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~Pirogi: Just Like My Russian Baba Used to Make w/ My method for Perfect Food Processor Pirogi Dough~

6a0120a8551282970b017c3492ba09970bPirogi (spelled pierogi in Poland, pieroghi on Wikipedia and Pierogy by Mrs. T) are to Eastern Europeans as ravioli are to Italians.  I know because I am of Eastern European heritage and my husband comes from Italian heritage.  I grew up eating "real" pirogi -- handmade with love in the kitchens of my Baba and Tettie (my grandmother and her sister).  I was 6 or 7 when they enticed me into the assembly line of their twice-yearly pirogi making marathon by giving me a pastry brush and allowing me to brush water on the edges of the cut dough.  I was fully-enlisted by the time I was 9 or 10 because I could stuff and crimp 'em like a pro.  In my teens, this soldier was allowed to roll and cut the dough.  In my 20's, I became a captain in their army and learned how to make the doughs and fillings.  In my 30's, they turned the entire project over to me and retired.

Because we made and froze a lot of pirogi at these marathon sessions, upwards of 50 dozen, our family ate pirogi as a side-dish or a main course throughout the entire year.  That being said, without exception, they were served as one course, the pirogi course, for our Russian Orthodox Christmas Eve, "Holy Night Supper", and, as a side-dish with our ham on Easter Sunday too.  To this day, you'll find pirogi on my own table for these two holidays.  If you're a lover of these delicate, pillow-like dumplings but have been hesitant to try making them, this marathon pirogi post will give you every instruction necessary to turn you into a pirogi pro.  Have some spare time between now and New Years?  Take a day to relax and make some pirogi as a family.  

6a0120a8551282970b017ee6363351970dA bit about pirog/pirogi/pirozhki:  "Pirog" is the Russian word for pie.  This is the classic Russian and correct spelling of the word and its progression, which is related to the size of the actual pie/turnover/dumpling itself.  A pirog is one very large pie, usually square or rectangular in shape. A pirogi is a smaller, individual, "pocket-sized" turnover.  Pirogi are half-moon or triangular in shape and are sold by street vendors throughout Russia.  A pirozhki is a very small savory dumpling, which in many cases, gets added to clear broths and soups like borsch. When correctly pronounced, the word pirogi has no "hard g" sound in it... just a simple, soft "pir-o-hee", which is probably why so many people stick an "h" in the spelling.  Pirog, pirogi and pirozhki are also all both singular and plural words.  "I ate one pirogi for lunch, I ate six pirogi for dinner".  All of the above contain a wide variety of fillings or combination of fillings:  meat, seafood, cabbage (sauerkraut), cheeses, mushrooms, potatoes, and, in some cases, fruit.  Their wrapping can be made of either a flaky pastry (for baking), a noodle-type dough (for boiling), or a yeast dough (for deep-frying).  Once filled and formed, they are fully-cooked by baking, boiling, sauteing, deep-frying or a combination thereof. Once cooked (with the exception of the fruit-filled pirogi), they are traditionally tossed with a generous portion of sauteed butter and onions.

No part of pirogi making is hard, but it is time-consuming.  I like to break the process up -- prepare my filling(s) one day, my dough the next, and save the actual assembly/cooking for a third day. My days of choice are Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  Why?  On Saturday, Joe is home and I can enlist him into my army to assist with rolling, crimping and stuffing.  Since potato and cheese filling stuffed into noodle-type dough is universally the favorite pirogi, I'll focus on them today.

Part One:  Making the Potato and Cheese Filling 


4  pounds peeled, quartered and 1" cubed gold potatoes (4 pounds after peeling)

1  tablespoon salt

1 1/2 pounds grated sharp, white, Vermont cheddar cheese*

4   jumbo egg yolks

2  teaspoons white pepper

4  tablespoons dried chives or mint flakes (optional)

* Note:  I like using LOTS of extra-sharp white cheddar because it is full of flavor.  I also use white cheddar because, quite frankly, I don't like pirogi that have orange-colored filling with an overly-doughy and manufacturerd "Mrs. T's" look to them, but, that choice is yours.  One last thing: pirogi filling is NOT like making mashed potatoes. Do not be inclined to add milk or butter.  The filling should be, for lack of better words:  stiff, thick, pasty, a bit chunky, and, well-seasoned with traditional (not exotic) herbs or spices.  Remember, this is simple, rustic, peasant food.

