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Baked Stuffed Buns (Pierogies) with Cabbage and Mushrooms
The practice of enclosing all sorts of fillings with all sorts of tastes in an envelope of dough goes back in history many centuries ego in many Eastern European countries with strong ties to Slavic culture. A common variety of them are baked stuffed buns (also called "pierogi" although you can come across numerous variations of English spelling of this word) made from yeast dough.
In countries where this food is popular, such buns are used customarily in place of bread especially when served with soups. Usually, pierogi are offered warm, and, as bread, are taken by hand. This is different from many other varieties of similar foods where small portions of food encased in dough, pastry, batter, or even leaves - this type of dishes can be categorized as dumplings and is found in some European and Asian countries. Obviously, one big difference between buns/pierogies and dumplings is that the former are cooked in oven whereas the latter are either steamed or fried in boiling oil.
This time we'll be cooking buns - be prepared to spend a considerable time on this recipe. In fact, the best approach is to start taking care of filling in advance - see the "To prepare filling" side bar below.
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and make sure that it's still active - see Photo 4. Preparing yeast. Cut the butter into bits in big bowl, add sugar, salt, eggs and yeast to the mixture. Heat the milk almost to boiling, add to the mixture (Photo 5. Add warm milk) and mix everything (Photo 6. Mixing everything).
Keep kneading - add olive oil (Photo 9. Adding olive oil). The basic hand kneading technique is to fold the dough and press it away from you with the heel of your hand. Adding oil helps make dough less sticky and makes its taste more suitable for this type of filling. Kneading is the most important step in making dough - but overkneading is not good since it results in poor bread texture. If you do kneading by hands (as shown) for 10 -12 minutes, you are not in danger of overkneading . However, with machine kneading, be careful.
When the dough becomes elastic (see Photo 10.) and smooth (Photo 15. ), leave it for 1.5 - 2 hours in a warm place (F75° - F85°). At winter time you can use a warm oven - do not forget to cover dough with a piece of cloth or towel (Photos 16 and 17).
You should give dough enough time to rise - however, prolong rising will damage the dough as well. Because of this, do not rely solely on time - keep watching the dough; it should increase its volume two times (see Photos 18. and 19.). NOTE: while your dough is rising, it's a good time to take care and finish the preparation of filiing (see the box "To Prepare Filling").
You should knead the risen dough the second time - do it only for a minute (see Photo 20. Knead the dough the second time for a minute only), and leave the dough to rise for the second time.
If making dough seemed to you like a boring or frustrating process, the next step, making pierogi, is more fun. Start cutting dough in relatively small pieces as shown on Photos 21. Cut pieces of dough one-by-one and 22. That much dough you need for one bun (pirog). Roll them flat (see 23). By the way, another technique you can use is to roll flat all dough you have and after that use a glass or cup with sharp edges to cut out perfect circles.
Take a tablespoon of filling and enclose it in a dough as shown on Photos 24. and 25. Turn the future bun upside down and shape it any way you want. The classic form is an oval of 4" - 4.5" long and 2.5" - 3" wide.
Classic recipe also requires to brush/glaze buns with eggs. This will give them during baking process a very characteristic color. This is shown on Photo 27. Glaze the bun (pirog) with egg. When you are done with glazing, put the pan into preheated oven (preheat it to F450° and set it to F400°) and bake for 15 minutes. A useful tip - do not cram pirogi onto your pan - leave between them a space of about one inch. Buns will still continue to rise (before yeast is killed by the high temperature in oven) and may loose there wonderful shape.
After taking buns out of the oven, leave them to cool under a piece of cloth - see Photo 30. Cool buns down under cloth.
I would like to mention that using basic techniques described in this article you can create stuffed buns/pierogi with different fillings. For example, a very common variation of cabbage and mushroom stuffing could be boiled and chopped eggs added to the filling. We did not do this in our recipe to cut down on calories and cholesterol. But if these are not your concern, I would invite you to experiment - you will need 4 boiled and finely chopped eggs that you should mix into your filling.
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