New year, new flavors

My goal for 2011 is to incorporate different cultural traditions into my cooking.  I am excited to experiment with flavors and techniques.  There's a whole world of amazing out there... I can bring a bit of it here with a culinary adventure!


So, right out of the gate we've got Pierogi on the plate.  I've made traditional pierogi before, but this is my first attempt at Gluten Free Vegan pierogi.  Pretty good effort.  The dough was not very flavorful, but traditional pierogi dough isn't either.  The texture was good.  I couldn't get the dough to stay together if I rolled it any thinner than 1/8 of an inch.  Xanthan gum gives gluten free dough a bit of bite, so don't omit it.


Next time I will consider adding a bit more salt and perhaps some broth powder to the dough to enhance the flavor and I will try a dough that doesn't include rice flour to see about improving the texture to something a hair closer to traditional. 


I am happy to give you a roadmap for this culinary creation.  Here's what I did:


Gluten-Free Vegan Pierogi
(makes about 24 but it all depends on the size of your cutter)

 
For the pierogi dough:
1 cup tapioca starch (Bob's Red Mill)
½ cup rice flour
1 cup millet or sorghum flour ((Bob's Red Mill)
2 tsp xanthan gum (Bob's Red Mill)
1 tsp salt
¾ cup almond milk (Blue Diamond Unsweetend Plain) OR
½ cup almond milk and ¼ cup vegan sour cream


For the Filling:
4 medium potatoes
2 dozen shiitake mushrooms (the size of button mushrooms, not the huge caps!)
4 Tbsp Earth Balance, plus extra for topping
½ cup almond milk


Substitutions: You can sub rice milk, soy milk or water for the almond milk.  You can sautee the mushrooms in olive oil or coconut oil instead of Earth Balance if soy is an issue.


Let’s start by making our filling.  Peel and cube your potatoes.  Add them to a pot of boiling water and cook them for about 15 minutes or until they are soft enough to pierce with a knife.  Drain them and put them aside.  While the potatoes are cooking you will have time to slice the shitake’s and get them sautéed in a saucepan with 2 Tbsp of the Earth Balance.  If you want to add a clove of minced garlic and a few tablespoons of minced herbs that would be nice.  Now, mash your cooled potatoes with a fork or a potato masher and add in the hot mushrooms, remaining 2 Tbsp Earth Balance and a drizzle of the almond milk.  Continue to add in a bit of milk until you have a potato mixture that is moist but not swimming!  Set aside.

On to the dough:  Stir the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add in wet ingredients and mix until a fairly stiff dough forms. You may have to add a bit more rice/millet/sorghum flour if your mixture is too wet.  You don’t want sticky dough, but you don’t want it dry either.


Turn out your dough onto a floured surface (I used rice flour at this point).  Take your time and knead the dough to ensure that it is pliable and firm but not sticky or crumbly. Once you feel good about the dough form it into a ball.  I find it easier to work with smaller portions, so let's cut your dough ball in half; put one half aside and cover it with a towel while we work with the other half.


Make sure your surface has a good dusting of rice flour then roll out the dough to about 1/8th of an inch thick.  You may find it helpful to turn the dough as you go so you’re sure nothing is sticking underneath. Once you’ve got the dough rolled out you will need something to cut out your rounds.  If you don’t have a circle cutter a glass will do.  Cut out as many rounds from your rolled dough as you can.  Gather the leftover dough, knead it back into a ball and roll it out again so you get the most out of this batch! 

Now that we've got some round of dough to work with, let's get to filling.  Lay a round of dough flat in the palm of your hand and place about a teaspoon of filling in the center, maybe more, maybe less depending on the size of your circles. Use your palm to cup the dough a bit as you fold the round in half and pinch the top together.  Work from the center down one side and then down the other, pinching as you go to seal the dough.  Finally, lay your filled pierogi on your work surface and seal with a fork by going around the edge and pressing the tines into the dough. (You can also use a nifty pierogi press if you have one.  It is basically a cool clamp that closes like a clam shell on top of the folded dough... it crimps and seals the edges.  Totally un-necessary, but use it if you have it or don't.  I think you get a more authentic look and feel when you seal the edges by hand.  It also adds that James Bond factor where you feel like you're living on the edge for a moment, standing over the boiling pot, watching and waiting to see if the edges are going to stay shut or if the little nuggets are going to explode.)


Repeat with the remaining half of the dough until your pierogi are finished. Re-roll the scraps of dough so you’re not wasting anything… you may need to add a few drops of water if the dough gets dry.

Now, bring a big pot of water to a boil, then salt it. Gently drop the sealed pierogi in the boiling water.  Separate them with a slotted spoon if they bump into each other.  You’ll want to boil them for five minutes.  The little darlings will rise to the top of the pot so you’ll know they’re ready… but don’t take them out early.


Serve with sautéed peppers and onions or a dollop of vegan sour cream and a sprinkling of chives.  You can pan fry these guys if you want to brown them up.  It all depends on what texture you prefer.  The boiled pierogi have a pasta like bite.  If you want a slightly crispy edge then frying is for you.  Personally, I like the boiled texture.  That said, frying makes it easy to reheat leftover pierogi.  And considering the quantity that this recipe makes, you are bound to have a few leftover pillows of potato goodness.  Freeze them on a baking sheet, then put them into a container or zip lock to keep for a month or two (if you can stand having them in your freezer that long!)  Warm frozen pierogi in a bit of broth or slap them straight into the frying pan.  You can microwave leftovers to warm them as well but the surface can get a smidge gummy, so sauce them up if you choose to zap them.
Change up the filling to suit your taste.  If you need some inspiration for filling ideas, check out these authentic gems on Tasting Poland's websiteNo matter what, be creative, have fun in the kitchen and enjoy what you’ve made!





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