In the past, Russians used to make big pies, pirogi, to share with the whole family. It was quicker to prepare one big pie. Later on, housewives started to make these as small, separate pies. It was much easier to distribute pirozhki among family members this way; to make a special treat for children or to give to a husband to take to work in the fields.
Depending on the season, pies could be filled with a variety of stuffing: fish or meat, cottage cheese, mushrooms and vegetables; even buckwheat and other types of grain. In summer, Russians use fresh fruit and berries, as well as jams as filling.
Wishing to impress the guests, every cook chooses her/his own way of making these pies: round, oval, square, triangle, with a hole on the top. My granny is used to making round pies; my mother formed long tips on each side. I mostly use the oval shape, the one that’s called 'lodochka', meaning “a little boat”; or 'iolochka' (fir tree), an oval with a sort of zigzag on top.
Here are three classic summer fillings with some modern flavor twists and two shape variations.
Wild berry filling:
1. Put all dough ingredients, besides oil, in your mixer bowl and start mixing at the lowest speed. Increase the speed after 2 minutes and let it work for another 5 minutes. You may also knead it with your hands.
2. Set again on the lowest speed and add oil. It might seem that there is too much oil. Let it run for 10 minutes - everything will be incorporated into the dough.
3. Cover the dough with wrap and leave it for 30 minutes at room temperature. Later on, put the dough in the fridge for 1.5 to 2 hours.
You can begin preparing the fillings.
4. Remove the apple cores.
5. Peel the pear. Remove the core.
6. Cut apples and pears in 1 cm cubes, put into a bowl and add lemon juice to prevent the mass from getting dark.
7. Add vanilla powder, cinnamon and lemon zest. Add sugar.
8. Melt butter in a ladle. Put on low heat and let simmer for 10 minutes. The cubes should soften but keep their shape. Add a spoon of corn starch near the end and let the fruit mass get thicker. Take off the stove and let it cool.
9. Remove cherry pits.
10. Put them in a bowl, add lime zest, star anise, sugar, cognac, and put it on the stove.
11. Let simmer for 10 minutes. At the end, add corn starch. Take off the stove and let cool.
12. Cut the strawberry in small cubes.
13. Add sugar, lemon zest, rose aroma and put on the stove for 10 minutes.
At the end, add cornstarch to remove the extra liquid. Take off the stove and let it cool.
14. We need cornstarch to thicken the filling because during cooking the fruits give juice. If you see that the mass is still liquid, add a bit more corn starch and let it cook one minute longer. Keep on stirring after you add corn starch.
15. Take the dough out of the fridge. Put it down. Make a ball.
16. Divide it in equal small balls of 45 g - I got 20 pieces. Place the rest of the balls under wrap for about 30 minutes. They will rise a bit and come to room temperature.
17. Flatten them with your hand on the table. No flour is needed. The dough is flexible and comfortable to work with. Put the apple filling on top.
18. Take the edges and connect them with each other on top. Press thoroughly along the line with your fingers.
19. Make raffles in order to fix the filling even better - you have a 'iolochka' (tree) form.
20. Place the pie on baking paper, face the pattern down - you have the 'lodochka' (boat) form.
21. Spread the glaze over the pies and put them in the oven for 20-30 minutes at 190 degrees.
22. Repeat the same steps with cherry filling.
23. I use a bit less than 1 tablespoon of strawberry filling to make it close easily.
24. I used the form, ‘iolochka,’ for those.
25. I got 8 apple, 5 cherry and 7 strawberry pies. Some filling of each was left over.
Enjoy a Russian style picnic!
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