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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Recipe: Pierogi


Plate of Bourbon Apple Raisin and Balsamic Fig & Goat Cheese Pierogi

Recipe: Pierogi



It seems that every culinary tradition includes some take on a stuffed pocket of dough: Dumplings, Wontons, Empanadas, Ravioli... there are seemingly endless variations on the theme.

For those of us who trace our ancestry to Poland and Eastern Europe (and with the surname of Franczyk, there's no hiding it), that stuffed pocket would be the Pierogi.

Made from an unleavened dough, these simple creations are filled with either sweet or savory fillings and then boiled. Sometimes the Pierogi are also pan-fried for a slightly crispy finish.

In our family, Pierogi have always been as staple of Christmas Eve dinner. Grandma Franczyk, working from her Buffalo New York kitchen, would churn our dozens upon dozens of Cheese or Blueberry filled bites (we have large mouths) in a single go. Stashed away in her freezer, they would wait for visitors. No trip to Grandma's house was complete unless it ended with our carrying away several bags, safely transported in a large cooler for the six hour ride home.

This recipe is Grandma Franczyk's recipe, which is to say, it's the best recipe. I fight the suggestion that there could be any bias on my part, as I have yet to encounter a Pierogi that is even half as good as these.

Yes, my Grandma is cooler than your grandma!


Fried Pierogi
A successful Pierogi depends on two things: a soft & tender Pierogi Dough and flavorful fillings. If you want a bland filling surrounded by a thick, doughy mess, then hit the grocery store for some Mrs. T's Pierogi (so bad!).

Dry Ingredients for Pierogi
Grandma's recipe for Pierogi Dough is almost mysterious in its brevity: "Combine ingredients and knead until smooth." 

That's the recipe in its entirety. Hmm... well, I've tried to give the recipe some more structure. 

Where to being? How about, combine the Flour and Salt in a mixer bowl. So far, so good.

Wet Ingredients for Pierogi
Some recipes for Pierogi Dough just add Eggs to the Flour. That will give you a basic pasta dough, which will be very lean and more elastic. 

But Grandma is no fool in the kitchen. She knows the power of fat (all 80 lbs of her... soaking wet). Her Pierogi Dough is enriched with Eggs, Milk, melted Butter and Sour Cream (an Eastern European favorite). These ingredients add flavor and keep the dough extremely soft and tender.

Mix the wet ingredients in a separate bowl until they are well combined. Make sure that the Butter is melted but not hot when you add it to the mixture. If the Butter is too hot, it could cook the Eggs.

In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, stream the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, mixing the Pierogi Dough at low speed until it just begins to come together as a ball - approximately 30 seconds. Switch from the paddle attachment to the dough hook and knead the Pierogi Dough until it becomes smoother - approximately two to three minutes. The Pierogi Dough can also be kneaded by hand on a lightly floured surface.

Briefly kneading the Pierogi Dough helps to develop some gluten so that the Pierogi Dough holds together. However, the Pierogi Dough should not be kneaded for too long or else it will become tough and overly elastic. Grandma would call this "getting a feel for the dough". When the Pierogi Dough is eventually rolled, more gluten will develop. As a result, it is best to minimize the kneading at this early stage.

Wrapped Pierogi Dough
Wrap the kneaded Pierogi Dough in plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. You can also let the Pierogi Dough rest overnight in the refrigerator. 

Ingredients for Apple Compote
The resting period for the Pierogi Dough is the perfect time to assemble your fillings. Traditionally, Pierogi are stuffed with Potato, Sauerkraut or Farmer's Cheese. Those are fine, but one of the best things about dumpling-style foods is that you can fill them with just about whatever you like. Given the season, I decided on Bourbon Apple Raisin and Balsamic Fig & Goat Cheese fillings.

The Bourbon Apple Raisin Filling is a simple compote. Wash, peel, core and cube the Apples. 

Apple Compote Covered with Parchment Tent
Combine the cubed Apples with Bourbon, White Granulated Sugar, Brown Sugar, Lemon Juice, Lemon Zest, Vanilla Extract and Cinnamon in a large pot over low heat. Cover the Apples with a parchment tent and cook at a low simmer until the Apples are tender and translucent - approximately 20 minutes. 

Cooked Bourbon Apple Raisin Filling
When the Apples have almost completely cooked, stir in the Raisins. Do not overcook the Apples. They should be al dente, not mushy.

