Fruit Piroschki – Mennonite Fruit-Filled Hand Pies

Mennonite piroshky - trust in kim

My childhood was filled with these beautiful little pies, made by my Mom, Oma and Aunts, filled with various fruits and sometimes even meat. So I figured it’s  about time I made them myself.  Instead of using my Tante Kantja’s recipe (see below), which is the only one I had access to at the moment, I opted for the pastry recipe from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. So while it’s not the traditional Ukrainian piroschki I grew up eating, it’s the same idea: a square pastry filled with fruit.  Yum! My favourite result was the apricot/nectarine combination, but the blueberries were pretty good too.

I made the whole recipe, then baked a few and put the rest in the freezer.  They were just as good when I pulled a few straight out of the freezer and baked them up for just a little longer than the pre-frozen version. I like them best when they are freshly baked, but they will keep for a few days.

This is a great picnic food!

What you need:

  • 2 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup very cold butter
  • 1/2 cup ice-cold water
  • about a pound of apricots, nectarines, peaches, plums or apples, or a combination of those
  • 1 egg

What you do:

  1. Whisk together the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl.  Cut the cold butter into medium-sized dice and add it to the flour.  Use a pastry blender or your hands (better if they aren’t too hot) and break the butter up, combining it with the flour mixture, into pieces the size of tiny peas.
  2. If it is a very warm day put the bowl in the fridge for a while to let the butter get cold again before rolling it out.
  3. Drizzle most of the water over the mixture and stir it in, adding more as you need it.  Use floured hands to knead the dough briefly until it comes together in a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  4. Before you are going to roll out the dough, chop up the fruit and sprinkle it with a little bit of flour or cornstarch and stir that together gently.
  5. Dust the countertop and rolling-pin (or wine bottle if you don’t have a rolling-pin) with a little flour. Cut the dough ball in half and roll out one half.  Cut the dough into 15cm/6 inch squares and fill each with some fruit (pictured below). Run a wet finger along each of the edges of the pastry, then bring two corners together to and press them together; do this with each corner until they all meet in the middle. (See picture at the top of the page) Do the same thing with the rest of the dough.
  6. Put the piroschki into the fridge for about 30 minutes. While they are chilling preheat the oven to 375 F and line a baking sheet with some parchment paper (optional – I didn’t have any and they didn’t stick to the pan).
  7. Crack the egg into a bowl add a teaspoon of water; mix with a fork. Use a pastry brush to glaze the pastry with the egg.
  8. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until they are a beautiful golden brown.  Let cool only slightly before devouring.

If you are not baking for a large crowd I advise that you freeze part of the batch for a later date.  Just put the baking sheet into the freezer until they are solid, then but them into a freezer bag.  To bake just take a few out of the freezer and place them on a pan and into a preheated oven, 375 F for 35-45 minutes.  Just as yummy as the first batch!

making piroshky - trust in kimpiroschki recipe - trust in kim

 

Oma’s Mennonite Bread

brinck oven bread - trust in Kim

brick oven - trust in kim

As I was planning a trip up to the family cabin at Mahood Lake I knew I had to make my Mennonite Oma’s Russian bread.  I love taking the opportunity to bake in that oven when I go up to the lake, because it’s the only place where I have access to one. and it is so much fun.  I usually just make pizza in there, but this time I wanted to branch out a little, so I thought of my Oma’s awesome dark-crusted bread.  My Oma was born in the Ukraine where they made this type of bread, and then she lived in Paraguay for 15 years where she also baked it in an outdoor oven.  In the early 1980’s my Opa built this great brick oven, in the style of the Paraguayan Mennonite  ovens.  My Oma always made this great bread – it was dark brown, almost black on the outside, with a thick crust, and tender inside.  Now, I’ve got the recipe, and I made a delicious loaf of bread, although I fully admit that it is nothing like my Oma’s bread.  I asked her in the past how she got that great crust on it, and she told me she just put all the ingredients together – so she had a magic touch that I can’t figure out.  Oma passed away a few weeks ago, so her secret it gone too.

You don’t need the brick oven to make this bread, it’ll work fine in a conventional oven.  I used a machine with a dough hook, but you could do it by hand if you’re feeling energetic.  This recipe makes 3-4 loaves.

