Finally I am able to share my fairly recent foray into finding the perfect recipe for pierogi dough! Not only that, I will even share my favorite filling recipe along with it so you can bask in the glory of tasty awesomeness.
The adventure here, for me, is that I have always loved pierogies but, since my grandmother’s passing, have been having trouble finding a good ratio for making the dough correctly. Growing up my grandmother would usually have my brother and I join in the process once it was time for actually stuffing the dough with filling and boiling them up. This part is; as I’ve since discovered, far from the first step in the process.
Also difficult is that I was never brought into a food-making culture based upon exact measurements. I was a student of the “Pinch of this, bit of that” theory of cookery. What this ended up meaning, though, is that while I could get the basic recipe for the dough from my grandmother; having never really SEEN that part of the process in action, I only knew what the dough should look like AFTER it reached the perfect state; not what it might look like for a while before. This part is key because I knew what I WANTED it to look/feel like; but no recipes (of the seemingly endless plethora available) seemed to GIVE me that exact consistency. Not even trying my own few forays into “Eh, some flour, some eggs, some salt, etc…mix it all up” managed to give me precise results.
Don’t get me wrong; they were edible and decent even; but still LACKING somehow.
That was, until I found the one key direction that, I feel, made all the difference: “Rest dough for one-half hour covered with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap.” I felt like face-palming. Holy frick…I’m supposed to let the dough REST?!?!
Most of the time when I cook it is a game of trying to make sure everything comes out ready at the same time so meats are just finished as starches are done and veggies are that perfect crisp-done of tastiness. But, after my venture with the ravioli, this nugget of a suggestion: let the dough REST, stirred a bit of memory even further back. I remembered that the dough, rather than being whipped up by my grandmother right as we were about to stuff it full of potatoes and cheese, had been sitting quietly for some time prior in a bowl by itself. Eureka!
And, not to make you writhe in uncontrollable curiosity; this DID turn out to be the key point in the process and resulted in the tastiest pierogies I’ve done to date on my own! Hurray! So, without further ado, the recipe/process.
This note comes first and foremost to warn that this recipe IS a process. It is a LONG process that is fairly labor intensive. If you can pull some interested kids into the kitchen for the longest part (or spouse/partner/neighbors, etc) it will make the work go much more quickly and (dare I say?) make things even more fun and elaborate cooking adventures already are!
So, got it?
- Very long process.
- Do when you have a few good hours to dedicate to it.
- Enlist a few helpful friends to assist.
- Since it IS such a procedure; think about making double/triple, etc batches to save them up to freeze for later. They save marvelously!
- Enjoy the entire process as a fun activity!
Okay, so here’s the recipe first off for the dough (will make about 3 dozen or so I think I counted so it is one “batch”). Bear in mind there are even more suggested recipes for the dough than possible combinations for filling so this is just what I found to work for me this time. My grandmother (to my knowledge) never used Sour Cream in the dough but, like I said, that part of the process usually occurred before I arrived so I’m not ruling it out!
- 3 Cups flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp Sour Cream
- 1/2 cup warm water
I used a sifter to get the flour nice and fluffy first
Then I got all the other little ingredients into my mixing/measuring cup:
Next, I use the tiny little whisk that I received as a “gag” gift in my stocking last year; but which I LOVE to use for just this purpose:
Next, I made a “well” in my fluffy flour so I could add the whisked up stuff:
Next, I mixed those two bad boys together. First, remove any rings/watches, etc. It WILL be sticky but, what always baffled me prior, it is also a bit flakey. That will ease when we let it rest!
Now, like it says, leave that to rest while you work on STARTING the filling; giving you time to let everything…percolate.
Now here’s the recipe for the filling I love best. Any savory filling will go well with this dough. You could even use sweet fillings (my grandmother often did some desert-style blueberry ones with any remaining dough) but some people prefer a dough with a bit of sweetness added. Your choice! Bear in mind this part of the recipe IS one of those “fly by the seat of your pants” styles but is (in my experience) difficult to mess up (though, as over-peppering has taught me: not ENTIRELY impossible, so add spices slowly!).
- A mess of potatoes
- 1 onion
- Large Curd Cottage cheese
- Black Pepper
That’s it. Seriously! Find a good heap of potatoes:
Get those potatoes peeled, diced up and boiling along with a peeled and chopped onion. When tender, drain everything.
