Naturally, all Pittsburghers know what a pierogie is. For those of you who are not in the know, a pierogie is a filled dumpling of Eastern European descent. Generally, the filling is potato-based, with a variety of add-ins, such as onions, cheese, jalapenos, and so forth.
I never tried my hand at making pierogies until about 3 years ago – I was perfectly happy with Mrs. T’s. However, I had begun doing a cultural exchange through recipes with a Japanese friend who was living in Pittsburgh, so I decided I should learn to make pierogies so I could teach her (and then she could spread the love to all of Japan!)
Shortly after my first attempt, I decided that it would be pretty amazing to make dessert pierogies – something I’d never had before. While brainstorming, I came up with the idea of putting my mom’s sweet potato casserole into a pierogie and serving it with ice cream. It was a very good idea. Apparently, I am not alone in thinking this – I won Theo’s Prize for Experimentation in the Pittsburgh Dumpling Experiment a few weeks ago.
So, without further ado, let me guide you through the process.
Servings: 6 (2 pierogies per person)
Time Required: About 2 hours
For the dough:
2 cups flour, plus extra for kneading and rolling dough
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
½ cup sour cream
¼ cup UNSALTED butter, softened and cut into small pieces
For the filling:
2 medium sweet potatoes, boiled, drain peeled, and mashed
1/3 cup cashew butter (Available at Whole Foods)
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons milk
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1-2 tablespoons honey
Vanilla Ice Cream
To make the dough, mix together the flour and salt. Beat the egg, and add to the flour mixture. Add the sour cream and the softened butter pieces and work until the dough loses most of its stickiness. (Note: I’m serious about the unsalted part. If you use salted butter, more boiling water will seep into your dough (osmosis) and make it all mushy and gross.) Knead the dough for about 5-7 minutes. Don’t be tempted to add more liquid – it WILL come together – use your hands!! Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 20-30 minutes. The dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Roll the dough on a floured surface until 1/8 inches thick. Cut circles of dough with a round object. Any size is okay – I usually make my circle about 3 inches in diameter.
To make the filling, place all the filling ingredients in a bowl and mash until smooth. Place a small ball of filling (about a tablespoon) on each dough round and fold the dough over, forming a semi-circle. Press the edges together with your fingers. This filling is really sticky and annoying – I usually use a spoon to get the filling into the center of the pierogie. It helps to stretch the edges of the pierogie out and then press the dough together because the filling likes to try to gush out of the sides. If it does gush out, just wipe it off and make sure that the dough is really pressed together so they don’t explode during boiling.
Boil the pierogies at a full, rolling boil a few at a time in a large pot of water. I have boiled up to 8 at a time successfully. They are done when they float to the top (about 3-5 minutes). Set on a cookie rack to dry. It helps to put a cookie sheet down, put a paper towel liner on top of that, and then put the cookie rack on top of the paper towel. This ensures a not-too-messy counter when you’re all done.
At this point, after the pierogies are dry, you can cook immediately, or you can store them in the fridge for a few days.
To serve, sauté in butter until golden brown on both sides, and then garnish with crushed cashews, honey and cinnamon. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Happy pierogie making!