No matter how you spell it, they are delicious. While I'm sure there is some contention over their ethnicity of origin, they are definitely the Eastern Europe's answer to the ravioli, dumpling, gyoza, kreplach,etc. And really, could there be something better than a carb mixed with cheese stuffed into a carb? Oh, I think not.
It just so happens that my mother, a German Irish woman, learned to make these from my Polish preschool teacher back on the farmlands of Indiana. I don't remember her making these as often when I was really young, but when we moved to Pittsburgh (when I was 11), she found her niche making and selling these during Lent (sometimes other holidays as well) to friends and teachers at the Catholic school I attended. She can also tout that she is an award winning pierogie maker and you certainly don't have to twist her arm to tell you about the time she won her title.
When you live in Pittsburgh, pierogies are pretty ubiquitous due to the ethnic (largely Slavic) makeup of the inhabitants and certainly a staple during the Lenten season since the fillings are meatless. You can even find them on restaurant menus here. I've never ordered them though lest I be disappointed. In a pinch, I've succumbed to a box of Mrs. T's and just dealt with it, but it's so not the same and my kid won't touch them. In my opinion, the secret lies in the dough--chewy, but not too thick or too tough.
While I've known how to make the filling for quite some time--heck, my brothers and I had to peel countless 5 pound bags of potatoes in our day-I never knew how to make the dough. You see, it's one of those things that resides in my mom's head and done entirely by feel. I've now baked enough bread--maybe not always perfectly, but well enough--to think that I was ready to take on this dough. My mom couldn't have been more happy to share her skills. See that rolling pin in the picture? That was grandmother's rolling pin. I never knew that until that day! Now, back in my mom's pre-entrepreneur days, she crimped each one by hand, but when she started getting orders totalling up to 120 dozen or more a season, she started using a press that made six at a time. I personally don't feel this takes away from the handmade aspect at all and considering each full recipe makes a gazillion, I'm all for going as fast as possible. Of course as an amateur, I did not go very fast at all. Eating them, that is another story. I prefer mine lightly pan fried in a little butter with caramelized onions and sour cream. A sprinkle of salt and fresh ground black pepper for good measure. No doubt they will disappear quickly off of my Easter table. I may have to taste a few before they are served, for quality assurance purposes.
We made a full recipe and it turned out a good 12 dozen or so. Mama Q claims that normally she can get 8-10 dozen from a full recipe, but I think she was erring on the low side. You could easily half this recipe and still feed your city.
Grammy's (or Mama Q's) Pierogies
5 lbs of potatoes, peeled and quartered or cut into large chunks
1 package of cream cheese, softened (full fat, please!)
1 stick of butter (I used salted)
1 pound of sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
milk (I only used 1/4 cup, but sometimes I have to use more to get the texture I want)
salt and pepper to taste
Prepare filling: Boil potatoes just as if you were making mashed potatoes- until fork tender. I had to do this in two large stock pots to accommodate all of them. In a large mixing bowl (I had to do this in two rounds), mix the potatoes, butter, cream cheese on med to high speed to thoroughly mash the potatoes and mix the ingredients. You will want to add some milk to make the mixture more creamy and to help blend the ingredients. You don't want this mixture to be loose though. You're going for a thick mashed potato mixture. Add in cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Filling does not need to be refrigerated prior to filling pierogies, but can be made a day or two ahead. We made the potato mixture and let it cool slightly on the counter while preparing the dough.
Mama Q notes that this is no time to use the "light" or diet versions of any of the ingredients. The Spice Rack heartily agrees.
Dough (we did two batches of this)
1/2 bag of all purpose white flour
5 egg yolks
1-1 1/2 cups of water
1/2 cup of milk (again, we used 2%)
With a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook (you could do this by hand, but we chose to do it the way my mom always did it and she's been using the same Kitchen Aid for 25 years!) Add your flour, water, milk and egg yolks on medium speed. When dough forms and starts pulling away from the sides (this took about five minutes) take a second to feel the dough. It should still be slightly sticky. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup of flour to lightly cover the dough. Continue kneading until dough and adding more flour if needed until dough is no longer sticky and is very soft and elastic. This dough does not need to rest, it's ready to be rolled out at this point.
Take a handful of dough and cover the rest with a damp towel or else it will dry out while you are making your pierogies. Flour your work surface and your dough and roll out until it is about an 1/8 of an inch thick. Once you've achieve this thickness, lay dough sheet over the press and put slightly over a 1 TBSP of potato filling in the middle of each pocket. Trim excess dough from the press and lay another appropriately sized dough sheet on top and then roll over this with a rolling pin. This will adequately seal your pierogie.
Alternatively, use a drinking glass or biscuit cutter to make dough circles and place 1 TBSP in the center and then fold over the dough and crimp the edges with your hands or a fork, making sure your pierogie is sealed and free of air pockets.
Continue to do this until you are out of dough or out of stamina.
To cook the pierogies: Bring a large stock pot (or two like I did) to a gentle simmer. You do not want to cook these in a rolling boil or they will bust apart. Add 1 TBSP of vegetable or olive oil to the water. Add in pierogies (we usually cook 6-8 at a time) and they will float to the top when cooked.
At this point, if you wish to freeze them or keep in the fridge for a few days, transfer them to an ice bath to cool and to stop the cooking process. If you wish to continue cooking and eating them, Transfer them to a skillet with some melted butter. Some people like them just coated in melted butter, but I like to pan fry them with minimal amounts of butter at this point.
Serve with sour cream and caramelized onions if you wish.
Enjoy and unbutton your pants.