The Recipe

Russian Beef Buns

As Alla Zagoruyko from Tver, Russia, taught Lindsay Sterling in Yarmouth, ME, January 2014

Makes: 14 appetizers
Serves:  7-14 people as an appetizer or snack
Active time: 1 1/2 hr
Total time: 4 hours

For dough:

2 cups flour + 1 cup for dusting
1 tsp active dry yeast
scant (slightly less than) 1 cup milk
1/4 tsp salt
3 tsp sugar
1 stick butter
48 oz. vegetable oil for frying

For filling*:

1/3 pound ground beef
1/4 yellow onion, minced
1/3 tsp salt
pepper to taste

*Other common fillings are hardboiled eggs, scallions and butter; mashed potatoes and scallions; and raspberry jam.


Large saute pan
electric mixer
mixer bowl
dough hook
Hand held blender stick (optional)
mixing spoon
2nd saute pan
Glass measuring cup
ceramic or glass bowl
paring knife
2 forks
paper towels
large serving bowl/platter

Sift flour into the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. (Hold sifter 12 inches above bowl so the flour catches air on its way down to the bowl). Fit bowl into stand mixer, and install dough hook. Add yeast to sifted flour. Mix on lowest setting. Warm milk in microwave (about 30 seconds), and then melt butter in microwave (about 45 seconds). Stir salt and sugar into the milk to dissolve. Pour the milk into flour. Continue to mix on lowest setting. Add melted butter to flour. Mix on low to incorporate ingredients. Stop and use spatula if necessary to scrape flour off sides and bottom of mixing bowl. Turn mixer on medium speed (#4 on KitchenAid) and let mix for 12 minutes or until dough is smooth.

While the dough is turning, saute meat and onions (preferably with no oil in a nonstick pan to eliminate extra juices from filling) on medium heat with lid on. Once meat is cooked throughout (no pink color left) lift the lid off and cook until juices evaporate. Season meat with 1/3 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp freshly cracked pepper. Taste to make sure you have enough salt and pepper. If you have a hand blender (buerre mixer), grind cooked meat to a slightly more fine texture.

When dough is smooth and pulls cleanly off the sides of the mixing bowl, turn mixer off. Dust hands with flour, punch the dough down in the bowl 6-8 times and then pull dough away from the sides of the bowl into a mound in the center. Cover the mixing bowl with a clean towel. Place bowl in a warm, quiet, still place, wrapped in blankets and buried in pillows for two hours or until dough doubles in size.

Fill deep saute pan 1 1/2" deep with vegetable oil and heat on medium high. Dust cleared countertop generously with flour. Pour dough onto floured surface. Push dough around floured surface so it's not sticky. Air kiss the dough and say, "With love and respect." Pull a small pinch of dough from the mound and sever it with a paring knife. Gather edges under the center of the mass so you have a smooth ball. The ball should be about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Add pieces of dough or cut pieces of and reform so you have that size ball. Flatten sphere and roll out into a disc with a rolling pin until the disc is about 2 1/2" inches diameter (no need for a ruler - these are just for eyeball reference!) and 1/2" thick. Continue making 14 discs out of the dough.

Spoon 1 tsp meat filling into the center of each disk. Pull the disc up around the meat like you're holding a taco. Pinch the dough closed over the meat five or six times with your fingers in one direction. Then pinch the seam 5 or six times perpendicular to the first pinches so the filling is completely sealed inside. Be sure the seal is secure, otherwise they will pop open when you're cooking them. Place seam side down on the floured countertop. Line a sheet pan or platter with paper towels and put it next to the heating oil.

Once oil is hot (but not smoking -- that's too hot) gently put one pirogi in to see if the oil is hot enough. If it just sits there and nothing happens, remove it and wait for oil to get hotter. If the pirogi begins to bubble and swell, then place as many pirogis in the pan as will fit loosely. As they puff up, keep rolling them over with a fork so that they rise evenly above the oil. (If you don't turn them, they become lopsided and it becomes nearly impossible to get top side to go into the oil.) When pirogis are brown all over remove them from oil to cool and drain in a bowl or platter lined with paper towels. Serve hot.

Copyright Lindsay Sterling 2014