Cooked Bourbon Apple Raisin Filling Cooling on Sheet Tray
Strain the Apple Raisin Filling of any excess fluid and transfer the mixture to a sheet tray lined with plastic wrap. Laying the Apple Raisin Filling in a single layer will speed the cooling process, keeping the Apples from overcooking. When the Apple Raisin Filling is cool, transfer it to an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the Pierogi. The refrigerated filling will keep well for a week.

Mission Figs for Filling
The Balsamic Fig & Goat Cheese Filling is also a basic compote. The Figs are simmered in Balsamic Vinegar and then pureed. When the Pierogi are assembled, the Balsamic Fig Filling is combined with pieces of Goat Cheese.

Begin by trimming the stems from the Figs and then roughly chop them into approximately 1/4" pieces. Similar to the Apple Raisin Filling, combine the Figs with the Water, Balsamic Vinegar, Sugar and Lemon Juice in a pot over low heat. Cover the mixture with a parchment tent and cook at a low simmer until the Figs are soft and well hydrated.

Since the Figs are a dried fruit, you may need to add more water as they cook. Do not let the mixture get too dry and burn.

Once the Figs are cooked, remove the pot from the heat and allow the mixture to cool slightly. When the mixture is no longer hot, puree the Figs with a hand blender (you can also use a food processor). If the puree is too thick, add water one tablespoon at a time. The Balsamic Fig Filling should be a semi-thick paste. Set the Balsamic Fig Filling aside to completely cool. When the Balsamic Fig Filling is cool, transfer it to an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator. The Balsamic Fig Filling will also keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.

Cut Circles of Pierogi Dough
By now, the Pierogi Dough should be well rested.

Divide the Pierogi Dough into three pieces. Working one piece at a time, roll the Pierogi Dough to approximately 1/8" thickness on a lightly flour-dusted surface. 

Do not overwork the Pierogi Dough. The more you roll the Pierogi Dough, the tougher and more elastic it will become. 

Cut the sheets of rolled Pierogi Dough with a 4" ring cutter. Place the cut circles of Pierogi Dough on a parchment lined sheet tray. The cut circles of Pierogi Dough can be stacked on the sheet tray between layers of parchment paper. 

Continue rolling and cutting the Pierogi Dough, saving any scraps. The scraps of Pierogi Dough can be combined into a ball and rerolled once. The Pierogi Dough should not be rerolled multiple times as it will become tougher with each successive roll.

Unsealed Bourbon Apple Raisin Pierogi
With all of the individual circles of Pierogi Dough cut and ready to go, it's time to start filling. Remove your fillings from the refrigerator and take a deep breath - this process is a little time consuming.

Place a small mound of filling at the center of each circle of Pierogi Dough, leaving at least a 1/2" border at the edge of each circle.

The Bourbon Apple Raisin Filling should not be overly wet. If it is, drain the excess fluid before filling the Pierogi. You should be able to fit approximately 20-25 grams of filling per Pierogi.

Unsealed Balsamic Fig and Goat Cheese Pierogi
As a puree, the Balsamic Fig & Goat Cheese Filling is thicker and easier to work with. Each dollop of the Balsamic Fig Filling is topped with a piece of Goat Cheese, completing the sweet and savory combination. You should be able to fit about 15g of the Balsamic Fig Filling plus an additional 5g of Goat Cheese per Pierogi.

Sealed Pierogi
Properly sealing the Pierogi is critical. Any poorly sealed edges will become very apparent when the Pierogi are boiled and water seeps into the filling... or the filling bursts out into the pot.

Lightly wet the edge of each circle of Pierogi Dough with water. The wet edges will stick together better. Being careful not to tear the Pierogi Dough, fold each circle in half, sealing the filling at the center of the Pierogi while taking care not to trap any air inside.

Using a fork dipped in Flour, firmly crimp the edges of each Pierogi. Place the sealed Pierogi on a parchment lined sheet tray.

Sealed Pierogi
If you are having trouble cleanly sealing the Pierogi, you are probably using too much filling. It's the most common beginners' mistake.

Plate of Fried Pierogi
Cooking the Pierogi could not be easier. 

Fill a large pot with water and some salt and bring it to a boil. When the water has reach a rolling boil, put in as many Pierogi as can freely fit in a single layer in the water. 

