Pelmeni (Meat Dumplings)

Pelmeni (Meat Dumplings)

The dough is what really makes pelmeni what they are. The classical recipe includes flour, salt, water and eggs – these ingredients make the dense dough that holds its shape well when boiled. Pelmeni are best served with the sour cream or butter.

Oxana Putan

When making the dough it's important to not overdo with the liquid. The dough has to be dense and elastic, so that later it could be rolled out very thin. I think that everyone would agree: pelmeni in thin delicate dough are the best.

Back in the old days the dough was made without special proportions, «by ear». The flour was put through a sieve, then poured on the table into a hill, and a cook would make a little crater in the top of the hill – like a little volcano. Separately the eggs were mixed with water and salt and poured carefully into that crater.

Then the liquid was gradually mixed with the flour around it – from the edges of the circle to its middle, and then the dough was kneaded for a long time to ensure that it absorbs as much of the flour as possible.

This method requires a lot of experience and skill: the cook has to really feel the dough and add more flour or water if needed. But what do you do if you’re just a beginner?

My experience with dough tells me that the best dough comes out when you measure exactly the required amounts of flour and water at the start. This way the dough will be as thick as necessary and won’t need endless kneading.

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Using a large cup (about 12 oz), measure 3.5 generous cups of flour. When pouring the flour into the cup, make a little hill on top of the cup and then use a knife to even it out and remove the excess. Do not tramp down the flour in the cup. 

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Pour all the flour into a deep bowl.

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Break 5 eggs into the same exact cup, add 1 teaspoon of salt and then fill with water to the rim. Carefully mix with a fork.

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Pour the egg mixture into the bowl with the flour.

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Mix everything together so that the liquid absorbs all the flour without creating lumps.

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Let the dough sit for 20 minutes.

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Place on the table and knead by pressing on the dough while rolling it into a ball.

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The dough should be uniform and elastic.

When the dough is ready, place into plastic bag and put aside. It can be refrigerated.

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The best filling for the classical Russian pelmeni includes equal quantities of pork, beef and onions. Onions make the filling juicy.

Take even quantities of ground pork and beef.  

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Peel the onions, cut into pieces and place in blender.  

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Blend till very finely chopped and add to the meat mixture along with the 1 teaspoon each of salt and ground black pepper.

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Mix well to combine.

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Divide the dough into a few parts.

Roll each part with your hands into a thin rope, no more than 1 inch in diameter.

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Cut the rope with a knife into equal pieces about ½ - ¾ inch wide. Dust them in the flour on the cut sides and unroll each piece into a thin circle with a rolling pin.

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Place some filling into the middle of each circle, then fold the dough over to make a half-moon.

Pinch the edges to seal. It’s important to make sure that the pelmeni are sealed completely, or they could break apart while boiling. 

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Connect the corners of the half-moon to make pelmeni round. The filling will be in the center, and the pinched edges will be on the outside.

As the pelmeni are made, place them in even rows onto a floured cutting board.

If you’re not planning to cook the pelmeni right away, you can place the board in the freezer and when the pelmeni freeze, you can put them into a plastic bag for further storage in the freezer. They can be frozen for a long time – up to a few months.

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Boiling pelmeni has its own nuances and tricks.

The optimal quantity of water for boiling pelmeni is about 1 gal per 2 pounds of pelmeni. Do not boil too many pelmeni at once – this is just the case when you shouldn’t try to save time, or you may waste all the work you so carefully put into preparing all this.

You should only cook as many pelmeni at once as can fit on the surface of the water in the pot, so decide on the quantity based on your pot diameter, not on what a recipe may tell you. Leaving space for pelmeni this way will ensure that they cook through evenly and keep their shape, so don’t place so many in the pot that they would have to be in layers.

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The pelmeni are cooked in boiling water. Place the pot with the water on the stove, add the salt (about 2 teaspoons for 1 gal), a couple of bay leaves and a few black peppercorns if you wish. When the water boils, start adding pelmeni a few at a time, being careful to avoid splashing. As you add the pelmeni, carefully and slowly stir them in the pot with a large spoon. In a couple of minutes stir again so that the pelmeni don’t stick to the bottom.

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As soon as all the pelmeni float to the surface, boil them for another 4-5 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon and place into individual plates.

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Serve with sour cream or butter.

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