Thursday, November 8, 2007

apricot and walnut vareniki

apricot walnut vareniki

You know, I had great plans for tonight. As promised, I was going to tell you all about the recipe that didn’t make the cut for my dumplings article on NPR. We’d talk about the history of vareniki, their texture, the process of making them and what a scandalously good meal it was when we had these apricot and walnut vareniki for dessert.

But then, well, instead I went to the opening of a friend’s new gallery and like the eternal college student I am in the face of an open bar, I had several glasses of champagne and now here we are and eloquence, as well as grammar/sentence structure/coherent story telling escape me. Sad but true.

So let me just cut to the chase of it, shall I? Alex, though technically Russian was actually born in the Ukraine, and Ukranians, you see, have their own version of dumplings, and I think they are fantastic. Varenyky (Ukrainian) or vareniki (Russian) are derived from the word varenyk, which simply means “boiled thing,” but prefer to think of them as a less-bulky cousin of Polish pierogi. While they can be filled with any number of ingredients–sauerkraut, mashed potatoes or meat–cheese and/or dessert preparations are common. When I found an old Gourmet recipe filled with apricot and walnuts, I knew I had hit home.

Though this recipe is flawless in its original incarnation–tangy, nutty dumplings plus fresh bread crumbs fried in butter and tossed with cinnamon-sugar–we found it even more decadent with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. Lily-gilders, we are. This is the kind of dessert you eat when you’ve had half a salad for dinner and aren’t even pretending it was sufficient. Frankly, once the crunchy-sour-sweetness hits your palette, you might regret having eaten dinner at all. I know we did.

apricot walnut vareniki

One year ago: Couscous and Feta-Stuffed Peppers, Pickled Red Onions

Apricot and Walnut Vareniki
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, February 2001

Yields about 32 varenikis

Dough
1 cup all-purpose flour plus additional for kneading and rolling
3/4 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
2 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water

Stir together flours in a bowl. Make a well in flour and add eggs, salt, and water, then stir together with a fork without touching flour. Continue stirring, gradually incorporating flour into well until a soft dough forms. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead, adding only as much additional flour as needed to keep dough from sticking, until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. (Dough will be soft.) Cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature at least 30 minutes.

Dough may be made 2 hours ahead, wrapped well in plastic wrap and chilled. Bring to room temperature before using.

Filling
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons apricot brandy (optional)
6 oz dried apricots (1 cup; preferably California)
1/2 cup walnuts (2 oz), finely chopped
Dough (recipe above)
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Make filling: Bring water and 1/4 cup sugar to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in brandy. Finely chop apricots in a food processor, then add sugar syrup and pulse until just combined (do not puree). Transfer to a bowl and stir in 1/4 cup walnuts. Cool.

Roll out dough and fill varenikis: Halve dough and roll out 1 piece on a lightly floured surface into a 15-inch round, keeping remaining dough wrapped. Trim dough to a 13-inch square. Cut lengthwise into 4 strips, then crosswise into fourths to form 16 (3 1/4-inch) squares.

Put 1 slightly rounded teaspoon filling in center of each square. Working with 1 square at a time, moisten edges with water and fold in half diagonally to form a triangle, pressing edges firmly together to seal. overlap bottom points of triangle and press to seal (dumpling will look like a pointed hat). Transfer vareniki to a flour-dusted kitchen towel. Repeat with remaining squares, then make more dumplings with remaining dough and filling.

Cook varenikis in a large pot of lightly salted boiling water until tender, about 15 minutes. Make topping while varenikis cook:

Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over moderate heat, then cook bread crumbs and remaining 1/4 cup walnuts, stirring frequently, until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and season lightly with salt. Stir together cinnamon and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons cinnamon sugar over crumb mixture and toss.

To serve varenikis: Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter, then drizzle about 2 tablespoons on a warmed serving platter. Transfer varenikis with a slotted spoon to platter and drizzle with remaining 4 tablespoons butter.

Serve hot, sprinkled with bread-crumb mixture and remaining cinnamon sugar to taste.


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