Fall is a perfect season to make something from cabbage: it’s abundant and you can get it fresh from a farmer’s market or even straight from a farm – keep it in mind next time you go apple or pumpkin picking. Cabbage is very popular in Russia (and not just in Russia). The sphere of cabbage’s reach includes cabbage soup shchi (щи) made with fresh or pickled cabbage (known to some as sauerkraut but this is Russian Recipe Book, not German Recipe Book), stewed cabbage, cabbage salad and of course the cabbage pie offered here. The pie is very flavorful and nutritious. You can serve it as a main dish and chances are even your carnivorous guests coming over for dinner won’t complain about being stiffed.
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. It all depends on your preferences, the size of the cabbage head you bought and the size of your pans. Some people like pies with lots of filling and some don’t. See the photo for reference but feel free to experiment. If you’ve made too much filling, it makes an excellent side dish.
- 2 cups water
- 1 packet active dry yeast
- 8 cups (approximately) all-purpose wheat flour, sifted
- 3 eggs + 1 egg for glazing
- ¾ cups sugar
- 4 oz. unsalted butter (1 stick) + extra butter for greasing baking sheet, etc.
- ½ tsp. salt
- 2 medium sized onions
- Olive or vegetable oil
- 1 lbs carrots
- 1 medium sized head of white cabbage
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- 1 bunch dill
Make the Dough
- Make “opara” (preferment). Heat 2 cups 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 sifted 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. 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.
- Thoroughly mix eggs 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.
- Add the egg/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 bowl. Cover and leave to rise in a warm corner of your kitchen or inside the oven especially if your oven has a dough proofing mode. 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 twice not counting the initial preferment (opara) stage.
* If the dough doesn’t rise you can try to rescue it by activating another packet of dry yeast in a small amount of water (use a different brand / batch) and then kneading it into the dough. You may need to add some flour to absorb the additional water.
Make the Filling
- Wash and shred the cabbage. Throw away the core (some people like to eat it though). You can use shredded cabbage sold in plastic bags but some of the flavor and nutritional value may be lost.
- Shred the carrots (same as with shredded cabbage – use shredded carrots if you are willing to sacrifice some flavor and nutritional value).
- Peel and dice the onions.
- Sauté the carrots. Drain excess oil and set aside.
- Sauté the onions. Drain excess oil and set aside (you don’t need to change oil after sautéing carrots).
- Pour a small amount of water on the bottom of a deep frying pan, add shredded cabbage and stew on low to medium heat, first covered to get it started and later uncovered to evaporate water. Stir occasionally to avoid burning. Nonstick pans work best especially if you don’t want to use oil.
- Stew the cabbage to reduce the amount of water. The volume should shrink significantly, more than twice, and the cabbage will turn golden brown (see photo). Drain excess water to avoid flooding your pie.
- Add sautéed onions and carrots to the pan with cabbage. Add salt and pepper. Mix everything well. Check and adjust salt levels to taste.
- Wash the dill. Mince it. Throw away the stems.
- Stir in chopped dill, mix well, cover and set aside. You are now ready to make the pie.
Make the Pie
- You can use baking sheets but if you prefer taller /thicker pies like the one you see in the photos you’ll need to use deep baking dishes.
- Punch down the dough after the final 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 portions taking into account the size of the pies you are making.
- Grease baking sheets or deep baking dishes.
- Divide each dough piece into two pieces. The size ratio should be about 2:1 with the larger piece used to make the bottom of the pie.
- On a dusted work surface, roll out the larger piece into a sheet about 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick.
If you are going to bake your pie on a baking sheet, make your dough sheet rectangular in shape. If you are using a baking dish, gently press the dough sheet into it with fingers to make it conform to the shape of the dish but without thinning it too much or punching holes. Leave about 2 inches hanging over the edges.
- 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.
- 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 ½ inch 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. 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).
- Beat the remaining egg to mix the yolk and the white well.
- When the pie rises and the crust starts developing color, gently brush the egg on top of the pie. If you are afraid to get burned, you can even do this before putting the pie in the oven. Then you won’t have to worry about interrupting the bake cycle.
- 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. Keep in mind, though that the filling is moist so you need to give the dough on the bottom of the pie sufficient time to bake through.
- 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.
- Enjoy and don’t forget to leave your comments here. Your feedback is always appreciated!