She was born 1 April, 1911 and passed away in September six years ago. I still miss her. She was such a big part of my life. You can read about her here.
Last night we had a little family dinner in her honour. My mom, sister, sister in law and daughter cooked up a Russian dinner: a big bowl of borscht (cabbage based not beet), we made varenyky (perogies), and for dessert pyrahi.
Pyrahi are probably my favourite dessert. When strawberries and raspberries were in season, Granny and I would spend almost every week-end in her garden picking berries and then making pyrahi. Strawberry were my favourite.
I have so many memories of being out with granny in her garden. I can still picture her in her straw hat with the funny rubber worm on the rim, her old green sweatshirt, old blue addidas running shoes and her little wooden stool (which now sits next to my bed holding my current bedtime reads). She would tie an ice cream pail around her waist and pick until it was full. Her pail would always fill much faster than mine would; probably because I ate more than I saved.
We would pick a bright red tomato or two before going in for lunch. We would have amazing tomato sandwiches with toasted bread with butter and a big glob of mayonnaise and pile on very thick slices of sun warmed tomato...salt...pepper...I can still taste them.
After lunch she would pull out her glass rolling pin with the screwtop lid on the side and start the batch of pyrahi. I loved watching her make pyrahi...mostly because I knew what the afternoon snack would be. Her hands would move so fast rolling little balls of dough and rolling out circles. The strawberries and/or raspberries would be simmering on the stove making the kitchen smell amazing. She would place a dollop of berries in the centre of a round of dough and quickly spin and pinch all the way around until she had made a perfect little purse...she would let me make one or two and she would smile when each time I found it nearly impossible to make a neat little purse shape. I usually just helped rolling the balls.
I would wait patiently for them to come out of the oven...then granny would pour melted butter over the top and we would eat...yes, melted butter. My granny ate more butter than anybody I have ever met. I don't think she cooked anything with less than a half cup of butter; which is probably why all her food tasted SO good. (These days I skip the melted butter as these are just as delicious on their own).
Granny once tried to have her recipe published but the cookbook it was supposed to be in never materialized. Today on her 100th birthday, I thought I would publish it for her. They are a little finicky to make...but so yummy to eat...and so full of memories for me.
In a medium bowl mix together:
3 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
add 1/4 cup butter
work butter into flour mixture with your fingers (like working a crumble); I have also used cold butter and cut it in fine - like pastry - both work.
In a small bowl whisk 2 eggs and add 1 1/2 cups cream.
Add cream and egg mixture to flour mixture and stir to combine. Form into a soft ball.
Various fillings can be used. Granny preferred strawberry and raspberry. She also made pyrahi with hamburger and onions...but you can use your imagination...peaches, blueberries, blackberries...you get the idea.
Granny always used fresh berries and cooked them on the stovetop with a little tapioca (you can also use corn starch) and sugar if needed. Of course it was all done to taste and I unfortunately haven't made them enough to figure out the exact amounts needed. I would suggest about six cups of chopped strawberries before cooking (if you have leftovers it makes an excellent topping for blintze or pancakes). I used about a tablespoon of corn starch as a thickener.
It is best to make the filling first and let cool while you make the dough. Also preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Divide dough into 36 sections and roll each section into a ball.
With a rolling pin, roll each ball into a round...
or if you have troubles...like I do...a roundish shape is fine. You want them to be as thin as you can get them...but they still need to hold the filling without splitting open...which does happen sometimes. They take a bit of practice.
Place about a tablespoon of filling in the centre of the dough, bring the sides up and pinch into a purse shape, leaving a little air hole on top for steam to escape...
and place on a parchment or silpat lined cookie sheet. Bake in a preheated 400 degree F oven for about 20 minutes or until they are starting to turn golden brown on the tips and the bottom.
These are good warm out of the oven and just as good the next day. I only make them about once every few years, but, after this week I think I should make them more often. I want to be able to make them perfectly like granny did; maybe by the time I am a grandmother I will.
Happy 100th Birthday Granny!