apricot and 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

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.

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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38 comments on apricot and walnut vareniki

  1. OH MY. Uh, you know, I live in Philadelphia, and have family in Brooklyn and it’s not so far from me, and I could give you money (very small amounts, I am poor) and then we could be best friends. And maybe then you could cook for me.

    Think about it.

    But serioiusly, you kill me with your recipes. Just when I finally make the cake below (also, seriously delicious), you put this up? It’s 12 at night and I’m trying to figure out what I have and what I’ll need to start whipping this up. I’ll be 400 lbs by the end of NaBloPoMo.

  2. FarmerBeth

    Deb – where we live in KS there is a very big german/russian Mennonite presence and Veronika are filled with a cottage cheese/egg mixture, boiled and then pan fried and served in a pool of ham or german sauasage gravy. Very labor intensive, but very good.

  3. Very cool, this is a very new flavor combination – did Alex’s family make them before or did you come up with a new one? When I was a kid, I loved the cherry filled ones -mmm… those were SO good.

  4. now that right there? that is one kick ass homey looking plate of perfection. i just don’t/won’t do pastry. because deb? i am a pastry loser. yes i am. so instead i do bottarga. the same? like NO!!!

    i woulda loved this. excuse me while i stare…

  5. Dancer who eats

    Good lord girl!!!!! You are making so many recipes that I want to try… There is not enough time in a day. *sigh* Maybe I should give up the TiVo.

  6. Kelly

    Mmmmm, varenyky….I like to think of the Ukrainians as the Filled Dough Eating Royalty of the world! Perohe, varenyky (and with soooo many fillings)…Then there are the blintz type – nalesnyky. Ooo – don’t forget the bun type – peroske…mmmm…my husband gets the Ukrainian inspired Christmas dinner this year including holubchi. I wasn’t going to do varenyky, but maybe dessert using your recipe. It looks gorgeous.

  7. I live across from a Ukrainian church that sells Verenyky every Friday. People line up for blocks prior to the door opening at 11. When the sign goes up announcing their return each fall it’s enough to make your mouth water- and pick up the phone and place an order.

  8. deb

    Off the subject, but I woke up this morning before the alarm absolutely startled. “OMG, did I drunk blog last night?” “What is this, 2004?” And ran to the computer to make sure I didn’t say anything too moronic.

    Anyway, what do you guys want to read about today: a chicken dish or cookies? I am torn.

  9. Hmmm… Gotta go with cookies (my sweet tooth is insatiable…). Btw, these look really good and remind me of a recipe in Rick Rodgers’ “Kaffeehaus” for apricot-stuffed (round) dumplings that are coated in bread crumbs. I’ve always wanted to make them, and now I can add this recipe to the list too! As a descendant of Eastern Europeans, I see it as my duty…

  10. jaimie

    those look delish! but what happened to the nov. 8th post? i kept checking all day yesterday until i had to go to bed, thinking maybe you were still busy whipping up something amazing.

  11. deb

    Huh–That was the Nov. 8th post, a bit before midnight. I wonder if my WordPress installation doesn’t know about the DST changes this year. A-ha! That’s exactly what it is.

  12. kel

    I’ll bet that Alex’s mom has great recipes for pelmeni and vareniki dough… I can’t ever seem to get my dough light enough or stretchy enough… I usually end up with tough boiled dough balls. A friend’s mom in Ukraine, when I was visiting her years ago, taught me her dough tricks but sadly I didn’t write the recipe down. I did, however, remember how she made KILLER borscht (vegetarian – so thick and chunky the wooden spoon stands up in the pot!)
    If you have the inclination to share some of these treasured recipes, I’d sure love to see them!

  13. blindowl56

    My family is from Ukraine & Russia, and I have a serious hankering for some mushroom & sauerkraut pierogi…(I guess there’s some Polish in there too ;)

  14. Hermione

    It’s nice to know this is Ukrainian. It’s a dearly beloved dish amongst the Russian Mennonites, but most Russian Mennonites are German. *shrug*

  15. Steffany

    I can’t believe I hadn’t seen this recipe before ! Being of Ukrainian/Russian descent (both me AND my BF) we make vareniki all the time, all different assormtnets of them. I will HAVE to try this one !! Looks delish !

  16. Deb, oh Deb! I too am a dumpling lover!!!! I love to make them from scratch, one by one, even more than I love to eat them, one by one. I even want to open my own dumpling cart in washington state. People out here think dumplings are just cheese & flour dropped in a pot of chicken stock, but to me they are works of art comprised of unique doughs and fillings. Sigh, I love dumplings so much. What is it about the sweet or savory hot chewy pockets of tender goodness? I think I could write a whole book of poetry on the dumpling, the dumpling love affair.

  17. rhannah

    I have a crazy question – Might the use of wanton wrappers be a quick fix here? I’m guessing the texture would be different but may still make tasty packets of apricot goodness.

  18. Emily

    I have been wanting to brave this recipe for a really long time. It looks so good, but I’m sort of afraid of it! Any chance it’s due for a revisit? I’d love to see pictures of the process.

  19. Anya

    This is a comfort food I had as a child when growing up in Ukraine. In fact, varenyky with apricots are not very common in Ukraine but are very popular among locals. I feel so nostalgic now.
    You also have to try ones with plums and cherries, and a bit of sour cream, they are so good!