I’m already over the moon about the warm reception the book has been receiving from pierogi fans all over the country, whether it’s my fellow dumpling die-hards from my hometown of Pittsburgh and here on the East Coast, the pockets of dedicated pierogi populists in the Midwest, or those crazy Californians I know who are more than intrigued and ready to make pierogies for the first time.
And when people consider trying their hand at pierogies, the first question I hear is about the dough. What is it about dough in general that strikes fear into the hearts of otherwise rational cooks? There’s nothing to fear here, I promise. If you’ve been reticent about trying your hand at any dough-related recipe, start with this—there’s no yeast and no rising time to contend with, just a basic wet-into-dry ingredients mix that comes together so quickly you won’t believe it. To make things even easier for you, I’ve got an step-by-step photo tutorial for both dough mixing and pierogi assembly below.
The other reason you shouldn’t worry about messing it up? You can just think of it as making it your own way. Pierogi dough recipes are like red sauce recipes (or pot roast recipes, or spanakopita recipes, or latke recipes)—if it’s been passed down through generations of family cooks, every single version is going to be a little different from someone else’s. It’s like playing recipe telephone, basically. Without a Polish babcia to show me the One True Way, I never had the burden of tradition weighing upon me when I started experimenting with various pierogi doughs, and this is what I’ve come up with as my go-to recipe.
Though some would find it blasphemous, I’ve come to prefer using Greek yogurt over sour cream when bringing the dough together. After countless pierogi trials, I love the way yogurt doesn’t overpower the flavor of the filling inside and still maintains a tender, delicate chew to the cooked final product. Really, though, any creamy dairy product works in a pinch when making this dough—I’ve tried almost every brand of yogurt on the market, as well as creme fraiche and dairy alternatives like Tofutti, and they’ve all come out well in the end.
Note that the recipe that follows is for sweet pierogi dough; for savory pierogi dough, omit the granulated sugar and increase the salt to 1 teaspoon.
And because Pierogi Love is coming out smack dab in the middle of sour cherry season, I couldn’t resist sharing one of my favorite variations from the book with you today. The traditional Ukrainian way to make these pierogies (or vareniki, as they call them) is to place a few whole pitted sour cherries in the middle of each dough round, sprinkle with sugar, and seal it up. But my hoards of fresh New Jersey cherries are often so enormous and sooooo juicy that they start leaking all over the dough, making it impossible to get a good seal. The solution? A quick batch of sour cherry jam for dolloping in the middle of each circle, with the added benefit of fresh cherry syrup for drizzling over the pierogies when you’re ready to dig in.
As with every recipe in the book, these pierogies are freezer-friendly, making it easy to get your sour cherry fix in the middle of winter. But if you don’t happen to have access to fresh sour cherries, the jarred version will do in a pinch—I prefer the Marco Polo brand, though they’re already slightly sweetened.
For more sweet and savory recipes (59 more, to be exact!), check out the rest of Pierogi Love and by all means, share the love. I’m so happy to share it with you.
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Sour Cherry Pierogies
from Pierogi Love: New Takes on an Old-World Comfort Food, © 2015 by Casey Barber
Prep time: 1 hour
Total time: 2 hours 30 minutes (including dough resting time)
Makes about 24 pierogies
Filling and Syrup
- 1 pound pitted fresh sour cherries or 1 24-ounce jar sour cherries
- 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces; 100 grams) plus 1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces; 50 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons powdered low-sugar pectin
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 large eggs, divided (see below)
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces; 113 grams) sour cream or plain Greek yogurt (any fat percentage)
- 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces; 43 grams) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups (8 1/2 ounces; 240 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon water
creme fraiche for serving (optional)
Make the filling and syrup:
If you’re using fresh cherries, toss them with 1/2 cup sugar in a bowl and let sit until cherries release juice, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Strain the juice into a bowl; you should have about 1 cup. If you’re using jarred cherries in juice, strain the juice into a bowl, reserving 1 cup. Stir 1/2 cup sugar into the juice until dissolved.
Coarsely chop cherries and place in a medium saucepan. Whisk the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and pectin in a bowl, then stir into the cherries. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Cook just until the liquid becomes thick and syrupy, stirring occasionally, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
Bring the reserved cherry juice and maple syrup to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook until the liquid has reduced by a third to a half, about 10 minutes. The syrup will be bubbly and loose, but will thicken as it cools.
Filling and syrup can be made up to 1 week ahead. Cover and refrigerate separately.
Make the dough:
Whisk 1 large egg, sour cream or yogurt, butter, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Add the flour to a large bowl. Gently stir the wet ingredients into the flour. The dough will initially be very dry and shaggy, seeming as if it will never come together, but have no fear: Keep stirring, and it will pull itself into shape.
Once the dough starts to come together, press and smash it against the sides of the bowl with your palms, picking up dough bits and essentially kneading it within the bowl until it forms a ball.
Tip the dough and any remaining shaggy flakes out onto a clean work surface or Roul’Pat. Knead until smooth, about 1 minute. Cover the dough with the bowl and let rest 15 minutes.
Make an egg wash by whisking the remaining large egg and water in a small bowl.
Assemble the pierogies:
Line a rimmed baking sheet with waxed paper or parchment paper.
Divide the rested dough into 4 equal pieces with a bench scraper or knife. Set aside 3 dough pieces and cover with the mixing bowl. Roll the remaining dough as thinly as possible into a rough 8- by 12-inch rectangle.
Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter, cut out 6 rounds of dough. If the dough isn’t quartered evenly, you may get 5 rounds from one piece and 7 from another. Resist the temptation to re-roll dough scraps for additional rounds. It seems wasteful, but the dough won’t be as tender the second time around.
Spoon filling into the center of dough rounds. Be judicious with soft fillings like this fruit jam—if they spread to the dough edges, it will be difficult to pinch shut, so take care not to overfill!
Using your finger, swipe a very scant amount of egg wash—just a light touch—around the dough edge.
Fold into a half-moon shape: Either fold the dough over the filling on the work surface—I call this “the blanket”—or gently cup the pierogi in your hand in a U shape—I call this “the taco.”
Gently but firmly seal the pierogi by pinching and squeezing the edges together with your thumb and pointer finger. Start with one pinch at the top, then move to one “corner” of the pierogi and pinch along the edge back to the top. Repeat on the opposite side to finish sealing the pierogi.
Transfer to the baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough rounds and filling.
At this point you can freeze the pierogies on the baking sheet until solid, then transfer to a zip-top bag or vacuum-seal for storage up to 3 months. Or you can cover with plastic wrap or a non-terrycloth towel and store at room temperature for 1 hour, or in the refrigerator for up to 3 hours before cooking. Or you can cook them immediately!
Cook your pierogies:
To boil fresh or frozen pierogies:
Bring a pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat (fill the pot with approximately 1 quart water for every 6 pierogies). Add pierogies and cook until floating, about 2 to 3 minutes for fresh and 4 to 5 minutes for frozen.
To pan-fry fresh or boiled pierogies:
Heat 1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil, or melt 1 tablespoon unsalted butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add as many pierogies as will fit in the skillet in a single layer without crowding. Cook until pierogies are brown and crispy, about 2 minutes per side. Repeat with additional oil or butter and pierogies.
To deep-fry fresh or frozen pierogies:
Use an electric deep fryer or a large, high-sided pot filled with at least 2 inches of vegetable or canola oil (fill the pot no more than 1/3 full). Heat oil to 350 degrees. Add pierogies and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes for fresh and 5 minutes for frozen—frying time may vary based on your equipment.
Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Transfer pierogies to the baking sheet and cool for 1 minute before serving.