When it comes to culinary, Russia offers a very wide range of traditional food and signature dishes. Some of them may taste and look quite challenging, while the others are quite familiar either because they have been known and well-spread around the globe or coming from the same family of dish – like blini that resemble pancake and crepe. There is another flour-based delicacy from Russia called piroshki or pirozhki (which mean small pies) that can be put on the same shelf with pastel, samosa, and empanada. So what are piroshki? Let us get to know it better.
Piroshok, piroshki, pirog
If you look the word up in the dictionary, you will find that piroshki is the plural form of piroshok, and – like mentioned before – it literally means small pies, while pirog is a full-sized pie. Both of these delicacies are originally from the Eastern Europe and now can easily be found in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. People also call piroshki as Russian Pies. There are two main recipes of piroshki; one made with yeast dough and the other contains no yeast. The one with yeast will come out of the oven as buns, while the other rather flaky just like regular pies. Both use various fillings, either sweet or savory.
A record says that the first Russian piroshki was made in the 1700’s by the wives of mine workers for their husbands to bring to work for lunch even dinner. The hand decorated tops of the piroshki was said to be the symbol of their love and the filling could stay fresh to last a day.
Piroshki, in details
Like the base batter of blini, the base dough of piroshki doesn’t include flavoring like salt or sugar and that’s what makes piroshki flexible for all sorts of fillings. In the tweaked recipes, though, you will find different ingredients from the classic one. So, what are there in a traditional piroshki dough recipe? You will most likely need:
- Warm milk
- Active dry yeast
- Melted butter
These are for the bun version of the piroshki. As for the flaky, pastry ones – you can just simply use the pastry sheets that can easily be found in supermarkets.
Like regular pies, piroshki can be filled with all sorts of fillings. In Russia, they would usually be stuffed with minced beef, mixed vegetables, braised cabbage, mushrooms, cottage cheese, or fish. The sweet ones would use fresh fruits, jam, quark, or oatmeal. Interestingly, piroshki can be eaten for the whole course; appetizer, main, and dessert – depends on the base dough, size, and filling. As for the size, piroshki can be as big as a hamburger – which are usually had for the main course, or the size of two fingers – to accompany tea or eaten with soup.
Piroshki can be baked or fried and these options shouldn’t be debated because it’s all about preference, although the baked one is clearly healthier. Unlike blini that get to be eaten on special days, piroshki can easily be found in delis or snack stalls around Russia all year round. It is not unusual for the Russians to have piroshki for breakfast, lunch, dinner, even snacks in between meal times. As for the artisan version of piroshki, they have exclusive decoration on top of the buns with well-selected filling ingredients.
The basic rules of making piroshki
The modern version of piroshki are actually very easy to make because now you can find the pre-made dough at the supermarket without having to sweat yourself slamming the yeast dough on the counter and wait for it to rise correctly. But, of course, if you are good with bread then it would be so much fun to make piroshki from scratch on your own. Here are the basic steps of making these traditional Russian pies:
- Make the dough: either the bun version – with yeast, or the flaky pastry one.
- Make the filling: the savory piroshki need their fillings to be cooked before getting stuffed into the dough. So be prepared for a longer preparation time. The sweet fillings are simpler.
- Stuff and bake: roll the dough out, cut into circles, fill them, fold them over or roll them into the shapes you desire, shove them into the oven – or deep fried them, and you are done!
There are also some points about making piroshki that you should note down to make sure your piroshki will come out nice and golden brown from the oven or the pan:
- If you make the pastry piroshki, you would want to dampen the edges with water and a pastry brush to make sure they piroshki get sealed perfectly. This is important to prevent the fillings from leaking out during the baking or frying process especially if you stuff your piroshki with cheese, jam, or quark. They can get runny when heated.
- Cheese-filled piroshki should be baked five minutes shorter than the other types of piroshki.
- If you want moist, tender piroshki, you can add an extra half-cup of water to the filling because the dough will absorb that portion of water and get moister.
- You would want to be careful when stuffing your piroshki with potatoes, because not all types of potatoes work well with the dough. Choose the fresh and waxy ones.
Piroshki in other places in the world
If you haven’t ever had a piroshok in your life, chance is the first bite of it won’t taste that remotely strange to you. Why? Because there are a lot of variations of it around the world that your country may have one of them. It is basically a stuffed dough pocket, so it is likely you have ever eaten a sort of it. There are several dishes that are very close to piroshky like empanadas, turnover, samosas, knish, pasty, fatayer, and many more. Now that you know what Russian piroshki are, you can check out your country’s version of them.