PICT0400~ Step 1.  Place the cubed potatoes in an 8-quart stockpot and add enough of cold water to cover them by 1/2"-1".  Bring to a boil over high heat and add 1 tablespoon of salt. Reduce the heat to a gentle, steady simmer and continue to cook until the potatoes are fork tender but slightly undercooked, about 12-14 minutes.  Remove from heat and drain potatoes into colander.

PICT0403~ Step 2.  Return potatoes to the still warm stockpot and return the pot to the still warm stovetop.  Add the cheese, pepper and optional dried herbs.  I do not add salt, as I find the cheddar cheese has an adequate amount of salt in it.

PICT0406Stir.  Cover the pot and set aside for 5-10 minutes.

PICT0410~ Step 3.  Uncover the pot and stir briefly.  The cheese will be melted or mostly melted.  In a small bowl or 1-cup measuring container, using a fork, whisk the egg yolks together. Add and stir them into the mixture.  

Egg yolks you ask?  Yep.  This is a secret I learned from my Tettie (Baba's sister).  Egg yolks are going to add a decadent richness to the potato and cheese filling.  Trust me.

PICT0414~ Step 4.   Using a vegetable masher, mash/smash the potatoes to desired consistency. I like mine ever-so-slightly chunky, with small bits of whole potato throughout.

PICT0420You will have about 10 cups of potato and cheese filling.

~ Step 5.  Transfer filling to a bowl or food storage container and cover with plastic or a lid.  Cool completely before filling pirogi, 3-4 hours at room temperature, or, overnight in the refrigerator.

Part Two:  Making My Perfect Food Processor Pirogi Dough

PICT04246  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus additional "bench" flour

6 tablespoons butter, melted (or margarine if you are making lenten pirogi)

6  jumbo egg yolks, at room temperature

2  teaspoons sea salt

water, at room temperature, plus 3-4 tablespoons additional water

PICT0427~ Step 1.  In a two-cup measuring container, melt the butter.  Set aside to cool about 10 minutes.  Using a fork, whisk in the egg yolks and salt. Add enough water to total 2 cups of liquid and whisk again.  In a small bowl, set aside 4 tablespoons of additional water.






~ Step 2.  Place flour in work bowl of food processor fitted with the steel blade.  With motor running, slowly, in a thin stream, add the butter/egg/water mixture.

PICT0434If the mixture does not form a ball, drizzle in additional water, about 1 tablespoon at a time until it does. Continue to process the ball about 20-30 additional seconds.

PICT0437~ Step 3.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured surface, preferably a wooden pasta board, and knead until smooth, about 1-2 minutes.

PICT0440Form into a smooth ball, cover with a dry kitchen towel and set aside, to rest, about 1- 1 1/2 hours.  Resting allows the gluten in the flour to develop, resulting in easy to roll dough.

PICT0455~ Step 4.  Using a chef's knife, cut the dough into 4, even-sized pieces, about 11 1/2-12 ounces each.  On a lightly-floured work surface, preferably a wooden pasta board, knead each piece briefly and form into a 5 1/2"-6" disc.

PICT0458I place each disc on a lightly-floured plate inside of a food storage bag until it is time to roll it, not wrapped in plastic wrap.

Note:  Dough can now be refrigerated a day in advance of assembling and cooking and/or freezing.  If you have placed your dough on lightweight styrofoam plates, they can be stacked on top of each other in the refrigerator.  Return to room temp prior to rolling, 1-1 1/2 hours. Each disc of dough will produce 18 pirogi.  In order to use all of my luscious potato and cheese filling, I'm making 1 more batch of dough today, for a total of 8 discs, which will yield exactly 12 dozen pirogi.

Step Three:  Rolling, Cutting, Stuffing and Cooking

PICT0484~ Step 1. On a lightly-floured work surface, preferably a wooden pasta board, roll the first disc of room temperature dough into a 1/8"-thick, 16 1/2" x 12" rectangle.





~ Step 2.  Using a 3" round pastry cutter, cutting as close to each other as possible, cut the dough into 18 circles.





~ Step 3.  Using a 1" ice-cream scoop as a measure, place 1 tablespoon of room temperature potato/cheese filling in the center of each circle.




~ Step 4.  Pick up each circle of dough, and, using your fingertips, gently press the filling down into the center while pushing the dough up around it, like you were forming a taco.





~ Step 5.  Starting in the center and working your way to each corner, press/crimp the edges firmly together.

