Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Ukrainian Pirog with Cheese Filling

So, I've mentioned that I used to live in Ukraine. Well, when I lived there, one of my ABSOLUTE favorite things to eat is what they call pie (pirog/пирог). It's so good. And we had a little pirogovaya right around the corner. Very dangerous when you don't feel like cooking!

Since being back in the States, the Ukrainian pie is one thing I have missed SO much. I've wanted to attempt making one, but the dough is very specific and I couldn't find the right recipe. Well, for New Year's Eve, which we always celebrate with a Ukrainian flair, I decided that come Hell or high water, I was going to make one!

So I set to googling. And googling. And then I googled some more. And just when I thought I'd never find what I was looking for, there it was. It had a horrid looking filling in it, but I'd worry about that later. I'd FOUND the dough!

The dough in question is yeast based, light and flaky, and slightly sweet. But not too sweet, because sometimes it has savory fillings. I decided to make mine with a  traditional cheese filling.

I started with the dough, the recipe for which I found, here:

2 tsp yeast
3 Tbsp cold water
pinch of sugar
3 3/4 cups flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
scant 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp cold milk
2 eggs
3 Tbsp sour cream
2 tsp lemon juice

Dissolve the pinch of sugar in 3 tbsp water in a small glass bowl Add the yeast and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand until foamy, about 10-15 minutes.

While the yeast gets foamy, combine the dry ingredients in a bowl of a stand mixer. With the paddle attachment on low, mix in the cold butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs (of course, you can always use a regular mixer for this, but a stand mixer frees up your hands).
Whisk together the cold milk, eggs, sour cream, and lemon juice. Then whisk in the yeast. Add this mixture slowly and continuously to the flour-butter mixture with the mixer on low. Mix until well combined, about 2 minutes. Put a dough hook attachment on the mixer and knead the dough for 5 minutes (or you can knead by hand). Turn the dough onto a lightly floured working surface and fold it over several times to form a soft dough. Cover the dough with plastic and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
After the dough has been refrigerated, now comes the fun part! Forming it and making the filling!
For my pirog, I chose a round one with a lattice top. There are so many variations, though! You can do round, oval, square, rectangle. And for the top, you can do the lattice, or a braided look. Or you could cover the whole thing with a sheet of dough and do some decorative shaped either in dough on top, or cut out of it. I divided the dough in half and rolled on half into a circle the size of my stoneware pan (about 12 inches) with the edges overlapping a bit.
 Here's me working on the lattice, after I've put in the filling:

For my filling in this one, I chose what is called tvorog/творог. If you have a Russian grocery near you, you can find it there. Alternately, you could use farmer's cheese. Or even cream cheese. I added just a little sugar to my tvorog (It comes in a small container, about the size of half of a standard brick, and that is the perfect amount for the filling here) and then some raisins. I mixed it well and spread it in an even layer on the dough circle, leaving room around the sides to fold the dough up.

Once the filling is in, roll out the remaining dough and cut into strips (I use a pizza wheel for this) and then weave a lattice on the top. I like the lattice because it bakes up nice and golden and lets you see the filling.

Now for the egg wash. Whisk together 1 egg and 1 tsp water and spread it over the top of the pie. This will help it bake golden and flaky:

Once you've done the egg wash, place the pie in a 350 degree oven and bake for 30-35 minutes. When it is done, the dough should be golden and flaky looking:

These pies are best served warm, but they can easily be reheated. I don't have any pictures of a slice of the pie because it was gone too fast! 

Now that I have the dough recipe, I look forward to trying other fillings. I'd like to do one of my favorites from Ukraine, a spinach filling. I just have to remember what else was in it. Other favorite filling of mine are: lemon curd, apple, pomegranate, cranberry. I'm a sucker for the sweet fillings. Savory favorites include: spinach, egg, potato (mashed), and my husband loves ground meat.

Please let me know if you try making one and what kind of fillings you try!