The Pierogi will initially sink to the bottom of the pot. After approximately 3-4 minutes, they should float to the surface. When the Pierogi are floating at the top of the water, they are done. Gently remove the cooked Pierogi from the boiling water with a slotted spoon to drain any water. Place the cooked Pierogi on a wire cooling rack as you cook the remaining batches.

The boiled Pierogi can be served immediately - just warn your diners that the filling may be hot. However, the Pierogi can also be pan fried in Butter as an additional treat. Simply melt Butter in a frying pan over medium high heat and fry the Pierogi until they are golden brown and lightly crispy - approximately one minute per side. 

Opened Bourbon Apple Raisin Pierogi
The fried Bourbon Apple Raisin Pierogi stand well on their own, but a light dusting of Cinnamon and Sugar, and perhaps a dollop of Sour Cream, doesn't hurt.

Opened Balsamic Fig and Goat Cheese Pierogi
The Balsamic Fig & Goat Cheese Pierogi can also be served unadorned, but the acid from a light sprinkle of Balsamic Vinegar is a strong complement to the sweet and savory filling.

Tray of Sealed Pierogi to be Frozen
One of the best things about Pierogi is that they freeze extremely well. Since you'll likely be making about 10x as many Pierogi as you'd be able to eat in a single sitting, this is excellent news

To freeze the Pierogi, first place them in the freezer in a single layer on a parchment lined sheet tray. Once frozen, the Pierogi can be transferred to large plastic freezer bags where they can be stored for several months. Be sure to label and date the bags (it's miserably difficult trying to guess the fillings months later). The frozen Pierogi can be boiled directly from the freezer.



- The Recipe -




Pierogi:


Yield: Approximately 4 Dozen 4" Pierogi 


Components:
  • Pierogi Dough - 850g / Recipe below
  • Balsamic Fig and Goat Cheese Filling - 425g / Recipe below
  • Bourbon Apple Raisin Filling - 750g / Recipe below


Pierogi Dough
Yield: 850g (enough for approximately 4 dozen 4" Pierogi)
  • All Purpose Flour: 480g (4 Cups)
  • Salt: 6g (1.5 Tsp)
  • Sour Cream: 150g (2/3 Cup)
  • Eggs: 100g (2x)
  • Milk: 80g (1/3 Cup)
  • Butter, melted: 75g (2/3 Stick or 1/3 Cup)


Balsamic Fig and Goat Cheese Filling
        Yield: 450g (enough for approximately 2 dozen 4" Pierogi)
        • Figs, dried: 200g 
        • Water: 120g (0.5 Cup)
        • Balsamic Vinegar: 120g (0.5 Cup) 
        • White Granulated Sugar: 25g (1/8 Cup)
        • Lemon, Juice: 1/2x

        • Goat Cheese: 115g (4oz)


        Bourbon Apple Raisin Filling
              Yield: 750(enough for approximately 2 dozen 4" Pierogi)
              • Apples, pealed and cored: 650g (5 medium Apples)
              • Bourbon: 60g (0.25 Cup)
              • White Granulated Sugar: 50g (0.25 Cup)
              • Brown Sugar: 50g (0.25 Cup)
              • Lemon, juiced: 1x
              • Lemon, zest: 1x
              • Vanilla Extract: 6g (1.5 Tsp)
              • Cinnamon: 2 Tsp

              • Golden Raisins: 160g (1 Cup)


              Directions:

              1. Prepare the Pierogi Dough. Begin by combining the All Purpose Flour and Salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients (i.e. Sour Cream, Eggs, Milk and melted Butter) and stir until homogeneous.

              Chef's Note: The Butter should be melted but not hot. If the Butter is too hot, it could cook the Eggs when the wet ingredients are combined. 

              2. With the mixer on low speed, stream the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix the ingredients until the Pierogi Dough just begins to come together as a ball - approximately 30 seconds. Switch from the paddle attachment to the dough hook attachment and knead the Pierogi Dough until it starts to become smooth - approximately two to three minutes. You can also knead the dough by hand. Cover the bowl of Pierogi Dough with plastic wrap and allow it to rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. You can also wrap the Pierogi Dough in plastic wrap and allow it to rest over night in the refrigerator.

              Chef's Note: Do not over-knead the Pierogi Dough. You want to just begin to develop gluten so that the Pierogi Dough holds together, but you do not want to create an overly stiff or elastic consistency. Even more gluten will be developed during the rolling process, so it is best to under-knead the Pierogi Dough at this stage.

