There's a young man in Argentina who knows the perfect pronounciation for two Estonian words. One of them is 'sünnipäevakringel' and the other is 'seenepirukad'. The first is a large sweet yeast kringel served for birthdays, and the other means 'mushroom pies/pierogi'. He really liked both of them, so he made a special effort and learned these two words, enabling him to ask for them. That's quite an accomplishment, as it's not the easiest language to master, apparently..
This Argentine guy said that these remind him of empanadas. I don't know about that - these are as Estonian to me as you can get. You can make one large pie (in which case you call it 'seenepirukas', of course:) or medium-sized ones. I like to make them small (as you could figure from the title of this post), so you could finish them in two-three bites. That's a lot of extra work, as small dough circles are more fiddly to fill and pinch (and as you can see from the picture, I could still improve my pinch-the-edges-technique, even after all these years). The soft yeast dough encases a flavoursome and salty mushroom filling, which I simply adore..
The picture below is taken in early November (I mentioned making these during my apple cake season) . I've made them a few times since. Most recently I served them at a party last Thursday, when I used half of the dough for small Turkish lamb and pomegranate 'pizzas' - I'll write about these scrumptious things soon..
And yes, you need to knead this dough. I know that every self-respecting food blogger has recently been at least trying to make the new wonderbread that you don't have to knead. I haven't and as I find kneading dough rather relaxing, I doubt if I will..
Seenepirukad or wild mushroom pies, Estonian style
Adapted from Eesti rahvatoite by Silvia Kalvik (1981)
500 ml lukewarm milk
25 grams fresh yeast
a generous pinch of sugar
1 tsp salt
2 to 3 Tbsp butter, softened
1.2 to 1.5 litres plain flour
300-400 ml chopped mushrooms (if using salted mushrooms, then soak first)
1 Tbsp butter
1 small onion, minced
dill, either fresh or dried
First make the dough. Crumble the fresh yeast into a large warm bowl, add the sugar and let it stand for 5 minutes, stirring through, until the yeast 'melts'. Add milk, salt, most of the flour and stir until combined. Knead in the soft butter, adding more flour, if necessary. Knead for 5-10 minutes, depending on your patience. You should end up with a soft dough that doesn't stick too much onto your hands. Cover the bowl with a cling film and leave to double in size in a warm draught-free place. That should take about an hour. (If you're not ready to bake after an hour, then knock the dough back when it has rised and leave to rise again for a bit more).
For the filling, chop the mushrooms finely and fry in melted butter together with the chopped onions for about 5 minutes. Cool, add some sour cream to combine (a Tbsp or two is enough, you don't want the filling to be too wet). Season with salt - the amount depends on whether you're using fresh or salted mushrooms - and lots of dill.
When ready to bake, then take about a third of the dough at a time, and roll it out on a floured tabletop until about 3 mm thick. Cut out small circles (I use a 5 cm glass), put about a teaspoonful of filling in the middle*, and pinch the edges firmly together, so you have half-moon shaped pies.
Put onto a baking sheet, brush with egg and bake at 200C for 15 minutes, until the pies are lovely golden brown. Transfer to a metal rack to cool. If you prefer your pierogi really soft, then cover with a clean towel to keep the moisture in the pies.
* If you have some mushroom filling left over, then add some extra sour cream and use as a salad on crostini or vol-au-vents or on rye bread.