With cooler weather finally approaching, I thought I’d post about one of my favorite stick-to-your-ribs fall dishes: vareniki.
What are vareniki, you ask? They’re Russian potato dumplings, kind of like pierogi, and in this context they’re adorable!
I was introduced to the world of tiny Russian dumplings when I was throwing a Russian-themed 35th birthday party for a friend, and was immediately hooked. I’m all for carbohydrate-laden goodies, so potato dumplings served with butter and sour cream sounded amazing. Add in a neat gadget for making dozens of itty-bitty dumplings at once, and it was a given that I’d be making them ASAP!
To be fair, the plastic dumpling thingie is actually used to make pelmeni, meat-filled Russian dumplings that I don’t like as much because they’re not different enough from the meat-filled Chinese dumplings I get all the time, but the tool is still a ton of fun to use here!
I found a dough recipe from Natasha’s Kitchen (a very useful blog for anyone trying to get into Russian cooking), and basically threw together a filling based on my own personal tastes. Potatoes, of course, with cheese (whatever I had in the fridge) and browned onions because they’re more flavorful than raw onions. Plus bacon, because potatoes and onions just cry out for bacon, am I right? The finished dumplings are tender and delicious whether boiled or pan-fried, and when served with a little sour cream and dill they’re fantastic comfort food.
Last weekend I woke up before everyone else in the house (except for the cats, they were bugging me for food), and decided on a whim that I wanted to bake something for breakfast. Biscuits seemed just the thing, but they sounded kind of boring, so I tried to figure out a way to spice things up a bit. I considered jam– in college I used to whip up a jam scone-type thing that was always well-received– but didn’t have enough of any one flavor of jam in the refrigerator to make it worthwhile.
Instead I decided to go with cinnamon sugar, and to evoke the classic cinnamon roll I ended up doing a cinnamon swirl rather than just a topping. At the last minute, I added one small apple, chopped, which I think added both flavor and textural interest. All in all, a pretty decent result that took less than an hour from start to finish, though in all honestly it wasn’t so incredibly delicious that I’ll be crowing about it to all of my friends. Will I make it again? Perhaps, if I’m ever in the mood for something sweet at breakfast and have limited time to make it in.
Have you ever bought a ball of fresh pizza dough from the grocery store, full of good intentions to make delicious, healthy homemade pizza… then looked into your fridge a week later to realize that you’d completely forgotten it and have no cheese or other toppings in the house? I did that this morning, and noted that over time the dough had slowly expanded so that it was straining to escape the confines of the plastic bag– it was definitely time to use it up.
Luckily I can think outside the box, and when I spied the giant jar of Nutella in my pantry I realized that I wasn’t confined to making actual pizza. Instead, I made these delicious breakfast treats (what? They’re no worse than donuts or danish!).
One of the kitchen gadgets I use least often is the mini deep-fryer– it’s perfect for frying up a batch of chicken tenders, or an experimental batch of cronuts (I promise I’ll blog about those someday), but then you’re left with a bunch of oil you don’t know what to do with, and it’s a pain to dispose of, so I rarely go to the trouble. Still, once you’ve fried one thing, you may as well fry a bunch of things to avoid waste, so after my husband made some of the aforementioned chicken tenders that’s what I decided to do. But what to make?
I ran through the possibilities in my head, discarding some for being too involved, others for being too boring, and kept coming back to apple fritters. I love apple fritters, but almost never buy them because I invariably get distracted by the chocolate-covered old-fashioned donuts that are my favorites. But I’d faithfully bookmarked the recipe at some point, and when I came across it on my computer it was like fate was telling me that now was the time!
These Snickerdoodle Blondies are basically like crack. Not that I’ve ever tried crack. Hmm, perhaps I’d better find a better analogy. The White Witch’s enchanted Turkish delight? (which, by the way, I will never make for Reader’s Digest(ibles) because I don’t like it) The lotus from the Land of the Lotus-Eaters? Anyone? Or perhaps I should just say that they’re like the butteriest, chewiest, most delicious sugar cookie in the world, kissed with cinnamon, redolent with vanilla, and utterly irresistible. Because they are.
Suffice it to say that these are good. Incredibly good. Addictively good. And they’re made from the most basic of pantry ingredients. Honestly, if I could figure out a way to make these without softening and creaming butter (which requires a mixer) I’d probably make them on a weekly basis and clog up my arteries with buttery goodness. Perhaps luckily for me, I do need a mixer (though don’t think I haven’t considered trying a different technique), so I only make these when I feel that there are deserving people around to eat them. Or when I need a last-minute treat to bring somewhere and haven’t shopped for specialty ingredients.
Emily’s Runaway Imagination is one of Beverly Cleary’s lesser-known works, and it takes place on a farm in the 1920s or thereabouts. One of the scenes I remember best is where Emily (a little girl with a big imagination) bakes custard pie for a church potluck. She’d previously overheard someone say that the secret to a light and flaky pie crust was adding “a generous pinch of baking powder” to it, and she’s eager to demonstrate her newfound pie crust prowess.
“Two and a half cups of flour,” directed Mama. “Some salt — not quite a teaspoonful. Let’s see, some lard. You’d better let me measure that.” Mama came into the pantry and deftly measured the lard out of the lard bucket. “Now Emily, take two knives and slash through the flour and lard until it is as fine as corn meal.” Emily started to slash. […]
Quickly Emily added a generous pinch of baking powder and then, not certain how big a generous pinch should be, added another generous pinch to make sure. Then she slashed and slashed and according to Mama’s directions, added water, just a little bit. “There are two secrets to making good pie crust,” said Mama. “Use very little water and handle the dough lightly.” Emily smiled to herself because she knew a third secret.
Unfortunately for Emily, once the pies come out of the oven, instead of the custard surface being “golden yellow and flecked with nutmeg,” the crust has risen to the top with the custard at the bottom. Her mother concludes that the custard filling was too liquidy to weigh the crust down (apples or raisins would apparently have worked better). No one wants to eat her “funny-looking” pie, until one of her neighbors remarks that the inversion will keep the crust from getting soggy… and then everyone digs in.
I always wondered as a kid if this would really happen if you added baking powder to a custard pie crust. Thinking about it now it doesn’t really make sense, since the custard would have no way of getting down through the bottom of the crust unless the crust had holes in it to let the custard flow through– without the holes even the puffiest crust would just end up pushing the extra custard over the top of the pan to spill on the oven floor. I could dock the crust, of course, but no one would dock a crust with big enough holes to let custard get through in any quantity– that’s just asking for the custard to leak and stick the crust to the pan.
I decided to give this food myth (if one can really call it that) the best possible chance of success by cutting a few 1″ circles out of the pie crust, allowing the custard plenty of space to run through and let the crust rise up to the top. I figured that if that didn’t work, nothing would.
Let’s see what happens!
Okay, I admit that this isn’t really a project. It’s too easy to count as a project. But the results are tasty, and I learned something useful, so I’m posting about it anyway.
The other day I got out a can of refrigerated crescent roll dough and the half-can of raspberry pie filling I had left over from my “Raspberry Swiss No-Meringue Buttercream” (wow, that’s a mouthful), and put them together to make some breakfast rolls. Simplest thing ever– just plop a generous spoonful of pie filling onto the dough, roll it up, and bake until golden brown. Top with a drizzle of powdered sugar glaze and voila– something tasty.