Recipe Submitted by : Russian Recipe Book
Duration : 8 hours 35 minutes
Serve : 10
1 cup water
1 packet active dry yeast
1 cup milk
8 cups (approximately) all-purpose wheat flour
3 egg yolks
⅓ cups sugar
2 oz. unsalted butter (1/2 stick) + extra butter for greasing baking sheet, etc.
½ tsp. salt
6 Tbsps. butter or olive oil
1 ½ tsps. salt (approximately)
½ bunch fresh dill
- Make “opara” (preferment). Heat 1 cup of water to the temperature recommended for dry yeast activation on the packet (usually 110-120° F), and stir in the yeast. Let the yeast dissolve and then gradually mix in flour until the dough becomes thick paste hard to stir by hand. Stir from the center avoiding scraping the sides of the mixing bowl too often. Don’t forget to sift the flour before adding it! Cover and let rise at room temperature for about 4 – 5 hours. The preferment should more than double in size by the end of the fermentation period and should become much softer. If that doesn’t happen, your project is in trouble, usually due to expired yeast or wrong activation temperature.
- Heat 1 cup of milk to the boiling point. That should inactivate the undesirable enzymes that may be present in milk even after pasteurization. Cool to about 100° F. While the milk is cooling
- Thoroughly mix egg yolks and sugar. Add melted butter and mix everything very well. Stir in salt.
- Push down your “opara” preferment and transfer it to a larger bowl if necessary.
- Mix in the milk. Add the egg yolk/sugar/butter/salt mix and stir until everything is mixed well.
- Start adding sifted flour. First stir (from the center) and then knead when the dough becomes too thick to stir.
- Knead in enough flour so that the dough stops sticking to the hands (even though it should still feel a little sticky), form a ball and place it in a lightly greased container. Cover and leave to rise at room temperature. Meanwhile work on the filling.
- When the dough doubles or even better, triples in size, push it down gently trying not to flatten completely, then scoop it out, flip the dough ball over, and cover it again. When the dough rises, repeat the process. The dough should rise three times total. If you are pressed for time and your oven has a proofing mode, you can use that for the second and third rising.
- Cut the rabbits in large chunks, if necessary, to fit in the pot. If they are frozen, it is not necessary to thaw them first. You can add 10 minutes to the cooking time instead.
- Add pieces of rabbit, carrots, and 1 onion (may cut it in half for a better fit) to a pot, add just enough water to cover the ingredients (you won’t need most of the broth), cover, and boil for about 1 ½ hours. Do not add salt. The salt level of the filling will be adjusted at the end.
- When the rabbit is ready, remove it and the carrots from the pot and let them cool. Discard the onion. Strain and save the broth.
- Separate rabbit meat from bones. Be careful not to leave small bones and fragments in the meat. Someone may break a tooth! Discard the bones.
- Mince rabbit meat. Chop cooked carrots, fresh onion, and dill. Keep all the ingredients separate.
- Add oil to a large deep skillet and heat it.
- Sauté the onions until they are light brown in color.
- Add chopped carrots to the skillet with onions and sauté for 2 more minutes.
- Add minced rabbit and sauté until everything is thoroughly mixed and heated through.
- Transfer the mix to a mixing bowl.
- Dissolve 2 teaspoons of salt in ½ cup of rabbit broth.
- Gradually add the salted broth to the mix stirring it in thoroughly and tasting until achieving the desired salt level. You may not need the entire amount. Discard the unused portion. The filling should be somewhat salty to create contrast with the slightly sweet dough. If the mix feel very dry (although it should not be at this point), add a small amount of unsalted rabbit broth. Do not make it too moist or it’ll leak from the pie during baking!
- Mix in chopped dill. The filling is now ready but the dough may not be. Keep the filling in the fridge until you are ready to use it to avoid food poisoning.
Making the pie:
- You should be able to make two large or three medium sized pies with the amount of dough in this recipe. You can also make a single huge pie. Just decide what you want to do and plan ahead accordingly.
- Punch down the dough after the third rise but don’t flatten it completely. It will be a bit sticky at this point but quite workable on a surface dusted with flour.
- Divide the dough into portions according to the number of pies you plan to make. Also divide the filling into the same number of equal portions.
- Grease baking sheets or dishes.
- Dust work surface with flour.
- Divide each dough piece into two pieces, in about 2:1 size ratio.
- On the dusted work surface, roll out the larger piece into a sheet about ⅓ to ½ inch thick. If you are going to bake your pie on a sheet, make it rectangular in shape. If you are using a deep dish, the shape should conform to the dish with enough dough to cover the sides and about 2 inches hanging over the edges.
- If you are using a baking dish, gently press the dough into it with fingers to make the dough sheet conform to the shape of the dish but without thinning it too much or punching holes.
- If you are using a flat baking sheet, you may still want to transfer the rolled out dough onto the baking sheet especially if you don’t have enough work surface space to roll out the second (cover) sheet.
- Grease the dough sheet with melted butter sparing the edges.
- Place the previously measured amount of filling on top of the sheet and spread it staying away from the edges. For a dish pie, just spread it evenly.
- Roll out the smaller piece of dough making a sheet large enough to overlap with the bottom sheet by at least an inch. It can be made thinner than the bottom sheet.
- Moisten the edges of the bottom sheet, and cover the pie with the top dough sheet. First pinch the edges together, then roll them over and pinch again. You can repeat the process of pinching and rolling until you achieve a nice looking smooth seam. You can then either flatten the seam or leave it raised for ornamental purposes.
- With the palms of your hands (dust them with flour if you have to), gently shape the pie making its thickness uniform and distributing the filling inside.
- Optionally, decorate the top with small pieces of dough. Be creative.
- If you did not assemble the pie on top of the baking sheet, gently transfer it to the greased baking sheet and readjust the shape if it gets distorted.
- Let the pie stand for about 20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Make several neat holes in the tops of your pie to let the steam escape. This is an optional step but if you have a lot of filling, it may be a good idea. You can use a fork for smaller holes or the tip of a knife for larger ones. The holes can become a part of your pie design.
- Put the pie in the oven and immediately drop the setting to 375°F or even 350°F (depending on the particular oven and the size of the pie – you’ll find by trial and error how your oven behaves).
- Bake until the pie develops a dark golden color and looks yummy. The filling is already cooked, so when the crust is ready, so is the pie.
- Remove the pie from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack. This is a very important step because the filling inside is still making lots of hot steam that without good air circulation around the cooling pie, the shell will become mushy, especially on the bottom. Therefore do not leave the pie on the baking sheet or place it on a hard impermeable surface during cooling.
- Cover the pie with a towel and let it stand for no less than 25 minutes before serving. If you made the pie in a dish, carefully remove it from the dish after about 10 minutes (just flip the dish over; the pie should come out), and let it cool on a rack for the remaining 15 minutes.