Caramelized Onion and Pumpkin Pirozhki

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October 2, 2022

5 min read

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Traditional Russian hand pies with a modern twist.

Caramelized Onion & Pumpkin Pirozhki are little Russian baked pockets of dough, filled with a luscious fall filling of caramelized onions and pumpkin puree. This modern take on a classic will inspire you to love Russian food!

You are probably staring at your screen and wondering - pirozhki? What is that? Is that the same as pierogies? Or ravioli? Well, friends, I am here to introduce you to your favorite new Russian stuffed bun.

Pirozhki (also spelled Piroshki or Pirishki) are a typical Slavic dish that is served year-round in Russian and Ukrainian households. They are made with a milk-based yeasted dough (though you can substitute the milk for water for a less rich, pareve dough), and are stuffed with a variety of fillings.

When I was a child growing up in Israel, my grandmother Berta would often spend a few hours in the kitchen, making yeasted pirozhki dough by hand (in fact, the mention of a standing food mixer would probably offend her to her core!). She would whip up anywhere between three and four fillings, ensuring that we are well stocked with frozen pirozhki for months to come.

Of course, few of these warm stuffed buns would actually make it to the freezer - we mostly ate them within hours of them being made. No matter how many pirozhki my grandmother made, we were always clamoring for more the next day.

Classic pirozhki fillings include potatoes, cabbage, and meat. Vegetarian pirozhki fillings are usually cabbage with hard-boiled egg and potato. Pirozhki can be either baked or fried, and each filling tends to go with a different preparation. Potato pirozhki are often served with a garlicky sauce that is so good, it will have you making more pirozhki just to mop up the leftovers.

But we like to do things differently. After all, why make something the old-fashioned way when you can be inventive, modern, and put a twist on a classic?

For Sukkot, and fall in general, I like to improve on my grandmother’s traditional Russian Pirozhki by making Caramelized Onion & Pumpkin Pirozhki.

The filling is a simple but luscious mix of canned pumpkin, mixed with homemade caramelized onions. I season them with salt and pepper, or, when I am feeling especially fanciful, a touch of goat cheese.

Served with sour cream or, in a huge departure from tradition, pesto sauce, these Pumpkin Pirozhki make up a beautiful fall time appetizer everyone is going to love - and forget that Russian food was ever associated strictly with mayonnaise and pickled herring.

Makes 36-50 pirozhki

INGREDIENTS

  • ½ tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 cup milk or water, or more, as needed
  • Few pinches salt
  • ¼ cup oil (canola, grapeseed or vegetable oil), plus 2 tablespoons for frying
  • 4 cups(½ kilogram) all-purpose flour
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree (about 2 cups)
  • 2 onions, sliced into half moons
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

PREPARATION

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/360°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Combine yeast, sugar and water in a small bowl. Mix together and set aside in a warm place, letting yeast activate for 10 minutes.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl, combine milk, yeast mixture, salt, and oil. Mix to combine. Begin adding flour in batches, working the dough as you go. Add more flour or milk as needed, until you reach a soft, elastic and not-overly-sticky. If kneading by hand, turn the dough out onto a floured surface to work on it more easily.
  4. Transfer the dough into a clean large bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and set aside in a dark, warm but well-ventilated place. Let dough rise for 1 ½ hours, or until doubled in size.
  5. Punch the dough down, and see if you need to add more flour. Cover again, and let rise for a second time for 30 minutes.
  6. While the dough is rising, prepare the filling.
  7. Preheat a large nonstick pan to medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of oil. Add onions and cook until they begin to change color and become golden, about 10 minutes. Lower heat to low and continue cooking until the onions caramelize fully, an additional 15-20 minutes.
  8. In a medium bowl, stir together pumpkin puree with caramelized onions. Season with salt, pepper and olive oil to taste.
  9. When ready to shape pirozhki, cover the counter with flour, and roll dough out into a thin layer of about ¼ inch. Cut pirozhki into circles with a cup. Place 1-2 tablespoons of filling in the middle of each one. Fold and pinch the sides.
  10. To bake, add 1 tablespoon of oil to the prepared baking sheet. Transfer pirozhki onto baking sheet, and brush each with egg wash. Bake pirozhki at 360°F for 20-25 min, until golden up top. Remove from the oven and cover with a soft kitchen towel until ready to serve.
  11. Serve Caramelized Onion & Pumpkin Pirozhki with sour cream, or pesto for an unusual but delicious combination.
  12. Enjoy!

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