My favorite Russian pirozhki couldn’t be more simple. I take a whole onion, couple of garlic cloves, a handful of dill, and blend them together til they reach a puréed consistency. I simmer ground beef with a bay leaf, the onion and dill mixture, generously adding salt and pepper. That’s it. That’s the flavor of them I recall from my grandmother’s kitchen. It didn’t take long for me to make the sofrito connection, which has the onion and garlic, but also sweet peppers, cilantro instead of dill, and spices. Grab the recipe for mom’s small batch sofrito and make these fluffy baked buns.
I was thinking about making a full-on pastelillo filling, but decided on the Russian’s less-is-more seasoned beef. But by all means, add some chopped pimiento-stuffed olives, small diced potato, raisins, more tomato paste or sauce, etc! You’ll just need less meat than this recipe calls for.
You may also fry them in batches, which is the only way I enjoyed them at Brighton Beach many moons ago, with the most fantastic oil dripping onto my bathing suit. Pero, nothing wrong with baked, either. Less standing by the pan, less oil-burns, less oil.
Note: this dough can be used for many other fillings, both savory and sweet. It can also be doubled (no need to double the yeast, just everything else). I’ll have dessert options posted soon. And meatless options!
milk and yeast dough
- 1/4 oz active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup whole milk lukewarm
- 1/2 tbsp sugar or honey
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter softened
- 2 egg yolks room temp
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 2 cups AP flour sifted
- 1 egg lightly whisked, for egg wash
ground beef filling
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1/4 cup sofrito see recipe link in intro
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 tbsp sazón organic, not Goya
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- 3/4 cup water
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup cilantro chopped
ground beef filling
- In a deep pan, heat olive oil. Add your beef, breaking it up with a slotted spoon while adding in your spices.
- Move some of the browned beef aside so that a little of the oil pools to the corner. Directly into the oil, stir in the tomato paste and allow it to caramelize for a minute or so before mixing it into the beef. This will enhance the flavor.
- Stir in sofrito. After a few minutes, pour in the water and let it simmer til most of the liquid evaporates, occasionally giving it a stir.
- Add in the cilantro and let the meat cool to room temp before using.
- In a small bowl, sift your flour along with the salt and set aside.
- In a large bowl, gently whisk together your milk, sugar, dry yeast and let stand for 10-15 minutes, or until very active.
- Whisk in the butter and egg yolks, then slowly add in your flour, kneading as you go along for about 10 minutes. The dough is so supple and soft within a couple of minutes but I like to continue kneading for good measure.
- Cover the bowl and allow it to double in size, about 2 hours.
- Divide the dough into 2 oz pieces, about 8-10. Roll each into a disc and add 2-2 1/2 tbsp of the filling. Pinch the discs closed. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, place the buns seam-side down next to each other, giving them a tiny bit of room between each other.
- Cover them with a clean tea towel and let them prove for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Brush the beaten egg on each and bake for 20-30 minutes, til they've browned.