Homemade Varenyky/Perogy – Recipe & Technique
One of the most popular dishes in Eastern European cuisine is Filled Dumplings, known as Varenyky, also frequently referred to as Perohy by many, or Pierogi in Polish. They are made with homemade pasta dough and filled with a variety of fillings, but potato with cheese is the most popular filling of all.
It is definitely a “labor of love” for those who make them from scratch, as it requires several hours of preparation time, but it is so worth it. The commercially mass-produced “Pierogies” just do not measure up to the homemade version! I was so proud of my daughter when she made these for the first time without asking for assistance….:-)
These dumplings were prepared by many cooks for generations, but if you ask your mom or grandma for a recipe, you get a very vague list of ingredients (a little bit of this and a little bit of that), with even less detailed preparation instructions.
The first time I made Varenyky was at the age of 18, way before the life-saving Google time, so I kind of played by ear with measuring the ingredients and perfecting the dough, but to my surprise, they turned out quite well.
Thanks to Google and YouTube we now have our “personal assistants” with any experiments and projects we wish to work with.
Today I will share my own list of ingredients, step-by-step instructions as well as pictures, so you can give it a try and enjoy your own homemade varenyky/pierogi. The filling needs to be prepared ahead of time, to allow it to cool off before use.
Potato-filled Varenyky are best served warm with caramelized onions sautéed in lots of butter, accompanied by a dollop of sour cream.
If you like your dumplings crispy, you can gently fry them on both sides to a golden color and crispness, using a hot pan generously greased with butter. YUMMY!!!!!
This is how I serve my varenyky, whether they are fresh or need to be reheated before serving. They never stick together since they are stacked side by side with the round edge downward and the pinched sides upward. I smother their tops with lots of butter and sauteed onions, running down the sides to the bottom of the pan.
To reheat them in a large quantity, I add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water into the pan (this creates steam during the heating time and prevents them from drying out or getting scorched from the bottom) cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil, and keep them in the oven at 250 degrees F until they are nice and hot. If you are pressed for time, you can start heating them for 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees F, then turn the temperature down to 250 F for a few more minutes until warm enough to serve.
For individual portions, it is easier and faster to use the microwave, but remember to cover them and not overcook them. Begin with 45 seconds, then check if they are warm enough for you, if you like them hotter add another 20 seconds once or twice.
They also freeze very well, but need to be cold and well coated with oil mixed with melted butter, to prevent them from sticking together, then layered one dozen per a zip-lock plastic bag, closed securely while letting out as much air as possible. They may stay frozen like this for up to 3 months.
To use the frozen, fully cooked dumplings, you need to defrost them in their bag in the fridge for at least 24 hours, then place the filled bag into hot water for several minutes to warm them up, or remove them onto a microwave-safe plate and heat them through, or heat them up on a frying pan with melted butter.
Someone just told me that they add softened butter to their dough, so I tried it, and it is such a wonderful change. It makes the dough so soft and pliable, therefore I UPDATED my original recipe with this adjustment (March 2018).
Also, some of you used more flour than I did while kneading the dough, or during rolling it out, so I was told the dough was getting a little too stiff, therefore I adjusted the total liquid used in the recipe by increasing it by 1/4 cup (total 1 1/4 cup).
This recipe makes about 60 pieces of varenyky (using a 3″ biscuit cutter).
### Please scroll down to the bottom of this post for a printable recipe ###
Start your dough on a countertop, or in a large bowl.
Use a spoon to incorporate the wet ingredients with the dry ones, until the batter is thick enough for kneading.
Once the dough is soft and silky (about 5 minutes), form a ball, cover it with a tea towel and let it rest for at least 15 minutes. If you used a bowl for mixing the dough, you can oil the bowl with 1 tsp of oil, and place the dough in it, turn it once so both sides get slightly oiled to prevent drying out. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and rest as above.
Use 1/2 of the dough at a time, and place it on a lightly floured work surface (countertop) to get it ready for rolling it out.
Using a rolling pin, begin rolling out the dough from the middle of the ball to all sides, a little bit at a time. Make sure to dust your surface with more flour once the dough stretches out and extends passed the original floured area, or it will stick to the counter. I lift up my rolled dough halfway through, flour my work surface once more and flip the dough over, then sprinkle the top with a little bit of four and continue rolling it until it feels about 1/8 inch thick.
Use your flour sparingly on the work surface so your leftover dough after cutting out the circles does not get too tough for the second batch of rolling out and cutting circles.
