Recipe Submitted by : Russian Recipe Book
Duration : 200 Minutes
Serves : 12
About:Vatrushka (pronounced vat-ROOSH-kah) is a small, personal-sized open pie filled with fresh cheese. Its appearance somewhat resembles that of a cheese Danish, but it is not the same pastry. Cheese-filled vatrushkas can be sweet and used as desserts or unsweetened and served with soup. When the cheese filling is sweetened, raisins or pieces of other dry or fresh fruits can be added to create a more interesting flavor. Occasionally jam, fruit preserves, mashed vegetables, or even ground meat is used as filling instead of cheese although the resulting pastry should not be really called vatrushka. Finally, there are two main methods for creating the vatrushka shape. The first method produces flatter vatrushkas with more filling relative to the amount of dough. It involves rolling the dough out into a sheet, cutting out circles or squares, and rolling up the edges around the filling in the center. The second method gives you thicker vatrushkas with relatively less filling (see the picture at the end). To make that kind of vatrushkas you would need to divide your dough into individual portions, roll each into a ball, somewhat flatten it, and then make a deep impression in the middle with the bottom of a glass or cup. You would then fill the pit in the middle with the cheese filling. As always, the listed amount of flour is approximate; there are many variables that determine the final flour content in any given batch of dough.
Ingredients for Dough
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
2 cups all-purpose wheat flour
1/4 cup milk
1/3 tsp. salt
2 tsp. unsalted butter
Ingredients for Filling
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 lb. fresh unsalted cheese (curds, farmers cheese, cottage cheese) or ricotta cheese
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
Bits of raisins of other dry fruit (apricots, prunes, etc.) – small amount and optional.
Additional butter to be used after baking.
- Prepare the dough:
- Heat the water to 110°F; add 1 Tbsp. of sugar, yeast, and ½ cup of sifted flour. Stir well, cover, and leave in a warm place for about an hour. The mix should develop a lot of bubbles and rise.
- Separate the egg white from the yolk. Save the yolk in a cup in the fridge.
- Heat milk to 110°F and add to the mix. Stir in the egg white, salt, and the remaining sugar. Gradually add sifted flour while stirring in one direction (a wooden spatula is preferred). While stirring, keep your spatula close to the center of the mixing bowl instead of rubbing the sides of the bowl with it. When the dough becomes too dense to stir with the spatula, start kneading it by hand while adding small amounts of flour at a time. The end point: A ball of dough with a smooth surface that has just enough flour to prevent it from sticking to your hands. Don’t use more flour than necessary! Note that the butter has not been used at this stage.
- Cover the dough and let it rise in a warm place until it doubles in size. After that, press it down and let it rise one more time.
- Prepare the filling:
- Melt the butter without making it hot, and then mix all the ingredients. Caveat: if you are using fresh cheese that has lots of water in it such as cottage cheese, squeeze the water out using a mesh strainer or cheesecloth.
- Assemble vatrushkas:
- Dust your work surface with flour and roll out the dough into a sheet about ¼ inch thick. Cut out circles about 5 inches in diameter (you can use a tea saucer for that).
- Note: You can cut the sheet into squares instead of circles. Squares may be less visually appealing and less traditional but they save you a good deal of time but completely utilizing the entire sheet of dough. If you opt for the round shape, you would have to re-knead and reuse the dough left between the circles. At the very least you should try to cut as many circles as possible out of each sheet of dough to maximize your work efficiency. Brush up on your geometry!
- Place 1/2 – 1 Tbsp. of filling in the middle of each circle (the exact amount depends on your vatrushka size and your personal preferences). Do not overfill! Carefully roll up the edges making neat, smooth, and even walls about 2/3 inches in height. Even make them a bit higher if you are afraid you are overfilling. Carefully smoothen the surface of the filling making sure it is even and fills the entire space.
- Turn on the oven to preheat it to 425°F – 450°F.
- Lightly grease a baking sheet or pan. You can moisten it with water instead especially if it has a non-stick surface. Arrange vatrushkas on the baking sheet some distance apart so they don’t stick together when they expand. Checkerboard arrangement will let you safely fit more vatrushkas on a single baking sheet (geometry again). Let your vatrushkas stand for about 15 minutes in a warm place.
- Meanwhile melt the butter without making it hot, and mix it with the saved egg yolk. Stir very well and remove any clumps.
- After vatrushkas have been rising for 15 minutes, carefully brush a thin layer of the egg yolk/butter mix on the top and most importantly, the dough portion of each pie. Don’t apply force or you’ll damage them!
- Let vatrushkas stand for another 10 minutes and carefully puncture the top in 2-3 places with a fork without puncturing all the way to the bottom. Place them in the oven.
- Baking time will vary but it usually takes 15-25 minutes to obtain a smooth brown crust (see the photo). You can preheat the oven to a higher temperature and then turn down the heat right after you put vatrushkas inside. Testing with a toothpick can help: the toothpick stuck into the crust should come out clean.
- After the baking is finished, immediately place vatrushkas on a wooden board or wire mesh for cooling. Brush on a small amount of melted butter for extra flavor (use a clean brush, not the same one used before baking).
- Let the vatrushkas cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. This is important for full flavor development.Enjoy!