Adapted from Kachka: A Return to Russian Cooking by Bonnie Frumkin Morales
You could make these by hand, using a 2-inch round cookie cutter and fashioning the dumplings into a kind of tortellini. But, truly, I cannot emphasize the power of a pelmenitsa. A pelmenitsa is faster! It produces less waste! A pelmenitsa is cheap to buy! It makes more dumplings! Let that last point sink in. It. Makes. More. Dumplings. Isn’t that always the endgame?
- MAKE THE DOUGH: In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix together the flour and salt. Add the egg, then slowly drizzle in the water. Mix until a dough forms, then knead for 10 minutes, until the dough comes together into a smooth, elastic ball. If you don’t have a mixer, you can do this by hand, but knead for 20 minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap or place in a covered container, and let rest at room temperature for at least 1 hour.
- MAKE THE FILLING: Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix until the mixture comes together. You want the fat to emulsify, which will incorporate all of the ice water and onion liquid and coat the mixture with a nice fat-smeared sheen. If you stop the mixer and grab a pinch, it will stick to your fingers with a very tacky feel. Under- or overprocessing will lead to dry meat, so try to this this nice sticky sweet spot—stop and check. The entire process should take 1 to 2 minutes tops with the paddle attachment (longer by hand). Refrigerate until ready to assemble. The filling is best made the same day you assemble the dumplings but can be made up to a day ahead, if needed.
- ASSEMBLE THE DUMPLINGS: Get that pelmenitsa ready! Divide the dough into 8 equal balls, and grab a spray bottle of water (or a dish of water and a pastry brush), a straight-sided rolling pin, and a rimmed baking sheet dusted with flour. Liberally dust the top of the pelmenitsa with flour. Take one ball (leaving the rest covered with a dish towel so they don’t dry out), and roll it out on a lightly floured countertop until it’s slightly larger than your mold. Drape the rolled-out dough over your pelmenitsa, so that it reaches over the ends of the mold. Press or pat the dough lightly so that an imprint of the mold below is made on the dough.
- With two spoons, or a pastry bag fitted with a wide tip, scoop or pipe a little blob of filling into each of the 37 divots. You’ll need just a heaping teaspoon or so in order to still be able to seal things (don’t get carried away with the amount of filling!). When you have piped filling into all the slots, roll out a second piece of dough until it’s slightly larger than your mold. Lightly spray some water over the top of your filled pelmeni, or lightly brush the exposed dough with water if you don’t have a spray bottle, and then gently place the second round of dough over the top. Firmly roll over the top with your trolling pin, several times as needed, to seal the pelmeni and cut the dough between them. Turn the pelmenitsa upside-down over the prepared baking sheet and nudge the filled dumplings out, separating them with your fingers, if needed. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. The dumplings can be cooked or frozen for future use (freeze on the baking sheet so they don’t stick, then transfer to sealed bag).
- SERVE THE DUMPLINGS: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add about 20 dumplings per person. Adjust the heat so the boil is healthy but not too vigorous. Stir a few times as they cook. You don’t want the dumplings sticking to the bottom of the pot! Cook until the dumplings rise to the surface, and then for 1 more minute. Should take about 4 to 5 minutes. If you’re not certain when they’re ready, remove one and cut it in half. If the filling is cooked through, the dumplings are ready.
- Meanwhile, prepare a mixing bowl large enough to hold however many pelmeni you are cooking. For each serving of pelmeni, add 1 tablespoon butter, 1 teaspoon white vinegar and a pinch of salt. When the dumplings are cooked, skim them out of the water with a slotted spoon or drain them in a colander, shaking off any residual water. Place them in the prepared bowl and toss. The softened butter and vinegar will come together with the heat of the dumplings and the motion of stirring, emulsifying into a sauce. Keep moving the pelmeni around in the bowl until all of the butter is incorporated. Either keep them in the bowl or transfer them to a serving platter. Top with a healthy amount of sour cream or crème fraîche and then the herbs.
Scott Hocker is a writer, editor, recipe developer, cookbook author, and content and editorial consultant. He has worked in magazines, kitchens, newsletters, restaurants and a bunch of other environments he can’t remember right now. He has also been the editor in chief of both liquor.com and Tasting Table.