If you’re using a brick oven you need to get a really good fire going so it’s smoking hot in there.  I pushed some of the coals to the back of the oven so it would retain heat for a full hour.

What you need:

1 medium-sized potato, scrubbed

2 cups buttermilk

1 tablespoon yeast

1 tablespoon salt

1 cup rye flour

1 cup bran

6 & 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (approximately)

What you do:

1. Boil the potato in about 3 cups of water until it is soft.  Place the potato, saving the liquid, in a 2 cup measuring cup.  Smash the potato up with the back of a fork, then add enough of the potato water to fill the measuring cup to 2 cups. Allow this to come to room temperature.

2. In a large mixer bowl add about 2 tablespoons of warm water and sprinkle the yeast top.  Wait until the yeast begins to bubble and is all dissolved (if it doesn’t your yeast may be dead).

3. Add the potato water and buttermilk to the yeast mixture.  With the machine running and using a dough hook, gradually add the flours, bran and salt.  Mix until you have a moist dough, using more or less flour to get this consistency.  Keep mixing until the dough begins to form a bit of a ball.

4. Remove the bowl from the mixer and cover it with a clean damp tea towel.  Let it rise to about double in volume; this will take about 1- 2 hours, depending on how warm your kitchen is.

5. Punch the dough down, then turn it out onto a floured surface.  Give it a few kneads, then cut into 3-4 equal pieces.  Form a loaf with the seam in the bottom and place in loaf pans. Cover with the damp tea towel and let it rise, again to about double, which should take slightly less time than the first.

6. Heat the oven to 400F.  When the loaves have doubled in size, and they hold an indentation when you poke the dough lightly, they are ready to go in the oven.   If you want to get more of a crust on your bread, you can spray the inside of the oven with water just before the bread goes in.  Just try not to spray the light bulb, as it might shatter. Place the bread in the oven and bake for about 1 hour. 

7. You will know the loaves are ready when you tap on the bottom of the pan and it sounds hollow, so keep an eye on it in the last 10 minutes or so of baking to see if it’s looking done, and test it using this method.

8. Remove the bread from the pans and let it cool on wire racks.  Once it is mostly cool you can slice it up and then slather on some butter, but we just broke of satisfying chunks and ate some with butter,  and on some we added apricot jam.  Not quite like Oma made it, but delicious nonetheless.

bread with jam - trust in kim

My Oma -trust in kim
My Oma

Mennonite Cabbage Borscht

Mennonite cabbage borscht - trust in kim

A little while ago I posted a recipe for my Mom’s borscht.  While this is a great soup recipe, I recently found out it’s not actually her recipe.  Oops!  So this is really my mom’s borscht recipe; it’s on the same page of  The Mennonite Treasury of Recipes, the bible of Mennonite cooking.  The real difference is that this one has a can of tomato soup; not very old-world traditional, but it’s the yummy soup I grew up with.  A lot of people think borscht has beets, but the beetless version is part of the Mennonite culinary tradition.

My mom makes a few changes when she cooks it: she doesn’t always use potatoes, and she usually adds some carrots. As well, she doesn’t use cream, but adds yogurt while serving.

It is best to make the broth a day ahead of time so it can cool, and the fat can be removed.

What you need:

2 lbs of beef meat and bones (or a combination of beef and chicken)

1 large onion, chopped

1 small head cabbage

3 carrots, chopped

a few tablespoons of fresh dill

1 can tomato soup (I used Campbell’s)

salt to taste

plain yogurt for serving

What you do:

1. To make the broth, cover the bones and meat with cold water and bring to a low simmer.  Simmer for 2 to 3 hours.  Strain the broth and let it cool.   Remove the meat and pull it into bite-sized pieces.  Put the meat and broth in the fridge until you are ready to use it.

2. Remove the cold fat from the top of the broth and discard it.  Pour the broth into a large pot and bring it to a low boil.

3. Add the chopped onions, meat, cabbage, carrots and dill and let it summer until the vegetables are tender.

4. Add the tomato soup and let it heat, then add salt to taste.

5. Serve with a dollop of yogurt.

This soup freezes well, and makes a big batch for leftovers or for sharing.

