Until last week, I mistakenly thought pierogis – those pillowy soft, addictively delicious filled Eastern European dumplings – were too fiddly to bother making at home. I changed my mind after looking through a box of kitchen gadgets where I discovered a collection of empanada presses and Asian dumpling moulds. I have used them to make miniature fruit turnovers, but they’re ideal for the job of forming pierogis as well. You can easily pinch the dough rounds shut by hand, but the mould makes it a very fast, easy task.
I had a great laugh at the instructions on the back of the three-pack of dumpling moulds I’d picked up in Toronto’s Chinatown. The packaging described the product as “Family Necessary” and offered the following instructions for use: “Places on the model the stuffed dumpling skin. Places on the stuffed dumpling skin the stuffing. As soon as along the hypothes is model, is pressing the forming gently then.” If you, like me, don’t know what the heck that means, see below for clearer wording and a little collage of the process. Don’t be daunted by the length of the instructions – I just tried to break the directions down into really clear steps. While this recipe makes two dozen pierogis, you can easily double or even triple it as pierogis freeze beautifully.
- 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) flour
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) water
- 2 teaspoons (10 mL) canola oil
- 1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt
- 2 medium potatoes
- 1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt
- 1 cup (250 mL) grated old Cheddar
- 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) salt
- 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon (.65 mL) ground nutmeg
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) butter
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- Sour cream, for serving
Special equipment: a 2 1/2-inch round biscuit cutter, 2 1/2 inch ravioli/dumpling maker
- To make the dough, put flour and salt in a large, broad mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre then add egg, water and oil to the well. Carefully beat the liquids together with a fork but don’t try to mix in the flour yet.
- Once liquids are well combined, stir the mixture with a spoon, pulling flour from the sides of the bowl into the centre. You should end up with a soft, slightly sticky dough.
- Transfer the dough to a clean work surface that has been dusted with flour and knead it for 5 minutes, adding a bit more flour as needed to keep it from sticking. Dough should be smooth and elastic.
- Cover the dough with a piece of plastic wrap and a clean towel and let rest on the counter for one hour.
- While dough rests, make filling by peeling potatoes and cutting into one-inch sized pieces. Place in a saucepan, add just enough water to cover by 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) and add salt. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain then mash well with a fork.
- Add cheese, salt, pepper and nutmeg to mashed potatoes and stir with a fork until well blended.
- Let potato mixture cool for a few minutes then scoop out by the rounded teaspoonful and shape into balls with your hands. Make 24 balls in total and set aside. Note that there may be a little filling left over, depending upon the size of your potatoes.
- Prepare the onion topping by melting butter in a large, heavy duty pan over medium-low heat. Add chopped onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are just starting to turn golden brown, about 20 minutes. The onions will complete their caramelization when you fry the pierogis.
- To shape the pierogis, roll the dough out between two sheets of parchment paper to less than 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out 24 rounds with the 2.5 inch biscuit cutter or trace around the top of a similarly sized drinking glass with a sharp paring knife to create dough circles.
- Place a dough circle on the opened dumpling press and put one potato ball in the centre of one half of the press. Dip your index finger in a dish of warm water and run it around the edge of the dough then gently close the press to pinch the edges together. Carefully remove the pierogi from the press and place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Repeat with remaining dough. Freeze the prepared pierogis for at least one hour prior to cooking; this will help them keep their shape.
- If not cooking immediately, transfer the pierogis to an airtight container and freeze up to two months.
- To cook the pierogis, remember that the dough is essentially pasta, so you want to boil it first before crisping it up in a frying pan.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a teaspoon of salt. Carefully add the pierogis in batches to the water, being sure not to overcrowd the pot. Stir gently with a wooden spoon to keep them from sticking together, then use a slotted spoon to remove from the pot as soon as they float up to the surface.
- You can either transfer the cooked pierogis into the pan with the cooked onions, or put them on a baking tray lined with a clean tea towel, or paper towels, to rest until you are ready to finish cooking them immediately prior to serving.
- Finish the cooking process by cooking the pierogis in the onions over medium-low heat until the pierogis are starting to crisp up and the onions are browned.
- Serve warm with sour cream on the side.
Makes 24 pierogies.