Every once in a while, a guest will ask for a side of jam with their tvorog vareniki. And if you were eating tvorog vareniki pretty much anywhere else, that would make sense—these farmer’s cheese dumplings are almost always sweet. But since I get to make the rules around here, our tvorog vareniki are savory. The farmer’s cheese is reinforced with some grated parmesan, tangy kefir, and chives, giving these vareniki a sour cream ’n’ onion vibe. In order to get just the right oozy texture, this loose filling needs to be good and cold before piping—be sure to start things the night before.
(Yields dough for about 100 dumplings made by hand, 148 with a pelmenitsa)
3½ cups (450 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 large egg
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons
(Yields filling for about 100 dumplings made by hand, 148 with a pelmenitsa)
1 pound tvorog (also labeled farmer’s cheese)
1 large egg
½ cup kefir
¾ cup grated parmesan cheese
Scant ½ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
¼ cup minced chives
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix together the flour and salt. Add the egg, then slowly drizzle in the water. Mix until a dough forms, then knead for 10 minutes, until the dough comes together into a smooth, elastic ball. If you don’t have a mixer, you can do this by hand, but knead for 20 minutes. (And be prepared to sweat!) Wrap the dough in plastic wrap or place in a covered container, and let rest at room temperature for at least one hour.
Place the tvorog, egg, kefir, parmesan, flour, and salt in a food processor. Process for several minutes, scraping down the bowl a few times, until the mixture is very, very smooth. The cheese has some graininess, but if you keep processing, it will break down to a warm, smooth, liquidy mixture.
When you’ve reached this nice, smooth result, transfer the mixture to a covered container, and stir in the chives. The mixture will be thick but runny (don’t worry!). Refrigerate overnight. By the next day, the filling will have thickened to the texture of a sticky whipped cream cheese or mascarpone. Keep refrigerated until ready to assemble.
If using a pelmenitsa:
Divide the dough into eight equal balls, and grab a spray bottle of water (or, if you don’t have one, a dish of water and a pastry brush), a straight-sided rolling pin, and a rimmed baking sheet dusted with flour. Liberally dust the top of your pelmenitsa with flour. Take one ball (leaving the rest covered with a dish towel so they don’t dry out), and roll it out on a lightly floured countertop until it’s slightly larger than your mold. Drape the rolled-out dough over your pelmenitsa, so that it reaches over the ends of the mold. Press or pat the dough lightly so that an imprint of the mold below is made on the dough.
With two spoons, or a pastry bag fitted with a nice wide tip, scoop or pipe a little blob of filling into each of the 37 divots. You’ll need just a heaping teaspoon or so in order to still be able to seal things (don’t get carried away!). When you have piped filling into all the slots, roll out a second piece of dough until it’s slightly larger than your mold. Lightly spray some water over the top of your filled pelmeni, or lightly brush the exposed dough with water if you don’t have a spray bottle, and then gently place the second round of dough over the top. Firmly roll over the top with your rolling pin, several times as needed, to seal the pelmeni and cut the dough between them. Turn the pelmenitsa upside-down over the prepared baking sheet, and nudge the filled dumplings out, separating them with your fingers if needed. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. At this point, the dumplings can be cooked (we recommend either boiling or pan frying like a pierogi), or frozen for future use (freeze on the baking sheet, then transfer to a sealed plastic bag).
If you don’t have a pelmenitsa:
Grab a spray bottle of water (or, if you don’t have one, a dish of water and a pastry brush), and a rimmed baking sheet dusted with flour. Take one-quarter of the dough (leaving the rest lightly covered with a dish towel so it doesn’t dry out), and roll it out on a lightly floured countertop until it’s the thickness of fresh pasta sheets—just shy of being transparent.
Excerpted from the book KACHKA by Bonnie Frumkin Morales. Copyright © 2017 by Bonnie Frumkin Morales. Reprinted with permission from Flatiron Books. All rights reserved.