My friend Becky came over yesterday, for the sole purpose of cooking with me. We both love to cook and bake, and she’s as crazy as I am when it comes to making something new and/or difficult. (For a little more context, she’s the same friend who came over to make fondant with me.)
So I thought well, we’ve already tackled fondant. How about something a little easier? I’d found a recipe for potato gnocchi that didn’t look too hard, so I told her to bring along 2 lbs of potatoes and we’d make a little pasta and hang out.
Except we didn’t (make the gnocchi, that is). And it wasn’t (easier, that is).
Instead, hours before Becky came over, I opened my e-mail to find the recipe for pierogi from my mother-in-law that I had asked for – her mom’s recipe. And, I couldn’t resist – I am Polish, after all. We already had the potatoes and a good chunk of time, so why not? So, I decided to chronicle our pierogi-making adventure. While making pierogi sounds like a daunting task, it isn’t. It is time-consuming; we were at it for about 4 hours…but none of the steps are particularly hard. And, you’ll learn from our mistakes – more on that later. Here’s what you’ll need.
- 8 cups flour
- 2 and 1/4 cups potato water, cold
- 1 and 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp sour cream
- 1 Tbsp oil
- 4 eggs
Filling (potato & cheddar)
- 4 Idaho baking potatoes
- Shredded cheddar cheese, to taste
You can, of course, use any kind of filling you’d like – potato & garlic, sauerkraut, blueberry, even buffalo chicken. The possibilities are endless…and that’s what I love about them!
First, make the potato filling. Boil the potatoes in a covered pot as you would to make mashed potatoes. When tender, drain the potatoes – but SAVE THE WATER. This is the potato water mentioned earlier that we’ll use to make the dough. It’ll need to cool down, so stick it in the fridge while you continue to make the filling.
Mash the potatoes with the cheddar cheese. You can add salt and pepper to taste, but don’t add milk or butter – you don’t want the potato mix getting too creamy and leaking out of the dough later. If your potato mix looks fluffy like this, you’re good:
Now, make the dough. This recipe makes approximately 50 pierogi. I figure if you’re going to put the effort into making them from scratch, make a bunch! They can easily be frozen and cooked later.
First, in a large bowl, sift together the flour and salt.
In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a fork, and then add in the sour cream.
In another medium bowl, mix the potato water with the oil. Make sure your potato water mixture is cool, because you’re going to add it to the egg mix. Ours was still a little too warm, so we had to temper the egg mix first.
After you mix the two together, add it to the flour mixture half at a time. Once you have a rough dough (i.e., it’s mostly sticking together in a big clump), move it to a floured board and begin kneading it with your palms. Continue to knead for several minutes until it is smooth and no longer sticky. Divide it in half, and work each half until smooth again. (There are four “halves” in the picture, since we were both baking our own batch).
First, flour your surface well. Take one of the balls of dough and roll until about 1/8″ thick. DO NOT FLIP THE DOUGH; only roll on one side. This is so that when we pinch the dough together with the filling inside, it will stick together easily – otherwise, you can use a little bit of water to secure the dough. Using a 3″ circle cookie cutter, cut circles out of the dough.
Once you get to your last ball of dough, put a large pot of water on the stove to boil. Add in some oil as well to prevent the pierogi from sticking together. By the time you’re finished making the pierogi, the water will be ready for you.
Oh, and by the way, the picture you just saw? Yeah, this one:
Don’t do this. EVER. At the time, bowls are everywhere, you’re covered in flour, and it seems like a wonderful, space-saving idea. But don’t do it! All the pierogi will stick together in a big pile of doughy, potato-y mush – and all your hard work will be wasted. It happened to Becky’s plate, and it made me want to cry. I think the only reason it didn’t happen to mine was because of the heat factor – she set her plate down next to the stove to drop the pierogi into the boiling water, while mine was still sitting where I left it as I tried to clean up a bit. The heat caused all her dough to stick together, making most of her pierogi unsalvagable. (I did have to throw out a few of mine that were stuck together – but the damage wasn’t nearly as bad). We laughed about it, but the moral of the story is, make space! Clear off a table, heck, put paper towels down on the floor if you have to. Give each pierogi room so that you don’t have to endure the heartache of throwing out all of your hard work.
Okay, on to the boiling. Drop the pierogi into the water; I dropped about ten at a time into the pot. Once they all float to the top and the water is back to a boil, cook about 3 minutes. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and let them dry on a cool surface.
At this point (after they have dried), you can freeze them. Place them on a baking sheet first and stick them in the freezer for a bit to firm up. Then, put them in freezer bags to save space.
For the ones you want to cook, melt a generous amount of butter in a saucepan (you can add in onion or garlic as well). Place the pierogi in the pan and cook for several minutes, flipping them occasionally with a rubber spatula. When finished, plop them on to a plate and drizzle them with some of the extra butter.