Makes 12 pirozhki
This Russian word means "little pies." They vary in size and filling, though mushrooms and cabbage are common. Food memories are notoriously nostalgic, but few tastes can be more satisfying than warm pirozhki in a sliver of brown paper, bought for a few kopecks from a well-wrapped baboushka on a freezing Russian street. In those temperatures, the extra fat from deep-frying is a positive benefit. But pirozhki can equally well be baked in an oven. They can be reheated to good effect and make an excellent and traditional accompaniment to the soups for which Russian cuisine is famous.
The lightness of this pastry, which is quite a revelation, comes from the complementary effect of the yeast and the fats and egg. You need have no fear of overworking it and causing the gluten to toughen, which is one of the major concerns with conventional pie dough. Indeed, you must develop a satisfactory gluten network in the pastry so that it can aerate well; the fats lubricate the gluten network but they also expand with the heat of baking and contribute to lightness.
Dissolve the yeast in the water. Rub the butter into the flours. Add the salt, egg (keeping back a little to glaze the pastries), sour cream, or yogurt and yeasty water, and mix to a soft dough. Knead for a minute or two, until smooth, then cover and leave to ferment in bulk for about 1 hour.
For the filling, fry the onion and chives gently in the butter until they are soft. Add the finely shredded cabbage and cover the pan with a lid. Steam the cabbage over a low heat, stirring every now and then to prevent sticking. The moisture released by the cabbage should be sufficient to lubricate the whole mixture. Remove from the heat when the cabbage has softened but not gone completely limp. Chop the hard-boiled eggs. Mix everything together and season to taste.
To make the pirozhki, divide the dough into 12 pieces and roll out each into a 4-inch (10cm) round. Fill with a generous heaping of the cabbage mixture. Moisten the edges of the pastry with water, fold over to enclose the filling and crimp the edges together well. An edge in which the bottom layer is pulled up over the top and then crimped helps prevent the filling leaking out. Brush the pirozhki evenly with beaten egg and arrange them, with plenty of space to expand, on baking sheets lined with nonstick baking parchment. Cover and proof until the pirozhki have grown appreciably. Bake in a moderate 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) oven until golden brown; 15-20 minutes should do it. Serve at just above room temperature.
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This page created November 2009
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