Happy Orthodox Christmas!
There are as many recipes for perogies as there are babas in the world. My favourite pillowy perogies have potato in the dough, as well as the filling.
I know there are lots of perogy recipes that don’t have potatoes in the dough, and most of them are damn tasty, but to me they eat more like a ravioli than a perogy.
This afternoon I made perogies, then ate four dozen of them, giving me ample opportunity to contemplate their mysteries.
Cooking the Potatoes. This is one of many recipes that requires cooking potato, milling it while it’s hot, then chilling thoroughly before making a dough. You’ll notice that steam billows from the potato as it breaks up. This is good. We want to get some of the moisture out of the potato before we make the perogy dough. The more water content that remains in the potatoes, the more flour we’ll have to add to create a workable, roll-able dough, and the more glutenous and tough the final product will be. My preferred potato-cooking method is therefore to roast them whole, in their jackets. The skins come away easily, and there’s no need to fuss with a pot of water.
I use a food mill, the kind that has a hopper with a screen on the bottom, and a slanted, rotary blade that pushes the potato flesh through that screen. There are also devices called ricers, that have pistons that push the potatoes through the screen. Both work well, provided the potatoes are cooked all the way through. If undercooked, the final dough won’t be perfectly smooth.
Once milled, I spread the potatoes out on a sheet tray and let them cool in the fridge. All the dough ingredients should be well chilled. Warmth encourages gluten development.
The Dough. Once well chilled, I add the flour and salt to the potatoes, and do my best to combine them without kneading. Finally butter, egg, and sour cream are added, and the dough mixed to combine and kneaded until smooth and slightly tacky to the touch. Let the dough rest at least fifteen minutes, preferably an hour, wrapped tightly in plastic in the fridge, before rolling out. You can even keep the dough in the fridge overnight, though the potatoes will turn greyish-black eventually.
The Filling. Apparently the traditional filling is cottage cheese, but in North America cheddar is king. The cheese is mixed with potatoes to give the perogies a structured filling. I mix finely grated cheddar with the milled potatoes in a stand mixer. The paddle kind of smears the cheese into the potatoes to make a homogeneous paste. I also add sour cream for moisture, acidity, and to help bind the filling. And salt. Even with all the cheese, this filling needs salt.
The filling should be quite stiff when cold, otherwise it will run from the finished perogies when you cut into them, or worse, when you boil them.
Shaping. Once the dough is well rested, I roll it out to 1/4″ at the very thickest. I use a 2.5″ ring cutter to punch circles out of the dough. (As a side note, I’ve seen some women shape their perogies without a cutter! They put a dollop of filling near the edge of the rolled dough, then lift and stretch the dough over the filling, and cut off the perogy from the sheet, leaving no trim!)
Once I have the circles cut, I put a bit of filling on each. I’m always surprised by how little cheese stuffing it takes to fill the perogies, maybe a tablespoon, about a third of an ounce by weight. Then simply fold the dough over the filling and pinch it off into the characteristic half-moon shape. If the dough is dry, a bit of water brushed on the surface will help it bind.
Perogy Trim. Using a round dough cutter will invariably create trim. This trim can be combined, and re-rolled. The re-rolled dough is a little harder to work with. Even after letting it rest, it will be tougher and springier than the original dough. It will resist rolling, and the perogies will not close up as easily. Perogies made from re-rolled dough will be slightly chewier, but it’s worth doing one re-roll, because about 20% of your original dough weight will be left behind as trim. I wouldn’t do more than one, as the dough becomes pretty much unworkable.
A friend told me that there are traditional Ukrainian dumplings made by reshaping and boiling perogy dough trim. He called them babaikas, (“ba-BYE-kahs”), but I can’t find any mention of them online or in my cookbooks. I made these from the trim from my re-roll. There all right. A bit chewy in my case.
Freezing and/or Cooking. At this point the raw perogies should be either frozen or boiled. They freeze beautifully. Just line a sheet pan with parchment and lightly dust with flour. Lay the perogies out on the tray and put it in the freezer. Once they’re frozen through, you can bag them. Using this method will keep the dumplings from sticking together.
To boil, fill a large pot with cold water. Season liberally and bring to a vigorous boil. The old adage is that when dumplings float in water, they’re done. Hervé This actually disproves this in his book Molecular Gastronomy, but it’s a bit of a “the bumblebee flies anyway” situation. After about two or three minutes in boiling water, fresh perogies will float, and they’re done. Frozen perogies obviously take longer to start bobbing.
Boiled v. Fried. Once boiled, consume immediately with onions, bacon, and sour cream. If you intend on saving them for a few hours or days, toss them very lightly in oil to prevent them from sticking, then pan-fry to thoroughly brown and crisp the exteriors.
Here are the actual numbers I use.
- 680 g all-purpose flour
- 420 g cooked, riced, chilled starchy potatoes
- 50 g unsalted butter. melted
- 50 g egg (one large egg…)
- 230 g sour cream
- 5 g kosher salt
The Cheddar Filling
Master Ratio – 4:2:1 potato, finely grated cheddar, sour cream, by weight. Another handy ratio is that you need about 10 g of filling to stuff 20 g of dough.
- 400 g cooked, riced, chilled starchy potatoes
- 200 g finely grated cheddar, the orange kind
- 100 g, sour cream
- kosher salt to taste
1. You’ve no doubt noticed that there are about one hundred different spellings of the word “perogy” in common usage. This is because many of the countries from which perogies come, places like Ukraine and Russia, use a different alphabet than us. Rendering the word “perogy” is often an issue of transliteration, not translation. If you hear a baba pronounce the actual Ukrainian word пиріг, they are clearly using sounds that don’t exist in English – how can they be transcribed? The Polish alphabet is much closer to our own. They spell it pierogi (that’s the plural form). I think the entire point is mute. It’s safe to say that perogies have been naturalized, and are part of Canadian prairie cuisine. I defer to the Ukrainian churches of Edmonton, who, when advertising dinners on signs, usually (but not always) use “perogy.”
2. If this style of perogy dough interests you, try this out:
Master ratio – 5 parts flour : 1 part butter : 1 part eggs : 2 parts sour cream
- 10 oz flour
- 4 oz sour cream
- 2 oz butter
- 2 oz eggs