Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Apple Piroshki


Piroshki are a popular pastry in Russia, Ukraine, and other parts of the former Soviet Union. Piroshki is a catch-all term for a variety of stuffed pastries, often oval in shape. You’ll find piroshki that are fried or baked, made with yeast-leavened dough, puff pastry, or shortcrust pastry. They can be either savory or sweet, and common fillings include sautéed cabbage, mashed potato with caramelized onion, and sweet apple.

 When piroshki are made with fried yeasted dough they are akin to a donut. Hanukkah, and its celebration of fried foods, is my favorite time of year to make apple piroshki. If you have ever made sufganiyot, this dough recipe will be similar in its ingredients and methods. What makes piroshki different from most sufganiyot is that the filling is added before the dough is fried. Like sufganiyot, piroshki benefit from a generous shower of powdered sugar before serving.

 This is the kind of recipe that takes some time and is ideal for a chilly day when being in the kitchen is calming and warm. Like any fried food, these are unquestionably best eaten straight away or on the same day they are made. Warm and fresh, the golden-brown exterior has the subtlest crisp to it, giving way to soft airy dough beneath, and caramelly apple filling inside.

 If you’re steering clear of oil but have an affinity for piroshki, you can use this recipe to make a baked version. Instructions are provided below. Baked piroshki are also best eaten fresh, but can last an additional 2-3 days if they are warmed up again just before serving.

An apple pirozhok is a warm, festive treat for any winter day. If you’ve added enough powdered sugar, when you take your first bite you can happily expect that sugar to somehow make its way onto your upper lip, and maybe even the tip of your nose.

Apple Piroshki

Makes 16

For the dough:

1¼ cup warm milk

2¼ teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast

2 Tablespoons sugar

4 Tablespoons (½ stick) butter, melted and cooled

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3¾ -4 cups (446-480 g)  all purpose flour, start with less and add more flour if needed

1 liter (33 oz) neutral oil for frying (e.g. sunflower, canola, or vegetable)

For the filling:

2½ lbs (about 6-7)  apples, (Crimson, Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, or any baking apple)

½ cup granulated sugar

⅓ cup light or dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Big pinch of salt

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the dough-

Warm the milk so that it is just warm to the touch, but not simmering (between 90°F-110°F). Combine the warm milk with the yeast and the sugar. Allow the yeast to activate and become foamy for 5-10 minutes.

 Add the flour to a stand-mixer with the dough hook attachment or to a large bowl if making the dough by hand. Start with 3¾ cups (446 grams) of flour; if you later find the dough too sticky as you are kneading, add more flour one spoonful at a time.  Make a well in the center of the flour.

Add the melted cooled butter, egg, egg yolk, and salt to the well in the flour. Then add the milk and yeast mixture.

Combine the wet and the dry ingredients on the mixer’s lowest setting, or gently by hand. Once the ingredients are combined and start to form a ball, increase the speed on the mixer to medium, or transfer the dough to a flat surface and begin to knead the dough. The dough will be very sticky, especially at first, but as you knead it will become smoother.

Knead the dough until silky, soft and smooth, about 5-6 minutes in the mixer, or 10 minutes by hand. The dough will slightly stick to the sides of the bowl, but will easily form a smooth soft ball in your hands.

 Once the dough is kneaded, transfer it to a lightly oiled bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lightly damp towel, and place in a warm part of the kitchen; allow the dough to rise for 1-1½ hours or until doubled in size. While the dough is rising, make your filling.

For the filling-

Peel and core the apples. Dice them small, and add them to a bowl. Combine them with sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Add them to a deep skillet or large pot, and cook them on medium heat for 15-20 minutes, or until softened and most of the liquid has evaporated. The mixture will start to look like apple pie filling, the liquid will thicken and become syrupy, and the apples will be golden brown. Turn off the heat, and stir in the vanilla extract. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool.

To assemble the piroshki-

Line two baking sheets with parchment.

 Once the dough has risen, punch it down and divide it into 16 equal-sized pieces. To do so, form the dough into a rectangle, divide it into 4 equal parts, and then divide each section into 4 again. For exact uniformity, weigh each piece. Form each piece into a ball, and cover with a clean kitchen towel so they do not dry out as you work.

 On a lightly floured surface, form the piroshki by rolling each ball into a thin circle, about 4-5 inches in diameter. Add 1½ tablespoons of the filling into the center of the circle of dough. Fold the dough upwards towards the center, equally on each side, and pinch the piroshki firmly closed along the top forming them into a sealed oval shape.

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