Baked Russian hand pies (pechionii pirojki)

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This little intro is going to (a little prematurely) excite my parents (and probably grandmas once my parents decide to share this little nugget with everyone they encounter)… but hell, I might as well say it… I’ve been thinking about my future kids lately. A lot. At some point a few months ago, out of nowhere, the idea of being a mother stopped being uncool, completely hypothetical and something I probably “had to do” and became a lot more real and sort of exciting (could it be because I’m getting that much closer to the big 3-0?). Before you-know-who gets a little too excited, let’s be clear. I am not pregnant and I don’t plan on being pregnant for at least a year and a half (or longer, depending on where I am in my career, house plans, etc.). But like I said, I have started thinking about it and actually imagining what it would be like.

Of course being the food-obsessed self, after wondering whether I’d be the good cop or the bad cop (actually that one is easy, Adam will be caving with one look at those puppy eyes… our kids will have him wrapped around their little fingers I’m sure), I mostly wonder about how I’m going to feed them. Will they be health-nuts and chocoholics like me? Will they want McDonald’s happy meals for special treats, like their dad? What would I be packing them for lunch?

And so I’m reminded of course of my own childhood. Growing up in a communist country was very different from anything my future kids will ever encounter. They won’t know anything about food stamps and I’ve seen enough of Food Revolution to let them eat cafeteria food. The cafeteria food I grew up with, though, evokes much sweeter emotions. Actually, one particular cafeteria treat evokes those fond memories… pirojki.

At 11am each day a bell would go off for a little mid-morning snack and we all ran (yes at the same time.. it was a mess) to the cafeteria where they had freshly baked pirojki for us. Made from scratch. They had different fillings depending on the day, most common ones are mashed potatoes and mushrooms and my favorite, cabbage. Sometimes they had the ones filled with meat but when given the choice, I always picked one with cabbage. It was the best little break!

Last weekend on mother’s day, I had my mom over my house to finally teach me how to make my own. Most traditional pirojki have yeast dough and are fried (that’s the kind we had at school) but thinking they’d be healthier, I asked my mom to make the baked variety. Apparently that has a different dough that contains a very “healthy” amount of butter so these turned out a lot more indulgent (I’m making the yeasted variety next!). The resulting dough is buttery and slightly crumbly. The yeast dough is chewier and truer to my childhood favorite but they’re both delicious in their own way.

Printable recipe

Dough Ingredients (makes ~12-15 pirojki)

  • 8oz tvorog (farmer’s cheese), room temperature
  • 8oz butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups flour
  • a pinch of salt

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You can stuff them with whatever you’d like (filling must be pre-cooked). We made a batch with meat and another with cabbage. Other traditional fillings are mashed potato and mushroom, herbed farmers cheese, or mashed potato and meat (next time I make the meat kind, I’ll add mashed potatoes – makes for a smoother filling). The cabbage was still my fave (although tvorog ones are another really good one; remember the vatrushki?)! Smile

1. Work butter into farmer’s cheese (I used a pastry cutter which worked great).

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2. Add flour and salt; work it in.

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3. Knead until smooth.

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4. Refrigerate for 45 minutes (it’s easier to roll out the dough when it’s really cold).

[This is a good time to make your filling. We braised some cabbage with dill and sour cream and browned a mixture of ground beef and pork.]

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Preheat oven to 390*

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5. Cut dough into smaller pieces, roll them out (about 5″ wide is a good size). They shouldn’t be paper thin, around 2-3mm.

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6. Place a few tablespoons of filling into each dough circle, then gently pinch the ends together. This dough is not stretchy at all so you want to just have the ends meet.

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7. Place pirojki seam side down on a baking sheet.

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8. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.

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Side note: this is what happens when you place them seam side up. This is a “don’t” picture Smile

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Enjoy! :)

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I wonder if my kids would want cabbage stuffed pirojki to take to school one day?

Printable recipe

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