Last week Saucy posted about The Fan and The Secret Weapon's 50th wedding anniversary. For that event, Saucy and her brother "aproned up" and made about 500 varenyky.
Varenyky (also known as perogies) are a Russian (Ukranian, if you call them perogies) dumpling made with a tender white dough and can be filled with potatoes and cheese, cottage cheese, or berries.
The dough itself is easy to make - and so are the fillings. They're just a little time-consuming. Hence, they're usually brought out for special occasions around these parts. They're also served soaked in butter... thus not very kind to the waistline. You might want to bookmark this post for Christmas.
Today, Saucy will show you how to make varenyky using her Aunt's recipe. In this post she will be filling them with saskatoon berries, found readily around these parts. The saskatoon berry is sweet and firm but not too juicy - an excellent fruit for filling perogies. They also have a slightly nutty, vanilla-like flavour to them which is absolutely delicious paired with this pastry dough. You might ask if blueberries would also do the trick and to that Saucy says, she doesn't know. If any readers have tried this with blueberries, please report. Saucy thinks they might get a little too mushy. At any rate, you will need 2-3 cups of fruit for one recipe of varenyky dough.
Instructions for other traditional fillings found below, if you can't find saskatoon berries. The potato/cheese and cottage cheese varieties are also popular 'round here.
Varenyky Dough (makes 45-55 varenyky)
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-3 cups white flour
In a medium-sized bowl, lightly whisk milk, water, egg, oil and salt. Using your whisk, begin adding the flour, about a half cup at a time, beating lightly as you go. After you have added about a cup and a half of the flour, the mixture will thicken and become too heavy for the whisk. Now is a good time to use your hands. Get in there. Get messy.
Add more flour, as you work the mixture with your hands. You really are going to get messy. It will be worth it. Add flour until the mixture has the consistency of a baby's earlobe...
That's right. When you pinch the dough, it should feel soft and tender and as light as pinching the earlobe of a newborn. At least that's what Saucy's Aunt told her about twenty years ago when they made these together.
Anyway, work flour into the dough until it is soft and elastic. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5-8 minutes. Do not overwork this dough. It needs to stay light and tender.
Cover the dough and allow it to rest for thirty minutes. This activates the glutens.
After a half hour, roll the dough on a lightly floured surface and use a biscuit cutter to cut it into round circles for filling. The dough should be about 1/8" thick.
Here's the thing... the dough will be very "springy" and the rounds might look like they're shrinking right before your eyes. That's okay. Just give them a little stretch and put some filling in the centre:
Today, Saucy filled them with saskatoon berries that were lightly dusted with flour and sugar. The flour cooks down with the sugar and berries inside the dough and makes for a very rich, thick filling.
There are no exact measurements here. Saucy will tell you: if your berries taste tart, add more sugar.
Fold the round in half, pinching it across the top. From each side, pinch along the edges, poking the berries inward as needed as you go.
Pinch snugly. You don't want these bad boys popping open when they reach a rolling boil. You want to keep the good stuff inside.
Lay the uncooked varenyky on clean tea towels spread out on a flat surface. Make sure they don't touch each other. The dough will stick together and when you attempt to pull them apart, you'll get a holy, stretchy, berry mess.
At this part in the process you will be glad you invited a friend to make these with you - many hands make light work. If you didn't ask anyone to help you, you'll be wishing at this point that you did. Over the years Saucy has seen many a grandmother and aunt share this job over a long afternoon in the end to have enough varenyky to serve at a family wedding or party.
In fact, Saucy's Baba (her Russian grandmother) only had four fingers on one of her hands as the result of an accident. But man, you should have seen her fingers fly around the edges of a varenyky. She was skilled.
Since she's practically a professional at this, she'll often have two - or even three - pots boiling at a time on the cooktop. One for each flavour, if she's on a bender.
Notice that when they're first dropped in the water, they sink right to the bottom of the pan. Give them five minutes at a steady rolling boil.
Now we're getting somewhere! While the varenyky are boiling, melt butter in the microwave (you'll need about a half cup for one batch of perogies) and pour a little of it in the bottom of a casserole dish.
Check it out... the dough is looking translucent and the dumplings are floating and rolling around when they're done.
Use a strainer to remove them from the boiling water and repeat with the next 10-12 varenyky. After draining thoroughly, place the varenyky into the casserole dish and toss with butter, adding more butter as you add perogies. You do not want them sticking together.
The only downside of this dish is that it's not really that attractive. They're just simply folded dumplings - there's no real way to dress them up. Serve hot with more melted butter. The moment they hit your lips, you won't care what they look like. They're the ugly duckling of folk cuisine.
Cooked varenyky can be frozen in Ziploc bags. Thaw, reheat in the microwave and serve.
For traditional potato and cheese varenyky, you will need about two cups of thoroughly mashed potatoes. After mashing, while still hot, stir in milk or cream (about a half cup) and shredded cheddar cheese (sharp is best). Add the cheese to taste - Saucy uses almost a full cup. Add one medium onion that has been finely diced and sauteed until clear. Salt and pepper to taste. Blend carefully (a stand mixer is handy) and use about a teaspoon inside each varenyky, depending on the size of your dough cutter.
For cottage cheese varenyky, combine dry curd cottage cheese (one package is approximately two cups' worth) with a half cup of unflavoured, plain mashed potatoes. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper - and one beaten egg. The egg bind the cottage cheese together. Use about a teaspoon inside each varenyky, depending on the size of your dough cutter again.