I thought I’d written everything one needs to know about varenyky. I’ve prepared the Ukrainian dumplings with potatoes, cabbage, butternut squash, and artichoke. I’ve eaten them at countless restaurants reviewed on these pages, I’ve even tried some at a dumpling festival. So what did I forget? I forgot to blog a dessert version! So here are my supercharged cherry varenyky. As is my way, they have a few twists:
- I’m using a different dough than what I’ve posted so far, less Italian and more Ukrainian, trading some of the eggs and egg yolks for whole milk and water.
- For the filling, some cherry varenyky recipes just toss cherries in flour or corn starch and stop there. For some reason it seems to me there should be more to it than that. I came up with the idea of making a custard similar to French clafoutis, and the result is pretty awesome.
- When varenyky contain only cherries (sometimes with the pits) and sugar, they require dough rolled not too thin, as it must support the weight of the fruit without breaking. But since I’m using small, cooked, pitted sour cherries, I find I don’t have that constraint. I can roll the dough much thinner, which I like best.
- I’m maximizing the cherry flavor by using cherries everywhere, both sour and sweet. Cooked in cherry kompot, the dumplings turn a beautiful reddish pink. I use cherry purée, a by-product of the kompot, both on the plate and in the custard. The custard also contains cherry brandy, and the varenyky are garnished with some more sour cherries. It can be difficult to find sour cherries when they’re not in season. I’m generally against anything canned, unless you canned it yourself, so try the frozen department.
- I’m serving the varenyky with goat cheese ice cream. Why goat cheese? Well, I’ve already done kefir and sour cream, so why not? The recipe is once again adapted from Frozen Desserts, but we have the added challenge of serving the ice cream on hot food. Adding some xanthan gum and gellan retards the melting just enough to keep a nicely shaped scoop on top of the dumplings, with a little bit of the cream mixing into the cherry sauce. I think the resulting slight chewiness goes well with the goat cheese flavor. Some other mixes of hydrocolloids can work too; feel free to experiment. You can buy them here.
- Tarragon, in the form of crispy deep-fried leaves, goes great with the cherries and goat cheese. I’ve also tried adding candied black olives, and they work in small amounts, so it’s up to you to decide if you want to add a fourth flavor (a not very Ukrainian one) to the dessert.
Now all I’ve got left to do are varenyky with plums, apples, or tvorog. I’m warning you: next time, I’m making feta ice cream!
Sour cherries in syrup
Yields slightly less than a pint jar (enough for 6 servings)
360 g pitted sour cherries (about 450 g with pit)
55 g sugar
5.5 g lemon juice
30 g water
- Place the cherries in a bowl, and toss with the sugar and lemon juice. Let sit for about 4 hours, stirring every hour or so.
- Transfer to a saucepan, and add the water. Bring to a simmer, then cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, and reserve.
- If you want to prepare the sour cherries ahead of time, transfer to a sterilized pint jar, seal, and process in a 95 C / 200 F water bath for 15 minutes; let cool, and refrigerate.
- Note that this preparation is used in three places below: as part of the filling, in the liquid used to cook the varenyky, and to garnish the plates.
Goat cheese ice cream
Yields about 400 g (6 servings)
410 g whole milk
90 g sugar
25 g egg yolk (about 1 1/2 yolks)
1 g xanthan gum
0.25 g gellan
125 g fresh, soft goat cheese, crumbled
75 g heavy cream
2.5 g lemon juice
1 g salt
- In a small saucepan, bring the milk and half of the sugar to a simmer, then remove from the heat.
- In a bowl, whisk the egg, xanthan gum, gellan, and remaining sugar to a pale ribbon. Slowly add the milk mixture, beating constantly.
- Return to the saucepan, and cook over very low heat to 85 C / 185 F, stirring constantly. Remove the custard from the heat, and mix in the crumbled goat cheese until smooth. Transfer to a container over a bowl of ice water, let cool, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
- Mix the heavy cream, lemon juice, and salt into the custard, and chill in the freezer for 30 minutes.
- Churn in an ice cream maker, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to the freezer for at least 8 hours before serving.
Cherry kompot and cherry purée
Yields about 900 g kompot and 300 g purée (both enough for over 6 servings)
600 g pitted sweet cherries (about 750 g with pit)
750 g water
150 g sugar
0.4 g ground cinnamon
0.3 g ground nutmeg
- Place the cherries, water, and sugar in a saucepan, cover, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat, and let cool.
- Drain the cherries in a chinois, pushing lightly to extract some more liquid from the fruit. Reserve the liquid — this is the kompot.
- Transfer the cherries to a blender, add the cinnamon and nutmeg, and purée until smooth. Pass through a chinois, and reserve.
Yields slightly over 6 servings
240 g AP flour
2 g salt
25 g egg (about 1/2 egg)
18 g egg yolk (about 1 yolk)
60 g whole milk
50 g water
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fit with the paddle attachment, place half of the flour, plus the salt, egg, egg yolk, milk, and water. Mix over low speed until homogeneous, scraping down the sides with a spatula. Add the rest of the flour, and mix again until it forms a smooth paste.
- Transfer to a floured surface, and knead with your hands for about 3 minutes. If necessary, add a little bit more flour until the dough doesn’t stick. Wrap in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes.
Yields about 6 servings
40 g egg (about 1 egg)
30 g egg yolk (about 2 yolks)
40 g sugar
30 g flour
80 g cherry purée
12 g cherry brandy
3/4 of sour cherries in syrup, drained
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fit with the whisk attachment, mix the egg, egg yolk, and sugar to a ribbon. While mixing, successively add the flour, cherry purée, and cherry brandy. Transfer to a sous-vide pouch, vacuum-seal, and cook in a 74 C / 165 F water bath for 30 minutes.
- Transfer to a bowl of ice water, and let cool. Take the custard out of the pouch, transfer to a blender, and process at medium speed until smooth.
- Pour into a bowl, mix in the sour cherries, and reserve.
Yields 6 servings (36 varenyky)
canola oil (for deep-frying)
12 tarragon leaves
flour (for dusting)
syrup from sour cherries
about 120 g cherry purée
goat cheese ice cream
remaining drained sour cherries, room temperature
- Heat some canola oil to 150 C / 300 F in a saucepan or a deep-fryer.
- Deep-fry the tarragon leaves for a few seconds, then drain on paper towels. The leaves should be bright green and crispy.
- Cut the varenyky dough into 4 parts. Using a pasta machine, roll the first quarter of the dough to the thinnest setting. Cut into 8 cm diameter discs (you should have about 9 discs). Place some of the varenyky filling (about 3 cherries and some custard) in the middle on each disc. Fold into half-moon shapes, and seal the edges by pinching with your finger (no need to use water or eggwash). Transfer to a tray dusted with flour.
- Repeat with the remaining dough.
- In a large saucepan, bring the cherry kompot and syrup from the sour cherries to a boil.
- Proceeding in a few batches, and keeping the cherry kompot simmering, add the varenyky, and cook until the dough is very soft. Transfer to a plate to cool slightly, ladle a couple spoonfuls of kompot on top, and let rest for a minute or two (since the varenyky are topped with ice cream, we want them to be warm but not steaming hot).
- Heat the cherry purée in a small saucepan.
- On each plate or bowl, make a small puddle of cherry purée, and arrange 6 varenyky on top. Add a scoop of goat cheese ice cream. Garnish with two tarragon leaves and some whole sour cherries. Serve immediately.