Photo credit: Sonya Sanford
Prep Cook Yield Ready In
3 hours 30 minutes (including rising time) 30 minutes 16 4 hours

Russian Apple Piroshki are the Perfect Fried Hanukkah Treat

Airy fried buns with an apple-caramel filling.

Piroshki are a popular pastry in Russia, Ukraine, and other parts of the former Soviet Union. Piroshki is a catch-all term for a variety of stuffed pastries, often oval in shape. You’ll find piroshki that are fried or baked, made with yeast-leavened dough, puff pastry, or shortcrust pastry. They can be savory or sweet, and common fillings include sautéed cabbage, mashed potato with caramelized onion, and sweet apple.

When piroshki are made with fried yeasted dough they are akin to a donut. Hanukkah, and its celebration of fried foods, is my favorite time of year to make apple piroshki.

This dough recipe is similar in its ingredients and methods to sufganiyot. What makes piroshki different is that the filling is added before the dough is fried. Like sufganiyot, piroshki benefit from a generous shower of powdered sugar before serving. If you’ve added enough, when you take your first bite you can happily expect that sugar to somehow make its way onto your upper lip, and maybe even the tip of your nose.

This is the kind of recipe that takes some time, and is ideal for a chilly day when being in the kitchen is calming and warm. Like any fried food, these are unquestionably best eaten straight away or on the day they are made. Warm and fresh, the golden brown exterior has the subtlest crisp to it, giving way to soft airy dough beneath, and caramel-apple filling inside.

Note: You can use this recipe to make a baked version (instructions below).

 

Ingredients

For the dough:

  • 1¼ cup warm milk
  • 2¼ tsp (1 packet) active dry yeast
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 4 Tbsp (½ stick) butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3¾ -4 cups (446-480 g)  all-purpose flour, start with less and add more flour if needed
  • 1 liter (33 oz) neutral oil for frying (e.g., sunflower, canola, or vegetable)

For the filling:

  • 2½ lbs (about 6-7) apples (Crimson, Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, or any baking apple)
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • big pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Start by making the dough. Warm the milk so that it is warm to the touch, but not simmering (between 90-110 degrees F). Combine the warm milk with the yeast and sugar. Allow the yeast to activate and become foamy for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Add the flour to a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment, or to a large bowl if making the dough by hand. Start with 3¾ cups (446 g) of flour; if you later find the dough too sticky as you are kneading, add more flour one spoonful at a time. Make a well in the center of the flour. Add the melted cooled butter, egg, egg yolk, and salt to the well in the flour. Then add the milk and yeast mixture.Combine the wet and the dry ingredients on the mixer’s lowest setting, or gently by hand.
  3. Once the ingredients are combined and start to form a ball, increase the speed on the mixer to medium, or transfer the dough to a flat surface and begin to knead the dough. The dough will be very sticky, especially at first, but as you knead it will become smoother. Knead the dough until silky, soft, and smooth, about 5-6 minutes in the mixer, or 10 minutes by hand. The dough will slightly stick to the sides of the bowl, but will easily form a smooth soft ball in your hands. Once the dough is kneaded, transfer it to a lightly oiled bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel, and place in a warm part of the kitchen; allow the dough to rise for 1-1½ hours or until doubled in size. While the dough is rising, make your filling.
  4. To make the filling, start by peeling and coring the apples. Dice them small, and add them to a bowl. Combine them with sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Add them to a deep skillet or large pot, and cook them on medium heat for 15-20 minutes, or until softened and most of the liquid has evaporated. The mixture will start to look like apple pie filling, the liquid will thicken and become syrupy, and the apples will be golden brown. Turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool.
  5. Line two baking sheets with parchment.
  6. Once the dough has risen, punch it down and divide it into 16 equal-sized pieces. To do so, form the dough into a rectangle, divide it into 4 equal parts, and then divide each section into 4 again. For exact uniformity, weigh each piece. Form each piece into a ball, and cover with a clean kitchen towel so they do not dry out as you work.
  7. On a lightly floured surface, form the piroshki by rolling each ball into a thin circle, about 4-5 inches in diameter. Add 1½ Tbsp of the filling into the center of the circle of dough. Fold the dough upwards towards the center, equally on each side, and pinch the piroshki firmly closed along the top forming them into a sealed oval shape.
  8. Place the formed piroshki onto the parchment-lined baking sheets seam-side down, 8 per sheet with 2-3 inches between each pastry. Cover the piroshki with loose plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise again, for 30 minutes.
  9. While the dough is rising for the second time, preheat your oil for frying (if baking, see instruction 13). Fill a heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven with 2-3 inches of oil. Use a candy thermometer to make sure the oil is at 350 degrees F. If you do not have a thermometer, you will know the oil is ready when you place the handle of a wooden spoon into the oil and small bubbles form around the spoon; if the dough is browning too quickly, lower the oil slightly as needed.
  10. Once the prioshki have risen a second time you can begin frying or baking. Fry the piroshki in batches of 2-3 at a time; be careful not to crowd them. Place the piroshki seam-side down into the oil and fry for 40-50 seconds on each side, until they are golden brown all over. Transfer to a paper towel-lined rack or sheet pan. Once they are done, allow to cool 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar just before serving.
  11. For baked piroshki, after the piroshki have risen a second time, beat an egg with a splash of water. Brush the piroshki with the egg wash, and then bake them for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, rotate the baking sheets and bake for another 8-10 minutes, or until the piroshki are evenly golden brown on all sides.Transfer to a rack to cool slightly, and serve warm or at room temperature. These are best eaten fresh, but can last an additional 2-3 days if they are warmed up again just before serving.

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