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. I didn't decide to do anything locale-specific but since it is a beautiful summer here, I opted to make mine with fresh fruit, as a dessert pierogi. I'd never seen or heard of a dessert pierogi but it sounded like a fun little challenge.
I had a little bit of an advantage on this one because Camilla made her challenge for dinner for us before I got around to doing mine. That gave me an opportunity to assess the general pierogi-making experience and things to keep in mind in my go.
Pierogi dough isn't anything mysterious, but there are quite a few recipes out there that mix it up in different ways. The Daring Kitchen challenge has two different recipes and I did a little poking around the great interwebs as well. I ended up just sort of whipping one together based on a number of recipes out there. I also didn't want to make a lot because I don't really need several dozen pierogis for two people.
One of the things that I wanted to make sure I shot for was getting the dough thin enough so that I didn't end up with big, doughy glumps. Camilla had some resistance from her dough when trying to roll it out. Pierogi dough is pretty stretchy/sproingy so I paid attention to the recipes about "care of the dough" as it were. The main points that I focused on were keeping it a soft dough (I can add too much flour to dough that I'm kneading to make it not "sticky") and to let the dough get a good rest. I hoped this would let me get the dough rolled out as thin as I wanted. I was cooking these in the midst of getting other work done, so my dough had a good rest of over an hour. No idea if that meant anything, but in the end I got that dough nice and thin. Since I left the flour soft when I made it, I put down heavy flour for rolling it out because I didn't want it to stick. Overall, I think the dough came out really well. I cut it into circles with a water glass since I didn't have any cutters. Now I was ready to fill and cook.
For the filling, I went simple and just used fresh berries (raspberry and blackberry). I had thought that I would macerate them, but when I really thought it through, I realized that a "wet" filling might be harder to work with since it might make things generally messier. I ended up opting to keep it simple and just put in one or two berries with a sprinkle of sugar. Since I used a good amount of flour for rolling, I ended up needing to use some water around the edge of the dough to get the sides to stick together. I knew that I really wanted a good seal so that they didn't fill with water when I boiled them. Between watering the edge and crimping with a fork, I had some handsome pierogis in short order. This is definitely the stage that takes the most time with making pierogis.
Once I had all of the pierogis stuffed and crimped, I was ready for some cooking action. While I brought a big pot of water up to a boil, I got a few other elements taken care of. Boiled dough doesn't really look that sexy or enticing. I've come to the conclusion that pierogi are better with a sauce or topping. It makes them look better and gives something else that can flavor any end or side bits which end up more like a piece of plain dough. Boiled dough. Trust me, boiled dough needs something or it's just kind of bleh. I mean it kinda looks like some weird larva thing. For the berry pierogis, I decided a simple bourbon whipped cream would do wonders. I just whipped up some cream and tossed in a splash or bourbon and a touch of sugar (I'm not a fan of sweet whipped cream).
As I started to boil the pierogis, I decided the whipped cream would be OK, but it still needed some color and little something "more." I mean white cream on boiled dough, while tasty, still wouldn't look like much. I grabbed some leftover raspberries, mashed them up and tossed in more bourbon and sugar to make a quick raspberry sauce. Now we're rolling. Berry pierogis with raspberry sauce and whipped cream. Take that, boiled dough!
I served the pierogis for dessert and I'd say it was a success. I really feel like the key to the success was the addition of the raspberry sauce and whipped cream. The fruit was good and the dough was thin enough that it didn't feel like chewing through a lot of "stuff," but the toppings made it downright yummy. I can't say that going through the tedious process of rolling and stuffing pierogis is something I'd be drawn to do again, but if I do, or if I buy pierogis pre-made, I'm 100% sure I'd serve them with a sauce of some sort. At the end of the day, I don't think pierogis are a sexy-looking food, but they can be damned tasty.
makes 24 pierogis (I actually only made half the recipe. To get 1/2 egg, I just whisked the egg and poured half out of the bowl.)
Filling and Toppings
Put flour in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Break the egg into the well and add the salt and water. Whisk the egg and water together in the well first before mixing them into the surrounding flour. Add flour and/or water until the dough pulls from the sides and you can handle it to knead. Dump it out on a flat surface and knead the dough 5-10 minutes, adding flour as needed to keep the beast off your hands. The dough should be pretty soft and I find over-adding flour makes it rubbery, so go easy, but make sure the dough isn't sticking to everything in sight. Once it seems well-behaved, set it aside to rest for at least 30 minutes.
Generously flour your rolling surface and roll the dough out so that it is pretty thin. Cut into 2" (5cm) or so rounds. I used the top of a water glass to cut mine. Roll the scraps and cut again until you use all of the dough. Place one or two berries on each round, depending on the size. Toss a pinch of sugar on each. Fold the dough over the berries and pinch the edges together. If they don't want to stick, just brush the edges of the circle with a little water. Use a fork to crimp the edges.
Put whipping cream in a large bowl with bourbon and sugar to taste. Whip it until you just want to scoop it out of the bowl and eat it right there. Set aside. Grab a handful of raspberries into a small bowl and mash up with a fork or spoon. Add a little bourbon until you get the flavor and consistency you want. Add sugar to taste and set aside.
Bring a big ole pot of water up to a boil. Once it is boiling along, gently place the pierogis in the water and boil for about 5 minutes until cooked. Don't overcrowd them by tossing them all in. Only put in as many as will comfortably boil in one layer in the pot. Remove them and set them on a paper towel to drain breifly (if you leave them until they get cold they might just permanently stick to the paper). Pop them on a plate and top with raspberry sauce and whipped cream.