the dough in the early stages, so you don’t have to try to ‘correct’ it with more flour later on. I’m learning as I go.
I had a bit of trouble rolling out the dough – the gluten had been worked enough to make it pretty elastic, and it wasn’t easy to roll it out thin. As a result, some of my pierogi were thinner than others. We also had quite bit of the filling left over when we were done. I could have made another batch of dough, but instead we made croquettes with it the next night.
I always enjoy these kinds of meals. It’s a great project on a rainy day, and I find it almost therapeutic as you get into the process. Roll out the dough, cut the circles, add some filling, fold it over, pinch. Lather, rinse, repeat. It’s a great break from the computer.
In the end, the pierogi were declicious, imperfections and all. We topped them with some thick Balkan-style yogurt and green onions. I took half of the batch and froze it, so we would have some to enjoy later. We’ll see how well they freeze — I have a feeling they’ll be just fine, and I’ll be happy to enjoy the results of my hard work for a second time!
The August 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make pierogi from scratch and an optional challenge to provide one filling that best represents their locale.
Recipe after the jump!
Based on the ‘Russian Pierogi’ recipe suggested by this month’s Daring Cook’s hosts, featuring ingredients that are grown and/or made in the Canadian province of Ontario.
- 2 to 2 1/2 cups (300 to 375 g) all-purpose (plain) flour
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
- About 1 cup (250 ml) lukewarm water
- 1 sweet potato, cooked and mashed
- 2 large potatoes, cooked and mashed
- 1 med-large onion, sliced
- 2 tbsp Oil
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 garlic scapes, coarsely chopped
- 1 tsp fresh Rosemary, roughly chopped
- 1 tsp maple syrup
- 1/2c Canadian beer, divided (I used Mill Street Organic Lager, a very light and refreshing beer)
- 1/4 tsp fresh thyme
- 1 cup old cheddar, coarsely shredded (I used Balderson 5yr white cheddar – the sharper the better!)
- 1 egg yolk (from a medium egg)
- salt & pepper, to taste
- Place mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
- To caramelize the onions: heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan on medium-high heat, add onion, coat in oil, add salt and cook for a few minutes, stirring. Add garlic scapes, rosemary and maple syrup. If it starts to stick to the bottom of the pan, deglaze the pan with the first half of the beer. Once the onions are pretty much done, deglaze the pan one last time and add the contents to the mixing bowl with the potatoes.
- Mix the remaining filling ingredients into the bowl, cover and set aside in the fridge until you have to use it.
- Place 2 cups flour in a large bowl or on a work surface and make a well in the center. Break the egg into it, add the salt and a little lukewarm at a time. Bring the dough together, kneading well and adding more flour or water as necessary. Cover the dough with a bowl or towel. You’re aiming for soft dough. Let it rest 20 minutes.
- On a floured work surface, roll the dough out thinly (1/8” or about 3 millimeters) cut with a 2-inch (5 cm) round or glass. Spoon a portion (teaspoon will be the best) of the filling into the middle of each circle. Fold dough in half and pinch edges together. Gather scraps, re-roll and fill. Repeat with remaining dough.
- Bring a large, low saucepan of salted water to boil. Drop in the pierogi, not too many, only single layer in the pan! Return to the boil and reduce heat. When the pierogi rise to the surface, continue to simmer a few minutes more ( usually about 5 minutes). Remove one dumpling with a slotted spoon and taste if ready. When satisfied, remove remaining pierogi from the water.
- Serve immediately. I topped mine with balkan yogurt and green onion.