I usually do not use the leftover dough the third time around because by this time it is too tough, so I either work in some more liquid to it before using it again or roll it out very thin and slice it up into pasta noodles.
Using a 3-inch biscuit cutter, cut out circles from the rolled-out dough until all is used up.
Place the circles on a floured tea towel, and cover them with another towel to prevent them from drying out.
Place a heaping teaspoon of filling in the middle of a dough circle, or roll your potato filling into ready-to-use balls, the size of a walnut.
Fold the filled circle in half, and pinch the sides together well enough so they do not open up. Poorly sealed Varenyky will open up during cooking, and the filling will boil out.
- 4 cups flour (all purpose – unbleached Gold Medal or Pillsbury). You will need additional flour for dusting your work area while rolling out the dough.
- 1 tsp. Salt
- 1 egg (slightly beaten)
- 1 1/4 cup whole milk, room temperature (may add more warm water if needed) newly adjusted
- ½ cup sour cream
- 4 Tbs. butter, softened (new update 3/2018)
- 8 medium potatoes (Yukon Gold, Red, or Idaho)
- 1/4 lb Yellow American Cheese
- 1/4 lb White American Cheese
- 1 large onion, chopped and sautéed in ¼ cup butter
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Begin with 3 1/2 cups of flour on your counter top in a mound, or in a large mixing bowl, making a well in the middle. Set aside 1/2 cup of flour to dust the work area before kneading the soft dough.
- Add the egg, salt, sour cream and butter into the well.
- Using a spoon, start incorporating the flour from the inside of the well, into the wet ingredients, while gradually adding milk and forming soft dough.
- If your dough is too firm you may continue to add a little more warm water and working it into the dough to make it more pliable.
- Flour the work area with the remaining 1/2 cup of flour, and place the sticky dough on it for kneading it for about 3 minutes. Do not over work it, so it does not get tough. It should feel like fresh pizza dough, but slightly softer.
- Place your dough ball on a floured section of a countertop, or in a oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel, and let it rest at least 15 minutes.
- Flour your work area, and roll out 1/2 of the dough,working from the middle to the sides. Halfway though this process, I lift up my half rolled dough and flip it over onto the floured work area, and continue rolling it out until it is about 1/8 inch think. Make sure you keep covered the second half of the dough to prevent it from drying out.
- Using a 3 inch biscuit cutter, cut out circles from the rolled out dough, until all is used up.
- Place the circles on a floured tea towel, and cover with another towel to prevent them from drying out.
- Form a new dough ball from the remaining dough left from the cut outs, and repeat the above rolling/cutting out process, one more time.
- From then on, do not roll out any remaining dough, but rather form a log, and cut to small pieces to form circles by hand. Or, roll it out and use it for homemade pasta, or discard it
- Repeat the process with the second half of the dough, which was resting during this time, until all used up.
- Now you are ready to fill your dumplings with your favorite filling, which needed to be prepared ahead of time, so it had a chance to cool off.
- Place a heaping teaspoon of filling in the middle of a dough circle, or roll your potato filling into ready to use ball, the size of a walnut.
- Fold filled circle in half, and pinch sides together well enough so they do not open up. If you do not seal them well, the filling will boil out during cooking time.
- Repeat the filling/pinching process until all circles are used up.
- Keep the finished Varenyky covered with a tea towel, until ready to cook.
- Fill 3/4 full a large pot (4 -6 quarts) with salted water, 2 Tbs. oil, and bring to boil.
- Gently lower 8-12 Varenyky into the boiling water; be careful to avoid splashing hot water on yourself.
- Stir gently, with a wooden spoon, to prevent Varenyky from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- The Varenyky will float to the top of the water. Do not cover the pot.
- Bring back to boiling point, and boil for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove with a slotted spoon into a strainer placed over a bowl.
- Fill a large bowl with cold water, and empty the Varenyky into it, to cool them down for a few minutes, then pour out into the strainer again to let the water drain off. Then slide them off onto a large plate to cool off further. If you plan to store them for later, make sure you grease them well with butter or oil, or a mixture of both, to prevent sticking during storing.
- By this time your water is boiling again, so repeat the cooking process until all Varenyky are cooked.
- Peel and quarter potatoes.
- Fill a medium size pot with water, add potatoes and bring to boil.
- Cook until done.
- Sauté onions in butter, until golden.
- Drain water from cooked potatoes.
- Add sautéed onions, cheeses, salt and pepper.
- Mash well to a smooth paste (no lumps)
- Cool before using.
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