Saturday, June 30, 2012
Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, know my penchant for things wrapped in dough from an earlier post. In that post, I went into a lengthy discussion on differences between various Eastern European stuffed pastries and dumplings, like the Russian pelmeni or meat dumplings. Today's post involves a related Ukrainian dish, vareniki. Vareniki are similar to pelmeni in that the recipe for the dough is essentially the same, but instead of having a round saucer-like shape, vareniki are simply folded into half-moons. Also, although it is more common for pelmeni to have a meat-based filling, vareniki are more versatile. They can have a meat filling, but they can also be filled with potatoes, cottage cheese, cabbage, or mushrooms. Vareniki can also have a sweet filling. A common Ukrainian dessert is vareniki with a cherry filling, served with sour cream, a thickened cherry sauce, or just a sprinkle of sugar.
Traditionally the cherry vareniki are made with sour cherries, which are easier to find in certain parts of the world than others. When we were in Norway, for instance, there were sour cherry trees everywhere. It seemed like every household had one in their yard, and their branches would hand over the fence and drop cherries like raindrops on the sidewalk. There were also many wild ones, ripe for any passer-by to pick. There was a similar abundance of sour cherries in Ukraine, where instead the sweet cherries were a special, rarer treat.
If you cannot find sour cherries, canned or frozen ones will be the next best thing. If you are using canned sour cherries (as I did), I recommend using cherries preserved only in water, without sugar or any other additives which tend to alter the taste (if you can only find cherries in syrup, be sure to adjust the recipe for the filling accordingly to account for the sugar).
These cherry dumplings are a delicious, sweet treat. They can be had for dessert, as an afternoon snack, or even for breakfast. Despite the moderate labor-intensiveness of pelmeni and vereniki, if you make a large batch, you can always freeze them and keep them in a ziplock bag in your freezer for several weeks.
Tart Cherry Dumplings
(Makes 25-30 dumplings)
You will need:
1 cup (140 g) all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
5-6 tbsp water, more if needed
(Filling and Sauce)
1 lb (450 g) fresh or canned sour cherries,* pitted
4 tbsp sugar, divided
2 tsp corn starch, divided
*Fresh cherries are best. If not available, use canned sour cherries containing just cherries and water without sugar or other additives, or frozen sour cherries (without sugar or other additives), thawed.
1. If using fresh cherries: combine the cherries and 2 tbsp sugar, let stand for about 30 minutes. Once the cherries give off juice, pour the juice into a measuring cup and reserve. If using canned: pour off the juice into a cup and reserve, then mix just the cherries with sugar and let stand for 30 minutes; pour any additional juices into the cup. You should have about 3/4 cup (177 ml) cherry juice; if not, add a requisite amount of water. Toss the cherries with 1 tsp corn starch right before filling.
2. Combine together flour, salt and sugar and add to a bowl, forming a heap. Make a small cavity at the top of the heap and pour the egg yolk into the cavity. Fold the flour into the yolk until the mixture flakes. Add water, one or two tablespoons at a time, until dough starts to form (adding either a little more flour or water for the right consistency). Mix the dough until you can form it into a ball. Give it a knead or two, cover and let stand for 20 minutes.
3. Roll out the dough on a dusted surface with a dusted rolling pin to 1/8 inch (3 mm) thickness. With a 2 1/2 inch (6-7 cm) round cookie cutter, cut out as many circles as you can. Peel off the unused dough and roll it out again, repeating the process. You should have 25-30 circles. Place about 3 cherries in the center of each circle. Dip your finger in water and run it around the edges. Seal the edges together, forming the dumpling into a half-moon. Then press the edges together with a fork. Repeat with remaining dumplings. Refrigerate until ready to cook.
4. In a small pot, combine the reserved cherry juice, 2 tbsp sugar, and 1 tsp corn starch. Bring to a simmer, and reduce the heat to low. Simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thickened and reduced to about 1/4 cup (60 ml), about 15-20 minutes.
5. To cook the dumplings, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt. Add the dumplings, bring back to a boil, and cook until the dough is cooked through, about 7-8 minutes. Drain. Serve the dumplings with the cherry sauce.