Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Gluten Free Pierogi

Are you eating Gluten Free (GF) these days?  Are you missing Pierogi?  Well, despair not because there is no reason to deny yourself one of life’s greatest pleasures, delicious pierogi, arguably the most popular dish of Polish cuisine.  In truth, they are no harder to make than traditional Pierogi.

Laura made a batch of GF sweet pierogi this week with a cherry filling, just to test the recipe and the gluten free flour.  They were delicious and the whole batch disappeared quickly.  

If you’ve not worked much with GF baking, the key is in the flour. 

Laura used King Arthur © brand Gluten Free Flour, which is marked “Measure For Measure Flour” on the bag.  This makes it an easy one for one substitute for regular flour. This brand consists of several types of rice flour and assorted preservatives, but more importantly, it also contains xanthan gum which replaces the gluten in regular flour and makes your dough supple.  Be sure to check the list of ingredients on your package before buying.  If you can’t find a gluten free flour with xanthan gum, you can buy it separately and add about one teaspoon of xanthan gum to one cup of other gluten free flour.  You may have to experiment a bit, but according to “Google,” the rule of thumb for GF baking is that “for every cup of gluten-free flour in a recipe, use 1 tsp of gum for cakes and cookies or pasta and 2 tsp of gum for breads and pizza.”

Feel free to use your favorite recipe for pierogi, just substituting the flour, but first read Laura’s notes below.  Here is our updated recipe which has been thoroughly tested.  

2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups Gluten Free All Purpose flour
1 to 2 teaspoons xanthan gum (if needed)
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon of water, for sealing

Whisk together the two eggs, milk and salt.  Stir in half of the flour until flour is incorporated, then add the other half and continue to stir.  When the mixture comes together to form a thick sticky dough, place the dough on a floured surface.  Note: additional flour may be incorporated if the dough is too wet or sticky.  Using additional flour knead the dough until you have a smooth, supple dough that is soft but not sticky.  Form the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic or cover with a bowl and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Take half of the dough and roll it out as thin as possible on a floured surface.  Note: When rolling and cutting, be sure to use lots of flour on your board and rolling pin. It should be almost translucent, approximately 1/8th inch.  Cut the dough into 3 or 4-inch rounds or circles.

Start by assembling one tester pierogi, just to make sure of your techniques and measures.   Using your favorite pierogi filling, place a small amount in the center of a dough round.

Be sure to leave about a 1/3 inch edge around the entire circumference of your round.  Note:  Gluten free dough is a bit more “crumbly” than traditional dough, so if you use too much filling the pierogi won’t fold in half properly, the filling could spill out or dough will tear.  Also, over-stuffed pierogi can burst during cooking.   

Brush the edges of the dough circle with the beaten egg.  The egg acts as a glue to hold your pierogi together.  Fold the dough in half into a half-moon shape. 

Pinch the edges of the rounds firmly together using your fingers or the tines of a fork.  Tight sealing ensures that the edges stay together during cooking.  If your tester pierogi was good, the filling stayed inside and the seal was tight, assemble the rest of the batch.  Keep the finished pierogi covered with plastic wrap or a damp towel, as you are filling the rest of the pierogi, to prevent the dough from drying.

Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil, then turn the heat down so the water is just simmering lightly.  If your water is at a high rolling boil, your pierogi may fall apart.  In batches, gently place the pierogi in the boiling water.  We only cook about ten at a time in a 6-quart pot, making sure they have room to “swim.”  And don’t let them stick to the bottom when they first go in.  When the pierogi float to the top of the water, continue to boil for 10-12 minutes.  The thicker is your dough, the longer they will need to cook – plus cooking time for gluten free pierogi will be a bit longer than pierogi made with regular flour – about 12 minutes or so.  Cut the first one open and taste, to see if the dough is cooked all the way through.  It should be the texture of moderate to firmly cooked pasta.  Remove the finished pierogi with a slotted spoon and drain.

Dessert pierogi are great when topped with a sweet sauce made from sour cream and sugar. But we love to serve savory pierogi that have been sautéed in butter and topped with caramelized onions and bacon.  Check out our Polish Classic Recipes cookbook for classic fillings and toppings. 

In closing, Celiac disease and gluten intolerances now affect many more people in the world than when most Polish classic recipes were first created.  Regardless of the why or wherefore, gluten intolerance is a reality of today’s life and anyone in the business of eating or cooking should be aware of this and other common food allergies. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Summer Salmon Salad, Polish Style

Canned salmon!  Yes indeed, canned salmon has a place in every pantry. It has more flavor than canned tuna and offers a world of options for a light healthy meal when time is short or you’ve had a hard day and your energy tank is running on fumes. 

This was a favorite dish of Peter’s Mom’s and we shared it on this blog once before in 2012.  We've brought it back because it really should be in your book of favorite recipes.  It's a perfect summer plate when you don’t feel like preparing a more complicated or involved meal.  

The fishing industry in Poland is growing rapidly as eating fish is 
becoming even more popular.  Baltic salmon is a unique Polish specialty item.  Unlike fatty farm-raised salmon, its firm flesh is only slightly pink (after cooking it is nearly white).  Whether cooked or smoked, wild salmon provides amazing taste sensations far superior to the farmed varieties.  It is available in cans and can be also eaten raw when salted.  Have you ever tried Polish canned salmon and what did you think of it?  We’ve not tried it in the U. S. but will look for some on the next visit to our favorite Polish Deli.  Laura likes the Kirkland brand canned salmon (packed in water) from Costco but any brand will work. 

Serves 8
16 ounces canned, wild salmon, drained and crumbled
2 cups young potatoes, boiled & sliced thinly
1 cup mayonnaise
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
1 tablespoon scallions or green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped

The only prep is to arrange all the ingredients in layers, so how easy is that?  On the bottom of a serving platter, spread the potatoes in a flat layer.  Second, spread a healthy layer of the crumpled salmon over the potatoes. Third, spread a very light layer of the mayonnaise over the salmon.  Cover with alternating slices of tomato and the egg – show off your wild side and be creative!  

Sprinkle the chopped green onions, and lastly sprinkle generously with chopped dill.  Chill for an hour and serve on lettuce leaves.  A glass of dry white wine or fresh iced tea can be a very relaxing accompaniment.