For the past few years, Mel and I have been either attending or having a “Pierogi Party” in the weeks before Christmas (barring unexpected illnesses and inclement weather). We both grew up eating frozen pierogies year-round, but there was always something special about the homemade pierogies of the holiday seasons. After a lot of conversations with different people about how they make their pierogies (triangle vs. half-circle, water vs. milk, how much salt, etc.), research into heirloom recipes, and hours and hours of practice making dough, I think we have both come to the point where we can whip up our ideal pierogies from memory. Possibly in our sleep.
In theory, pierogies are not complicated. The ingredients are simple and easy to find, and there really are only a few steps. However, they are time-consuming and require a big commitment, because once you get into the process, you have to just see it through. You don’t want to be answering your phone when you are covered in flour and have dough on your hands. The dough is really the thing that makes or breaks the pierogies, in my opinion. Great tips we have received regarding the dough include: kneading it until it forms a ball that is “as soft as a baby’s bottom”; rolling it thin enough so that you can see light shining through if you hold it up, but thick enough to hold filling and stretch a little, and breaking the initial dough into half or thirds before rolling it out because it is easier to handle.
Although most recently I have been using a filling mixture of potato, bacon, and cheese due to frequent requests, you can use just about any filling you like. I have a batch of dessert pierogies filled with strawberry preserves in my freezer, along with a half dozen potato, spinach, and feta, and I once even made 6 Nutella-filled pierogies (which were quickly devoured.) The possibilities are almost limitless.
I find that this recipe for pierogi dough is a pretty good start for making pierogies. Below are my slight modifications:
- 2 cups flour to start, plus more as needed
- 1-2 eggs, beaten, depending on size
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1-2 heaping teaspoons sour cream
- 1 stick of butter, softened (I usually use about half of the stick in the dough)
- lukewarm water, as needed
- potatoes mashed with a splash of milk and salt to taste
- cheese of choice
- Mix flour and salt together in bowl.
- Stir in egg.
- Add sour cream and butter and blend in.
- You may have to start working the dough with your hands at this point.
- Add flour as needed, and splash with a little lukewarm water.
- When dough starts to hold shape, move to a cutting board or surface for kneading.
- Add flour and continue to knead until it reaches the smoothness “of a baby’s bottom.”
- Return dough to bowl and let it set up for about 10-20 minutes.
- Divide dough into 2-3 sections.
- Place one small section of dough on a floured cutting board.
- Press dough down and flatten as much as possible.
- Sprinkle a little flour on the top of the dough.
- Roll out dough with rolling pin.
- Flip dough, sprinkle with flour as needed, until dough reaches desired thickness.
- Using a drinking glass or dough press, cut out circles of dough and set aside. Repeat process until all the dough is rolled and cut.
- Take a dough circle, add a heaping teaspoon of filling in the center (could be more or less, depending on size of dough circle).
- If using dough press, add a small amount of water around the edge of the dough, then close the press to seal.
- Otherwise, add a small amount of water around the edge of the dough, press together with fingers, then use a fork to crimp the seal.
- If eating right away, add pierogies to boiling water until they float, then move them to a pan with melted butter and onions, and fry until desired crispiness is reached.
- If not eating immediately, spread pierogies on a cookie sheet and freeze until hard. Pierogies can then be placed in ziplock bags and stored for months–if they last that long!!!