Mennonite Treasury of Recipes -Trust in Kim

My Mom’s Mennonite Borscht – the best!

I absolutely love my mom’s borscht, and yet I have never tried to make it.  There’s something special about having her make it, and then give me some in a jar to take home.  But I thought I should figure out how to make it, because one day, in a long long time, she’s not going to be making it any more.  Her recipe is from the old “Mennonite Treasury of Recipes,” in which the Mennonite ladies from across Canada contributed recipes.  The first printing was in 1961, and reprinted every year after. Until at least 1975 when mine was printed.  I had it handed down to me by a great-aunt.  The original recipe is called “Cabbage Borscht,” and it includes potatoes, which I left out.  I wanted to freeze some, and I don’t think potatoes freeze well.  I also prefer the taste  it without them. I also use yogurt for putting on top, rather than the cream the recipe calls for.  I added, like my mom, dill.

This borscht has no beets in it! I know, you might think this isn’t even borscht, but trust me, it’s the best kind.  I prefer it with beef, but you can use chicken if you want.  A combination of both is good, too.  I made the broth a day ahead so I could skim the fat off once it cooled, so you’ll want to factor the extra day into it.

What you need:

2 pounds beef bones with some meat on them

8 cups water

2 carrots, sliced into rounds

1/2 head green cabbage

1 medium onion, minced

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 star aniseed

3 allspice, whole

1 bay leaf

1 & 1/2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh or frozen dill (not dried! ew, it hardly tastes like dill!)

dash of pepper

1 -1&1/2 cups chopped tomatoes

plain yogurt

What you do:

1. Boil the bones in water for at least 1 & 1/2 hours. Add more water as it boils away. Remove the bones and meat, keeping the meat to add to the soup later.  Let the stock cool, then remove the fat from the top.

2. Bring the beef stock to a boil, then add the veggies and spices – everything except the salt, pepper, tomatoes and yogurt.  Cook until the veggies are tender.  Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

3. Spoon some yogurt on top to serve.

My mom (the little one being held) with her cousins in Paraguay. My grandparents moved there from Russia, and then to Canada.

Tante Katja’s Fruit Platz

In my cupboard is a little recipe box that belonged to my great-aunt, Katja, or Tante Katja, as we called her.  Most of the recipes are written in German, and with my limited knowledge of the language it’s been a little difficult to decipher them.  Since most of the recipes have no directions, I’ve taken a guess at the process, and altered the recipe a little.  I managed to figure this one out, a fruit platz, one of the most common Mennonite foods that I grew up eating.  It’s made up of a cake with fruit on top and sugary crumbs to top it off.  I remember eating plum and apricot platz, but in the middle of winter I couldn’t find any of those fruits, so I used some canned cherries.  Yum!

What you need for the cake layer:

1 &1/2 cups flour

2 &1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup cold butter

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup milk or cream

1/4 teaspoon salt

For the crumbs:

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature

Plus fruit of your choice, a cup or two.  In my family traditional choices are fresh plum or apricot, but I used canned cherry.  Fresh is best, but if you’ve got some frozen fruits or canned, give them a try.  Just make sure that you drain them well, and don’t use something like frozen strawberries or raspberries that would be too juicy.

What you do:

1.  Combine the flour, baking powder and sugar in a large bowl.  Cut the cold butter in using a pastry cutter, fork, or your fingers.

2.  Combine the egg, milk, vanilla and salt, then add it to the dry ingredients using a wooden spoon.  If it’s too hard to get all the dry bits in, add a little more milk.  You’ll need to get in there with your hands and knead the mixture to get it all combined.

3.  Spread the thick batter into the bottom of a 9×9 inch pan.

4.  Spread the fruit over the batter.

5.  Combine the butter, sugar and flour for the crumb mixture, then sprinkle it on top of the fruit, using your fingers.

6.  Bake at 350F for 35-40 minutes.  It will be golden on the top, and you can check for done-ness using a  toothpick.

This one will cool in the pan, and you won’t remove it from the pan before cutting.  The crumb topping is crunchy and it’s best the day you make it, but of course it would still be good the next day.  It’s especially good served when it’s still a little warm.

That’s Tante Katja, standing on the highway