PICT0525If the dough, at any time, becomes a bit dry, dip your finger into some water and rub a bit on the edge.  This will insure a tight seal.

PICT0518~ Step 6.  Place the pirogi, side-by-side, in a single layer, on a parchment lined baking pan.

PICT0533Continue this process until all the pirogi you intend to make are rolled, cut, stuffed and ready to cook in small batches of 18-24 each.  Do not cook too many at one time!

Note:  If you are serving pirogi today, now is the time to make the butter & onion saute according to the directions below.  Adjust the amount, depending upon how many pirogi you are cooking and serving.  The mixture, as written, is enough to coat and garnish 4 dozen pirogi.

PICT0544~ Step 7.  In a 5 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight deep sides, add water until pan is about half full.  

Yes folks, you heard it here first, don't cook these delicate pirogi in a stockpot.  

Bring the water to a boil over high heat, and, 2-3 at a time, gently add 18-24 pirogi.

PICT0548~ Step 8.  Return/adjust heat to a gentle simmer.  Cook fresh pirogi about 6 minutes, and, frozen pirogi (see Cook's Note below) about 8 minutes.  Do not over cook.   While pirogi are simmering:

Place about 1 cup of the butter & onion saute into the bottom of a shallow serving bowl.  Using an Asian spider, transfer pirogi to serving bowl.  Do not damage them by dumping them into a colander. Gently toss with the butter mixture.

PICT0560~ Step 9.  Discard the water from the chef's pan and dry it out.

Add a second 1 cup of butter & onion saute to the still hot pan and return to the stovetop. Saute over medium-high heat until lightly browned.  Use this golden brown mixture to garnish an entire serving bowl of pirogi or individual plates.  



Step Four:  Making the Butter & Onion Saute

PICT04641  pound butter 

4  cups diced yellow or sweet onion

1/2  teaspoon garlic powder

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon white pepper

Note:  This recipe will make enough to coat 4 dozen pirogi, and, as written, is really easy to cut in half or double, as needed.

PICT0469~ Step 1.  In a 4-quart stockpot, melt butter over low heat and stir in the garlic powder, salt and pepper. Add the diced onions.  

PICT0476Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Adjust heat to simmer gently, stirring frequently, until onions are soft and translucent, about 6-8 minutes.  

PICT0480~ Step 2.  Remove from heat, cover and set aside while cooking the desired number of pirogi according to the above directions.

Note:  This butter and onion saute can be made a day or two in advance.  Transfer it to a food storage container and store in the refrigerator.  Gently reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop.

No part of pirogi making is hard -- try inviting a few family or friends and throw a pierogi making party.

Handmade w/love, the peasant pirogi is fare fit for a king:

6a0120a8551282970b01675f7eef85970bPirogi:  Just Like My Russian Baba Used to Make w/ My method for Perfect Food Processor Pirogi Dough:  Recipe yields 6 dozen pirogi per batch of dough, enough potato and cheese filling for 12 dozen pirogi, and, instructions for making the butter & onion saute as needed.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 8-quart stockpot w/lid; cheese grater; colander; fork; hand-held vegetable masher; 2-cup measuring container; food processor; large wooden pasta board; kitchen towel; food storage bags (optional); rolling pin; 3" round pastry cutter; 1" ice-cream scoop; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; 5 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight deep sides; large slotted spoon or Asian spider; 4-quart stockpot w/lid

PICT0682Cook's Note:  Uncooked pirogi freeze beautifully.  As you roll, cut and stuff, place the pirogi, side-by-side, in a single layer, on a baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper. Place the pan in the freezer for several hours or overnight.  Portion and place frozen pirogi into food storage bags (I place one dozen in each bag), seal and store in the freezer for up to a year.  Do not thaw frozen pirogi prior to cooking.  Just drop frozen pirogi into boiling, salted water and cook as directed above, about 8 minutes.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)



My mom mentions you to me all the time! What a pleasure to finally meet you here! I am so happy that you are enjoying my recipes. One of the most rewarding things about writing this cooking blog is how it has brought me back in touch with so many people from my Hometown, Tamaqua, Coaldale, Lansford, Pottsville, Frackville, etc. roots. I can't thank you enough for this comment.

You made my day! ~ Mel.

Cannot wait to make your pierogies next week .
Thanks for the great recipes

Claire Remington, from Coaldale,Pa

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