Thursday, July 12, 2012

Inconvenient Food: Blueberry Vareniki

I popped a few blueberries into my mouth while unpacking groceries.  They were local, but I didn't expect much.  The only reason I reached for them was because I was really hungry.  Suddenly, I was transported to my childhood.  I was 8 or 9 and concentrating very hard on stuffing the entire varenik into my mouth.  "Be careful," said my Mom.  "They squirt."  I figured that if I stuffed the whole thing into my little mouth, it would be a contained explosion. I carefully bit down on the sour-cream covered dough that popped like a balloon.  The sweet and tangy blueberry juice hit my puffed cheeks.  It snacked on these blueberries raw when helping my mom seal them inside vareniki (Ukrainian version of pierogies), but they were nothing like this.  Somehow wrapping them in dough with a little sugar and boiling them made a teaspoon of blueberries taste like a cup swallowed in one bite -- immensely bright and juicy.

Friends of ours, who were visiting from Tokyo this week, were coming over for dinner.  I still had to finish unpacking the food, cook dinner, and pick up the kids from daycare.  I looked at the clock.  An hour and a half left.  Without a moment's hesitation, I got out the flour and started the dough.
I don't know if I would have done this last week.  The practical side of me would have insisted on sticking with the planned menu and do what's easiest.  Who starts a pasta from scratch project when time is of the essence!  No matter how much I love to cook, 5 years of motherhood have made me wary of serious culinary undertakings.  It was a subconscious decision to stay away from anything adventurous and inconvenient.  Lately I've been reaching for safe, easy, and comfortable whether I am deciding what to cook, where to go on vacation, what to wear, or what classes to teach. We are conditioned to think that convenience is always a good thing.  But is it?  If it's not worth the risk, the time, and the effort, what is it worth?

I am used to pierogies being made for an army and taking hours.  My Mom does not produce these things in smaller batches and for good reason.  No matter how much she makes, they get eaten.  But I only had one little box of blueberries to use and I was done in slightly over an hour.  The KitchenAid pasta roller and the food processor did help.  I guess a little convenience is not such a bad thing after all.  

Blueberry Vareniki

Serves 4

For the Dough
9 oz all-purpose flour 
2 tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt (or 1 tsp table salt) 
1 large egg, plus enough water to equal 5.2 oz of liquid ingredients

For the Filling
Semolina flour (or more all-purpose flour)
Tart blueberries

For serving

Sour cream or yogurt
More sugar


(At least 1.5 hours before shaping)
  1. Put flour and salt into a food processor bowl and process for 10 seconds.
  2. Whisk the wet ingredients. With the processor running, pour the wet ingredients into the food processor through a feed tube and mix until the dough comes together into a ball. You might need to scrape the sides and rearrange the dough if it gets stuck. If you are not getting a ball after 1 minute of mixing, drizzle in a little more water, 1 tsp at a time.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and start kneading. After the first 2 minutes of kneading, the dough should be soft, pliable, and slightly tacky, but not sticky. If it continues to stick to the work surface, add a little flour and continue kneading. Knead for 8 minutes total. Don't short cut this step. Kneading is what develops gluten and makes your dough elastic and workable later.
  4. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24.
Here is a video of the dough technique with slightly different proportions for Italian Pasta.

Rolling and Filling
  1. Line a cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper and sprinkle with semolina flour (all-purpose works too).
  2. Divide the dough into 4 pieces.  Roll them out using a pasta roller to the 6th setting.  Start on setting one and increase the setting on each pass.  Don'g forget to flour the dough frequently to prevent sticking.  Rolling pin works too, but it's an acquired skill to get dough to be 1-2 mm thick.
  3. Cut the dough ribbon into circles that are about 2.5inches in diameter with a cookie cutter.
  4. Put a spoonful of blueberries and a pinch of sugar into inch circle of dough.  Try different blueberry amounts until you figure out how much you need for your circle size.
  5. Pinch the edges together to form a half circle shape and place on the semolina covered cookie sheet.  If the dough is sticking to you and not to itself, flour your fingers.
  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add vareniki, cook for 2-3 minutes (depending on their size and the thickness of the dough).  Bite into a corner of one to test the dough texture.
  2. Remove vareniki into a warm bowl using a slotted spoon.  Toss with butter and sugar to taste.  Serve with sour cream or yogurt.

1 comment:

Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic said...

This sounds great and I love the story behind it. I've only had savory pierogis before but would love a sweet blueberry version.