I'm 2 months into the Daring Kitchen challenges and still going strong. This month was quite a bit more challenging for me than last month's nut butters. This month, I got had to make pierogi.

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.

Every culture has some sort of dumplings - fried or boiled or steamed dough with savory or sweet filling. In many parts of the US, the most commonly known are pierogi. Hailing from Houston and having lived only here and LA, I don't think I've ever eaten one before, though I've seen them in the frozen section of the grocery store before. I can see from the enthusiastic commentary at the DK website that these things have quite a following. I can't say that Joe and I have been converted, but it was interesting to give it a try. Thanks to my Jewish relatives, I learned that I had made kreplach, but according to Wikipedia I didn't serve it in the traditional way, in chicken soup.

I did not like preparing these things. I am not good at it. I made a traditional Russian-style filling and, as suggested by the Daring Kitchen challenge, a local flavor - peach and basil, since this was at the height of my peach frenzy. The pierogi/kreplach (and about 100 other names, depending on from where you hail) are pretty tiny. That was the most difficult part for me - trying to fill these teensy, 2-inch-diameter dough rounds with a dollop of filling then fold them over and seal. The peach filling was too liquidy and kept oozing out the sides and I had to dispose of each of those (only 2 or 3 were disposed by being thrown across the kitchen). Hmm, I just re-read the recipe and the hostess mentions that she used a 4-inch round so that she could put more filling in and seal the suckers better. That probably would have spared a lot of frustration.

Russian-style pierogi

makes 4 generous servings, around 30 dumplings

2 to 2 1/2 cups (300 to 375 g) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 large egg
1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
About 1 cup (250 ml) lukewarm water

3 big potatoes, cooked & mashed (1 1/2 cup instant or leftover mashed potatoes is fine too)
1 cup (225 g) cottage cheese, drained
1 onion, diced & sauteed in butter until clear
3 slices of streaky bacon, diced and fried till crispy
1 egg yolk (from medium egg)
1 tablespoon (15 g) butter, melted
1/4 (1.25 ml) teaspoon salt
Pinch of pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients for the filling (it’s best to use one’s hands to do that), put into the bowl, cover and set aside in the fridge until you have to use it.

Place 2 cups of flour in a large bowl or on a work surface and make a well in the center. Break the egg into it, add the salt and a little lukewarm water at a time. Bring the dough together, kneading well and adding more flour or water as necessary. Cover the dough with a bowl or towel. You’re aiming for soft dough. Let it rest 20 minutes.

On a floured work surface, roll the dough out thinly (1/8” or about 3 millimeters) and cut with a 2-inch (5 cm) round or glass. Spoon a portion (1/2 tsp if you use the tiny 2-inch size) of the filling into the middle of each circle. Fold dough in half and pinch edges together. Gather scraps, re-roll and fill. Repeat with remaining dough.

Bring a large, low saucepan of salted water to boil. Drop in the pierogi, not too many, only a single layer in the pan! Return to the boil and reduce heat. When the pierogi rise to the surface, continue to simmer a few minutes more (usually about 5 minutes). Remove one dumpling with a slotted spoon and taste to see if it's ready. When satisfied, remove remaining pierogi from the water.

Serve immediately, preferably with creme fraiche or fried onions (we used sour cream). Boiled pierogi can be fried. Boiled Russian pierogi can be easily frozen and boiled straight from the freezer.

Cottage Cheese Wareneki (pierogi)

½ cup (125 ml) milk (can be whole milk, 2% or skim milk)
½ cup (125 ml) heavy cream
3 large egg whites
1 tsp (5 ml) salt
3 cups (450 gm) all-purpose flour


1/2 lb (225 g) dry cottage cheese*
2 ounces goat cheese
2 peaches, chopped
2 tsp basil, chopped
3 large egg yolks
Salt to taste

*If you can’t find dry cottage cheese, simply drain normal cottage cheese by nesting the cottage in a few layers of cheese cloth or a fine sieve over a bowl.

Mix well all the ingredients for the filling.

Mix flour and salt, add other ingredients, and knead dough until you have a smooth dough.

On a floured surface roll out fairly thin (1/8” or about 3 millimeters), cut into 2” (5 cm) squares, and fill with 1 tsp (5ml) filling.
Put 1 rounded teaspoon (5 ml) of the filling in each square, fold corners to form a triangle, seal edges well using your fingers or a fork

Cook in salted, boiling water for 5 minutes.

Adapted from The Mennonite Cookbook


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