Pimp My Pierogi

For the last few years, we’ve done a Polish dinner on Christmas eve. Nothing too fancy, just pierogi, kielbasa, and sauerkraut. I’m lucky to have a great Polish store nearby, so I’ve always bought the pierogi there, but although they’re fantastic, they’re frozen, not fresh. So this year, I decided to take a stab at making them myself. I still bought frozen ones as a backup, which was a good thing, because mine were… not smaczny.

I got the recipes from an old Polish cookbook - that is, an American book with recipes for Polish food. The fillings (potato and mushroom) were pretty bland, but I feel like I can tweak those myself. The real issue was the dough. The recipe was just flour, eggs, and water, mixed by hand using the mound-of-flour method. It came together fairly easily, but it still seemed a bit lumpy to me. I’ve never really tried to make dough before, but it was my understanding that overkneading can make it tough, so I tried to do as little as I could. Then I let it rest under a warm bowl for 10 minutes, and rolled it out as thinly as possible. It looked fairly smooth after rolling out. I cut and filled the pierogi with no problems, and they looked like they should. The only issue at that point was that I wound up with about half as many as the recipe indicated, which makes me think it wasn’t thin enough. And indeed, after they were boiled, they were very thick, tough, and chewy.

So what’s my problem? Should I use a different recipe? Knead more? Knead less (somehow)? Roll thinner - and if so, any good techniques? And if you have any hot tips on the fillings, particularly, the best way to incorporate garlic into mashed potatoes, I’m all ears.

I think the caution about not overworking dough applies to pastry, not pasta-type doughs that are kneaded. It does sound like maybe they were too thick and also possibly underdone…

My favorite way to incorporate garlic into mashed potatoes is just to toss a few cloves in with the potatoes when they are boiling. I make mine by putting everything through a ricer and then adding hot milk and butter as desired.

Maybe add some carmelized onions to the filling?

I believe cher’s right - the overworking is pastry dough. When I made pierogies (many moons ago) I kneaded for five to seven minutes (per the recipe I have.) Dough should be around 1/8" thick.

For garlic mashed potatoes, I roast the garlic, then squeeze it in. That’s how I get garlic into mashed potatoes.

I’ve bought prepared pierogies, they seem awfully expensive! (these are the type made locally, not Mrs. T’s frozen). I’ve made pierogies using eggroll wrappers instead of struggling with the dough, crimping them shut with a turnover-crimper-thing. And my cousin makes a pierogi casserole, which has to be the most fattening thing on the planet. This concludes my knowledge of pierogis. There are church ladies here who turn them out by the thousands around Easter, but they either have had decades of practice or some kind of roller machine.

I believe your dough lacks two crucial ingredients: salt and fat. The fat, in partcular, should help make the dough tender and delicious. Butter would be my suggestion, though Crisco or lard would be just as good. I’m also told that sour cream would ‘authentic’.

I like to infuse mince garlic into a few tablespoons of melted butter on the cooktop while mashing my papas, and pour on top of em and mix.

Besides all of which, how you cook your pierogis is much more important than how you make them. I’ll take Mrs. T’s, prepared by someone who knows what they’re doing, over home-made but incorrectly prepared any day.

(obviously, the best is home-made and then cooked properly, if you can get it)

I make pierogae :smiley: four times a year, twice with each side of the family (both sides Polish, both learned the craft from babcias). We make 10-15 dozen each time. While I am a stuffer, not a dough-maker, I can offer some advice.

Your dough sounds too thick. It should be just thick enough to not tear while stuffing. Flour, eggs, and water all all the ingredients you need. Use quality flour (like this), and experiment with proportions until it feels right. This comes with experience.

Instead of regular water, use the “potato water” left over from boiling the spuds.

Always keep dough that is not in use covered with a cloth towel; this includes already-stuffed pierogies.

When stuffing, have extra flour on hand; I mean literally on your hands.

We usually try unusual fillings in addition to the usual potato & cheese, mushroom, farmer’s cheese, and sauerkraut. This last time we also made blueberry and cream cheese (disappointing) and jalapeno and cream cheese (my all time favorite 'rogi).

ETA: Are you boiling them before you fry them? You should.


I cannot speak directly to the recipes in the book, but Veselka, the Ukrainian diner up the street from me, does fabulous vareniki, which are just Ukrainian pierogies. You might want to check it out: http://www.amazon.com/The-Veselka-Cookbook-Landmark-Restaurant/dp/0312385684

There are several ways of making pierogi dough, but you don’t need any fat to make it tender. Standard pierogi dough doesn’t contain any fat. It’s just flour, egg, water, and a little bit of salt. The typical recipe goes like this:

2 1/2 c flour
1/2 t salt
1 egg
1/2 c water

You can go the mound-of-flour method, but I just use a Kitchen Aid mixer. Mix with dough hook until it comes together into a smooth ball. You may need up to 3/4 c water, depending on the flour, humidity, etc. When smooth, let rest for 10 minutes or more in plastic wrap, roll out.

