The pirojki are traditional Russian specialties, known and appreciated throughout Eastern Europe. These filled buns are eaten as a snack, as an accompaniment or as a main dish and are available in many savory and sweet variations.
What are pirojki?
Pirojki, in Russian пирожки, are small oven-baked or pan-fried turnovers from Russia. They are usually stuffed with ground meat, mushrooms, potatoes, cheese or vegetables. The sweet pirojki are mostly filled with berries, plums, apricots, apples, or fresh cheese.
They are made with leavened dough and vary in size and shape. There are ovals, circles, squares and triangles, some are bite-sized and others the size of a sandwich.
Traditionally, pirojki accompany borscht, a typical soup made from beetroot, beef and cabbage very popular in Russia and Ukraine. At home, it is common to accommodate leftover meat cooked in borscht broth to stuff the buns.
Russians also like to eat them in zakouski, appetizers, or as a quick lunch. It is indeed a very popular street food in the country, sold by mobile food carts in most of the train and metro stations.
What is the origin of pirojki?
Pirojki, in the singular form pirozhok or pirojok, originated in Russia, although this dish is also popular in several other Eastern European countries, such as Ukraine, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
It is actually a smaller, individual version of the pirog, a traditional Slavic pie. Also known as coulibiac, it can be savory or sweet. The pirog, like the pirojki, is a symbol of festivities and celebrations in Russia. It is especially prepared at weddings, funerals, Christmas and Easter. The root of the word pir also means “feast” in the Slavic language.
As for their origins, no one knows them exactly. Thanks to writings found by historians, we know, however, that this dish already existed in the 16th century, at the time of Ivan Grozny, the first Tsar of Russia nicknamed Ivan the Terrible. The pirojki are also discussed in the book Relation du voyage du Moscovie, Tartarie et de Perse by Adam Olearius, a German traveler and geographer.
What are the variants of pirojki?
Across Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean, pirojki come in many different names and recipes depending on the culture.
In Slovakia, for example, pirôžky are often stuffed with tvaroh, a local fermented cheese, as well as with poppy seeds. In Greece, they are called piroskia and people prefer frying them in oil.
Pirojki are often confused with pierogi, a typical Polish dish that has the same etymological roots. The latter, however, are made with a thinner dough and are more like a kind of ravioli.
But this recipe also finds many variations around the world.
In Hispanic countries, empanadas are true classics of gastronomy. These small stuffed turnovers first appeared in Spain before being exported to Latin America during colonization. Today, it is a very common dish in Argentina, Colombia, Bolivia or Chile, where each country has adapted it according to local preferences.
In the UK, a similar specialty is called Cornish pasty and it traditionally contains rutabaga, a kind of turnip. Native to the Cornwall region, Cornish pasty is consumed all over the UK.
And finally, in Germany, the local adaptation of the pirozhok is the bierock. Some theories claim that the word is actually an etymological derivative of pirog, the Russian pie. The bierock is usually stuffed with beef, cabbage and onions.
Pirojki are small turnovers of Russian origin, cooked or fried, which can be stuffed with minced meat, cheese, mushrooms or vegetables.
- 1¼ cup lukewarm milk (at 97 F / 36°C)
- 6 cups flour , sifted
- 6 tablespoons butter , soft
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 egg , lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons caster sugar
- 2 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 18 oz. raw ground beef (or cooked ground beef)
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 4 large onions , chopped
- 4 hard-boiled eggs , grated
- 4 cloves garlic
- 3 teaspoons chopped dill
- ⅔ cup cooked rice
- 1 lb potatoes
- 12 oz. porcini mushrooms , cut into small pieces
- 10 oz. oyster mushrooms , cut into small pieces
- 2 large onions , chopped
- 5 tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup water
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 10 oz. cottage cheese
- 7 oz. hard cheese (e.g. Emmental, Gruyère, Conté, or cheddar)
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped dill
- In a large bowl, dilute the yeast, 1 tablespoon of sugar and 2 tablespoons of flour in warm milk.
- Let it stand at room temperature for 20 minutes, in a warm place away from drafts.
- Add the flour into the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Dig a well in the center of the flour and add the yeast mixture, the butter and the egg.
- Start kneading at medium speed while gradually incorporating the rest of the warm milk.
- Add salt and knead for 10 minutes at medium speed.
- Grease the bottom of a large bowl with half the oil. Transfer the dough to the greased bowl, and cover its entire surface with the rest of the oil.
- Cover the dough with a cloth and let it rise for 1 hour 30 minutes, in a warm place away from drafts.
- Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface.
- Divide the dough into dough pieces of 2 oz. (60 g) each and roll them up.
- Cover the dough pieces with a cloth and let them sit for 15 minutes.
- Preheat the convection oven to 350 F (180°C).
On a lightly floured work surface and using a rolling pin, spread each piece of dough into a ¼ inch (5 mm) thick circle.
- Place each of the circles on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Once the stuffing is prepared and cooled, place about 1 to 2 teaspoons in the center of each of the circles.
- Brush the outline of the circles with water or milk and close each one in the form of a bun with slightly pointed ends or a half moon.
- Using a fork, press hard enough on the edges so that the turnovers do not open during cooking.
- Beat the egg and milk.
- Brush all the pirojki with this mixture before baking for 20 minutes at 350 F (180˚C).
- Eat hot or warm.
- Meat stuffing
- In a Dutch oven, melt the chopped onions in a butter and oil mixture over medium heat.
- Add the meat and mix well.
- Sauté for 3 minutes, stirring regularly.
- Turn off the heat and add the chopped garlic, dill, cooked rice, and grated eggs.
- Season with salt, pepper and mix.
- Mushroom and potato stuffing
- Peel the potatoes and cook them in a large volume of salted water bath for 30 minutes.
- Drain them well (the less moisture, the better) and mash them by adding the butter. Set aside.
- Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and sauté the onions until tender. Add the porcini and oyster mushrooms immediately. Mix well.
- Add the water, mix well, and cook over medium heat and uncovered, stirring regularly for a few minutes until the mushrooms are cooked.
- At the end of cooking, season with salt and pepper to taste and mix well.
- Add the mashed potatoes, mix well and immediately remove the pan from the heat.
- Cover the pan immediately and let cool before stuffing.
- Cheese stuffing
- In a bowl, combine the cottage cheese, egg, dill, grated cheese and garlic.
- Season with salt and pepper, taking into account the saltiness of the cheeses.