Pierogies! Make them once and you’ll never go back.

Seriously. These are a lot of work but totally worth it. You’ll never eat those cheapy Cheemo ones again.
I got this simple recipe from Epicurious (c/o Gourmet, April 2004 – highly modified) and I have made it several times. It takes a few hours so I usually do it on a weekend. Yesterday, I tripled the batch so I would have some to give away and enough to keep me going for a while and it took me about three hours. If you do this though, I suggest making individual doughs, not tripling the dough recipe from the start. You will see why as you read on… Still, even one dough is a good workout for those triceps.

For dough

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (plus additional for kneading. I’ve never needed more. The dough is extremely elastic.)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Make dough:
Put flour in a large shallow bowl and make a well in center. Add water, egg, oil, and salt to well and carefully beat together with a fork without incorporating flour. Continue stirring with a wooden spoon, gradually incorporating flour, until a soft dough forms. (You can be this careful if you want to, but I like to just put everything in a bowl and mix. It seems to turn out the same.) Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead, dusting with flour as needed to keep dough from sticking (again, probably won’t need more flour), until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes (dough will be very soft – this is what the recipe says – I’ve never found it to be particularly soft, just very dense. I’ve also found kneading for less time doesn’t make much difference. Just make sure your ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.). Invert a bowl over dough and let stand at room temperature 1 hour.

For potato filling

  • 1 1/2 pound russet (baking) potatoes
  • 6 ounces coarsely grated extra-sharp white Cheddar (2 1/4 cups)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Mixing up the fillings is fun – you could do a more traditional bacon and onion or sauerkraut (though I suggest using sauerkraut as a topping rather than a filler. Too difficult to work with.). I usually use cheese of some kind and an herb or two. I think next time I might try my favourite cheese, cambozola and maybe some tarragon… Mmmmm…

Make filling while dough stands:
Peel potatoes and chop. Cook potatoes in a large saucepan of boiling water until tender, about 8 minutes. Drain potatoes, then transfer to a bowl along with fillings and mash until smooth.

Form pierogies: need round cookie cutter, approx. 3″ in diameter.
Halve dough and roll out 1 half (keep remaining half under inverted bowl) on surface (flour if you like but not really necessary – do not overflour surface or dough will slide instead of stretching) with a lightly floured rolling pin (seriously, I don’t know what is with this recipe and putting so much flour down) into a 15-inch round (1/8 inch thick), then cut out rounds with lightly floured cutter (really? the cutter? Basically, try to get it as thin as possible. Again, it’s highly dense and elastic, so I find it’s easiest to get it started with the rolling pin and then stretch it out by hand like pizza dough, then put it back on your surface and roll.). Holding 1 round in palm of your hand (I stretch it again here), put a small scoop of potato in center of the round and close your hand to fold round in half, enclosing filling. Pinch edges together to seal completely (do not leave any gaps or pierogi will open during cooking).

If eating right away: Transfer pierogi to a lightly floured kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and cover with another towel. Form more pierogies in same manner. (Seriously, Gourmet? Did this need to be explained?)

I like to put them on a wax-papered cookie sheet and put them in the freezer. It’s important to let them freeze individually so they don’t glom together into one giant pierogi. It’s messy. If this happens to you, resist the temptation to try pulling them apart. This will definitely tear the dough which will lead to a doughy, potato soup when you try to cook them. Toss the whole glommy mess into boiling water and they will separate while cooking.

I also suggest resisting the temptation to re-roll your dough scraps but give it a whirl if you like a challenge. As mentioned, the dough is already incredibly elastic and doing this seems to multiply the effect to become impossibly so. I suggest instead, preparing a second batch of dough, if you want more than this makes, which is probably roughly 30-40, or maybe a few more, if you are rolling the dough thinner or making smaller ones.

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