              3. Prepare the Balsamic Fig and Goat Cheese Filling. Begin by washing the Figs and trimming the stems. Roughly chop the Figs into approximately 1/4" sized pieces. Combine the Figs, Water, Balsamic Vinegar, Sugar and Lemon Juice in a medium pot over low heat. 

              4. Cover the Figs with a parchment tent and gently cook the Figs at a gentle simmer until they are soft and tender - approximately 30 minutes. Closely watch the liquid level in the pot as the Figs cook.  Add water as necessary to prevent the Figs from becoming too dry and burning. 

              5. Set the cooked Figs aside to cool slightly. When they are no longer hot, puree the Figs using a hand blender or food processor. The Balsamic Fig Filling should be a semi-thick paste. If the Filling is too thick, add some water one tablespoon at a time. Set the Balsamic Fig Filling aside to completely cool. When the Balsamic Fig Filling has cooled, transfer it to an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator.

              6. Prepare the Bourbon Apple Raisin Filling. Begin by washing, peeling and coring the Apples. Cut the Apples into approximately 1/4" sized pieces. Rescale the cut Apples for the recipe. 

              7. Combine the cut Apples, Bourbon, White Granulated Sugar, Brown Sugar, Lemon Juice, Lemon Zest, Vanilla Extract and Cinnamon in a large pot over low heat. Cover the Apples with a parchment tent and bring the mixture to a low simmer. Cook the Apples until they are tender and translucent - approximately 20 minutes. When the Apples are nearly cooked, gently stir in the Raisins. 

              8. When the Apples are done, remove the pot from the heat. Strain the Apple Raisin Filling of any excess liquid (the Apples will have released a significant amount of water while cooking). Spread the Apple Raisin Filling onto a sheet tray lined with plastic wrap and set aside to cool. When the Apple Raisin Filling has cooled, transfer it to an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator.

              Chef's Note: Do not overcook the Apples. They should be al dente, not mushy.

              9. Divide the rested Pierogi Dough into three pieces. Working one piece at a time, roll the Pierogi Dough to approximately 1/8" thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut the Pierogi Dough with a 4" ring cutter. Place the cut pieces of Pierogi Dough on a parchment lined sheet tray. You can stack layers of cut Pierogi Dough between pieces of parchment paper.

              Chef's Note: Scraps of Pierogi Dough can be saved and rerolled once in order to cut additional pieces. However, the Pierogi Dough should not be rerolled more than once. With additional rolling, too much gluten will develop and the Pierogi Dough will become stiff and overly elastic.

              10. Fill the Pierogi. Place a small dollop of filling at the center of each cut piece of Pierogi Dough leaving a 1/2" border of dough. For the Bourbon Apple Raisin Pierogi, use approximately 25g of filling. For the Balsamic Fig Pierogi, use approximately 15g of filling with a small piece of Goat Cheese (i.e. 5g) placed on top.

              11. Lightly wet the border of the Pierogi and fold each piece creating a half moon shape. Take care to squeeze out any air when folding the Pierogi. Seal the edges of each Pierogi by firmly crimping the border using a fork dipped in flour. Place the sealed Pierogi on a clean, parchment lined sheet tray.  

              Chef's Note: Do not overfill the Pierogi. Overfilled Pierogi are difficult to seal and are more likely to open when cooked. Trapped air can also cause the Pierogi to open when cooked. 

              12. Cook the Pierogi. Bring a large pot of water with some salt to a boil. Boil the Pierogi until they float to the surface of the water - approximately three to four minutes. Transfer the cooked Pierogi to a wire cooling rack over a sheet tray to drain any excess water. If desired, pan fry the Pierogi with some Butter until they are golden brown and lightly crispy - approximately one minutes per side. Serve the Pierogi on their own, with Sour Cream, or with some Aged Balsamic Vinegar.

              Chef's Note: When boiling the Pierogi, do not crowd the pot. Only cook as many Pierogi as can freely boil in one layer.



              Storage:
              - The Pierogi can be boiled, fried and served immediately after they are made.
              - The Pierogi keep extremely well when frozen. To freeze the Pierogi, place them in a single layer on a parchment lined sheet tray in the freezer until they are mostly frozen. Transfer the Pierogi to large freezer bags where they can be stored for several months. 
              - The frozen Pierogi can be boiled directly from the freezer. 


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