It sounds like you already did that. What kind of flour did you use? AP flour works better than bread flour. You might even want to cut in some cake flour to make them even more delicate (I’ve seen recipes go nearly 50/50 AP to cake flour). Polish cooks generally use lower-gluten flours for pierogi. If you happen to have a Polish store nearby, look for maka tortowa (cake flour) or maka luksusowa (“luxury” flour). We always just used AP flour in our house. Don’t use too much bench flour when rolling them out, as this also makes them stiff.

The sour cream version is the same as above, except instead of 1/2 c water, put in 1/2 cup sour cream that you’ve whipped with a fork, and 1/4 cup melted butter. That should be the right amount of liquid, but if the dough is still a bit stiff, add a little water.

Yeah, and we don’t do them fried, but, if you do, you do have to boil them up first.

Thanks for the suggestions, everyone. I’ll try some of the other recipes and see if any of them work any better. I will also be sure to use a lower-gluten flour next time; I did use bread flour, as that was what we had on hand. I will also try to roll the dough thinner. Even if I can’t make better pierogi, at least I’ll have nicely-toned arms. And yes, I always boil, and sometimes fry afterwards. I’m an old hand at prepping 'em, but I’ve never tried to build them from the ground up before.

As for the filling, the potato recipe was basically to lightly saute some onions in butter with a touch of salt and pepper, and stir that into the mashed potatoes. I also threw in some minced garlic (a whole head, really) with the onions. The garlic got overdone, I think; it caramelized and some of the bits were almost crunchy. The effect wasn’t bad - almost like bacon bits - but surprisingly, neither the onion nor the garlic seemed to impart a lot of flavor. I really don’t know how it came out so bland. It definitely needed more salt and probably more pepper, but I’m thinking if I roast the cloves whole and mash them in, I should get a better blend. The mushroom recipe was similar: chopped mushrooms sauteed with onions in butter, and a dash of salt and pepper. I chopped the mushrooms fairly fine, but the end result was far too wet and chunky. And did I mention bland? The frozen ones we got are great; the mushrooms are a thick, peppery paste. So I’m thinking next time I might throw it all in the food processor after cooking, perhaps with a touch of flour or breadcrumbs (or maybe cornstarch?) or some other thickening agent. And use more salt and pepper. I had also bought some fruit and ricotta, but when I realized the dough wasn’t working, and that there wasn’t nearly enough of it, anyway, I surrendered.

That’s another question: if I want to make several dozen, should I still do the dough one batch at a time? I only rolled out half at a time and kept the unused portion covered while working, and that seemed to help, but if drying is an issue, I’m guessing bigger batches are not a good idea. On the other hand, it seems like a pain in the ass to have to make just one batch of pierogi from start to finish and then start all over again. It would be a lot more efficient if I could do it all in stages: make all the dough, roll it out and cut the rounds, stuff and seal them all, and then boil them all. Not to mention, I’d really like to have them all cooked and ready at once, and not have to serve them one batch at a time and spend the whole dinner in the kitchen by myself. So if I do have to do each batch separately, is it better to boil each batch and keep them warm somehow; or keep all the stuffed, uncooked batches covered until cooking time; or boil, refrigerate, and give everything a light fry to reheat before serving, or…?

Pretty sure that’s the biggest part of what made them tough.

We’ve always just made huge batches of pierogi at a time, because they’re not worth making in small quantities, IMHO. Keep your dough covered, roll it out and stuff it, and place it on a pastry board, baking sheet, whatever, and cover. It doesn’t matter if the stuffed pierogi dry out a little bit–they’ll rehydrate fine in the boiling water. They also freeze very well in this state. No need to parcook. I’ll give them a very light dusting of flour so they don’t stick, put them in a big Ziplock bag, and freeze. When you’re ready to cook them, just dump 'em, frozen, in the boiling water. They’ll cook up fine.

If you need to keep a cooked bunch warm while waiting for other pierogi to finish cooking, or if you just need to hold a warm batch for whatever reason, toss them in a bit of melted butter or bacon fat. Otherwise, they have a tendency to stick together.

Thanks again, pulykamell! This thread has totally revived my hope of making these work eventually. I will do some experiments and report back.

They’re a pain in the ass to do, and it will take a few tries to get it just right. That said, I don’t bother making my own pierogi anymore, as I can buy some great frozen pierogi here in Chicago that are just as good, if not better, than anything I can make. My mother doesn’t even bother making them anymore.

You are just up the street? I am jealous! Go have a plate for me, willya?

So…I’ve made a large batch of pierogies…most of which I did not roll the dough thin enough…does anyone have any idea what I could do with two freezer bags of pierogies with too thick of dough? They are stuffed with potatoes and onion. Bake them? Cover them with gravy? Chop them up and cook in butter? I’m open to any suggestions :smiley: Thank you.