Next comes my favorite part: MASHING! Get your favorite masher. Mine is one I’ve finally obtained which mimics the old one my grandmother used to use. If need be you can even use a fork or, last resort, a kitchen aid/food processor. But to me the fun is in mushing those potatoes into a crumbly mass:
Next comes the combining part. Add your cheese! Some people like Farmer’s Cheese. Some prefer cheddar. I love the large-curd Cottage cheese myself:
You can either choose to slowly mix stuff together or, if you have a 2nd tub of cottage cheese lying around, you can just mash all the potatoes and slowly start adding the cheese, mixing it up until the consistency is not so sloppy as to be runny but a good solid ratio of cheese to potatoes.
Then, add your salt and pepper. The filling likes LOTS of black pepper but add it slowly and keep tasting until the flavor makes you smile.
Now you can set the filling aside and begin the 3rd part of the process: the making.
Set up a huge pot of salted water and get it boiling.
Meanwhile, you are going to start making that now-rested dough into little dough-balls that you will roll out into rounds for filling. This is the process grandma always used so, by habit, it is what I do as well. You might find it easier to roll out larger sections of dough and use an appropriately sized cookie cutter to get your circles. Though, I did find that using a glass does NOT work: the dough is far too sticky to come away without a good cutting implement. Hence the dough-ball method I use.
Take small pulls of dough off the big ball. You want a chunk about the size of a quarter (if a quarter were a ball instead of just a flat disc that is!) The dough should now be pretty sticky so pull it off and get it onto your lightly floured rolling area.
Now, roll out your ball into flat discs; rounded but fairly thin circles of dough. Tap off the excess flour and set aside. You can get about a dozen made up at a time depending on the size of the platter you can lay them out on (make sure the dish is lightly coated in flour. You want as much as possible to prevent sticking.
Get a good teaspoon of filling on the top third of the flattened disc:
Next, dab a bit of water around the bottom edge of the dough round. This will help it to seal properly:
Now, I tried two ways of sealing the pierogi. I tried using a fork to make the little indentations and just double-pressing with my fingers. Neither method really seemed fool-proof against potential breaking. So choose what method you prefer (or your helpers prefer!). If you have enough help you can have someone double-pinch and then another person fork-press. Your choice. Here’s what the filled and pinched-edged finished (almost) thing looks like:
Now your salted water should be bubbling away at this point when you have about a dozen pierogi ready (unless you’re lucky enough to have help, in which case just keep going and make sure to set the finished items up singly on a lightly floured dish (or dishes)) Do NOT stack the pierogi together at this point. They will become one sticky, clumpy mess.
Set about a dozen filled rounds into your boiling water at a time.
While they are boiling away, stopper your very clean and empty sink and fill with cold water. This is where you’ll be placing the finished pierogies to stop the cooking so they don’t over-cook AND so they cool off.
Boil until they all start floating consistently to the surface; about 10 minutes; depending how thick your dough was rolled out. If you need to, remove one with a slotted spoon and cut a bit into the edge to see if it is fully cooked though the dough.
Remove the cooked pierogies and place in your cold water sink.
Now, just continue the process over and over (and over) until all the dough (or all the filling) is gone. When you’re ready to put more pierogi in the sink; first remove the now-cooled ones and set aside. I like to separate out the broken ones and the good ones:
Once ALL of your pierogies have gone through their boiling you have a few options.
Some folks like to eat them up right now (which could mean you save the last batch from the cold water and just serve as-is with a bit of sour-cream to dip in).
Some of the many pierogies can be drained, cooled and set into plastic-bags (or plasticware is even nicer) and frozen for future use. Just beware of freezing too many in each container; they will freeze together and be a bear to pull apart later until fully thawed!
My preferred method for finishing the meal is to saute the pierogies in a bit of butter (with onion for those who like it; and/or mushrooms) and garlic salt. It becomes a bit like a ravioli and tastes amazing; even without added sour cream though you’re welcome to that too!
And that is the recipe as I finally ended up making it fairly recently. The result was a delicious rendition of the classic I remembered from my youth. The time it took was worth it as we all sat down to these delectably crisp, flavorful, cheese and potato-filled delights.
Enjoy! May all your cooking adventures be tasty!