Sweet Vareniki made from a traditional Eastern European recipe
Sour cherries are in season in June, but can be swapped for sweet cherries
Stuffed dumplings are common throughout Central and Eastern Europe, and variations of these can be found in many cultures – from Polish Pirogi to Italian Ravioli to Knodels popular in Germany, Austria and other countries and so many more.
This recipe is for sweet Vareniki, a type of dumpling originating in Ukraine, made completely by hand. But it’s not the only type of Vareniki in Ukraine. These can be filled with buttery potatoes, lightly salted curd cheese, stewed cabbage, wild mushrooms – but these sweet dumplings are a legend back home for the Russian Revels.
These Vareniki have a delicate pastry encasing fresh sour cherries, which are in season for 2-3 weeks in June in the UK. (You can substitute frozen sour cherries or even use sweet cherries – just be sure to use a little less sugar!) We added a teaspoon of Kefir Cheese which makes the Vareniki creamier.
You will need a rolling pin, a cookie cutter (or a heavy drinking glass) with a dimeter of 8-9cm.
Makes 25-35 Vareniki (depending on the size of each dumpling)
Normally one portion is 5 vareniki per person.
This recipe was created by Russian Revels in collaboration with Biotiful Dairy, showing us how to make a traditional Russian and Eastern-European dish with new Biotiful Kefir Cheese.
For the dough:
- Flour, plain 325g
- Salt 6g
- Two eggs, whisked
- Oil, sunflower, ½ tsp
- Water (room temperature) 115ml
For the filling:
- Kefir Cheese Original 125g
- Sugar, caster 25 gr plus a little more for sprinkling (use a little less if using sweet cherries)
- Flour, plain 25g
- Sour cherries, 50g (weight with stones in).
To prepare the filling:
Mix the cheese, sugar and flour in a bowl. The mixture needs to be fairly dry or the dumplings risk becoming too moist and open up during the cooking. Keep the mixture in the fridge until needed.
Note: cheese mixed with sugar will become runnier over time, which will make it more difficult to work with. Keeping it cold keeps it a bit firmer.
To make the dough:
- Sift the flour into a bowl, add the salt, eggs, oil and water.
- Mix with a fork and then plonk the mixture onto a floured table surface and knead for about 5 minutes, until the dough is elastic.
- If the dough sticks to your hands uncomfortably, add a little flour as you go.
- Wrap the dough in cling film and leave on a table top to ‘relax’ for 20-30 minutes.
- Divide the dough into 4-6 balls. Keep the dough balls under a cling film, whilst you’re working with each ball.
Making the dumplings:
- Prepare the cherries by removing the stones and draining excess juice in a sieve.
- Place your filling, cherries and bowl with sugar on your tabletop, ready to be used.
- Roll the dough ball until it’s about 2 mm thick. Note: the thinner the dough, the more delicate the final result. The Russian Revels prefer their Vareniki with very thin dough, so that you can see the dark cherries underneath. But they take a little practice to make at first! The final result will still be delicious even if the dough is a little thicker.
- Cut out circles from the dough. Note: you can re-use the left over dough, although it’s a little tougher to roll out, but you can make more dumplings this way.
- Take each circle into the palm of your hand and add a teaspoon of the filling and three cherries on top (adjust to two cherries if they are the sweet, larger variety).
- Sprinkle with ¼ tsp of sugar before closing the lower part of the circle over the mixture, so that you have a half moon shape.
- Pinch the dough all around so that the ends are tightly closed.
- Place on a well-floured board. You can then either cook from fresh or save for later by freezing them. To freeze, put the board in the freezer and once the dumplings are fully frozen, transfer them into a plastic bag or a box.
Optional: make a little kosichka, braiding, around the Vareniki, by pulling the dough a little up and closing it over itself, so you make a wavy pattern, crimple. Imagine a little Cornish pastry, that sort of thing. This is to make the dumplings even prettier, but not a requirement!
How to cook:
- Bring a saucepan of water to boil and add a pinch of salt.
- Scatter the Vareniki into the boiling water, turn the heat down to medium and swirl the water gently so that the dumplings don’t stick.
- Simmer for about 10-13 minutes (depending on whether they are fresh or frozen), until they float up to the top and the dough starts to become a little translucent.
- Sprinkle more caster sugar, drizzle some unsalted butter and/or rich creme fraiche or Biotiful Kefir.