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Sweet memories from my childhood that resonate in my mind are often about food and people who surrounded me. My childhood was typical to any child who grew up during the Soviet Union time period in Ukraine. Everything had to be uniform for everybody and everything had to come in order.
Life started like this:
There was your birth, then day care, followed by school (without any special needs school or even assistance), then college, then marriage, etc. Everything outside of this order was considered abnormal and not acceptable to society. And I almost forgot to mention that two children were the ideal family advertised by the government of course.
Eating the same food, buying the same ingredients, playing the same music, listening to propaganda news by the powerful brainwashing machine which began from your very early ages of life was part of our customs.
Life for me as a child was good: play, eat, school, play, etc. I was a little spoiled since I grew up like an only child, because my older sisters left the nest before my arrival.
I think it was a happy childhood and I remember how special it was for me to go fishing with my dad and walk to the farmer's market with my mom, to buy groceries. By the way back then there weren't any supermarkets. To buy all our groceries was like a full-time job.
Going with my mom to the farmer's market was always exciting because I knew I would get a ponchik (means one piece of fried pastry).
Ponchiky are street food and is a fried pastry filled with something sweet, or savory. Yummy. They are not so healthy, but they are so good.
Not too long ago, I shared with you ponchiky with a savory filling. My guest was babushka Oka (she is from Siberia), and she is shared her recipe with us, and she calls her treats pirozhky vs ponchiky.
In Ukraine pirozky usually means baked pastry and ponchiky means fried.
As you are readily aware of all the horrible things that happened almost 8 months ago in my home-country Ukraine, has caused me to constantly worry about my family and their safety. The thought of never seeing them again is terrifying. Making Ukrainian food more often these days has become a normal routine and it is a way to bring alive my family memories. The aroma and tastes of these dishes provides me with an opportunity to embrace my family and my heritage even though the oceans separate us.
The cooler weather has arrived, and that means apple season has begun! I'm a big fan of apples, so during this time of year I am constantly making something with those delectable treats from the trees. Yes, apples are popular in Ukraine, so I am further reminded of tasty apple recipes that not only speak to my tummy but to my heart as well.
Today I want to share my favorite thing to eat as a child, ponchiky with apples.
They are irresistible, crispy outside, warm, slightly sweet, soft and incredible juicy on the inside.
The raw apples, cinnamon and raisins provide the best combo of flavors. The thin dough is soft inside with a lot of apples (my husband has joked saying, "Inna it's almost too many apples"). Dusted with a little bit of powdered sugar or glazed with good quality honey (that's the way my children eat them) will make you say, "Oh my God, it's so good!" My son Thomas calls them Ukrainian donuts. My warning to you: Be careful to not eat them ALL at one sitting!
Fried in coconut oil gives you confidence that the oil is clean and hasn't been used a million times. Also, using Ghee would be my other option. As you know, I don't fry food often. My respect for the history of food leads me to believe its preparation should be done with the best ingredients that are fresh. This is the key to successful cooking. Your tummy will thank you.
WHAT DO I NEED TO MAKE THIS RECIPE?
Apples - ANY KIND is ok in this recipe. I used McIntosh Red.
Raisins - not only provide sweetness but they also help to absorb the apple juice that accumulates after being grated.
Cinnamon - apples and cinnamon are a beautiful classic combo.
Flour - all-purpose unbleached, and organic is always my first choice.
Soda - to activate the acid (kefir) and as a result it produces gases and leavens the dough.
Kefir - to activate the baking soda, please don't mistake with baking powder, you need some kind of acid, in this dough and the kefir does this job, but buttermilk or regular plain yogurt will do it.
Egg - large egg
Sugar - just one Tablespoon is all you need.
Salt - just one teaspoon.
Sour cream or creme fraiche
Oil - for the dough. I used olive oil, but really any fat of your choice, and to fry I recommend coconut oil or ghee (clarified butter).
Ideas for the fillings
Sweet: Farmers cheese
Nuts and dried fruit
Stone fresh fruit or compote
Apples or pears, fresh or dried
Fresh berries or compote
Poppy seed paste
Savory: Farmers cheese, garlic and herbs
Sautéed mushrooms and onions
Minced meat or ground (cooked)
Combination of any cooked veggies
Pureed peas and fried onions
Sausage with onions and peppers
The variations of sweet and savory fillings are unlimited; check your fridge first and feel free to use up any leftovers. It's fun to taste different results every time so be creative and use up those leftovers!
MORE UKRAINIAN RECIPES
HOW TO SERVE THEM?
It is best to eat them immediately and serve with a cup of coffee or tea. Enjoy them at breakfast or as a dessert. My children love ponchiky as an after-school snack.
Notes on the apple filling
Warning: With this recipe, you might have extra apple filling, and this is not a problem in my house. I like to repurpose leftovers. But if you don't, please reduce the filling ingredients by half. You might run out on filling, but plain ponchik is wonderful too.
Although, if you don't half the filling ingredients, here is an idea of what I would do with the leftovers:
The recipe here is for pancake batter; the only thing I've added is the filling.
Life is too short to regularly eat the same kind of pancakes, Am I right?
Let's do it...
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes
Yields: 20-24 pieces
Ingredients for the dough
1 cup plain kefir or buttermilk (room temperature or even slightly warm)
3 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting when pinching dough)
1 teaspoon pink salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon of raw cane sugar
1 large egg
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
1/4 cup of sour cream or creme fraiche
Ingredients for the filling
5-6 small apples
3/4 cup of raisins
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/3 cup of raw cane sugar (can be increased up to 1 cup)
juice from half of a lemon
Powdered sugar or honey for serving
1. To make the dough, in a bowl add flour, salt, baking soda, sugar and whisk all together.
2. Then add egg, kefir, oil and sour cream. Mix all together with a wooden spoon. Next, use your hand and form the dough into a ball. If the dough feels too soft and you can't put it together add a little bit more flour. Try to use as little as possible because softer dough makes for a lighter ponchik.
3. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for 20 minutes at room temperature.
4. Meanwhile for the filling, peel apples and quickly grate because they can easily turn a very dark brown color. Add lemon juice to prevent discoloration.
5. Add raisins, cinnamon and sugar and mix together very well.
6. To make a ponchiky, on a well-floured surface, take your dough and cut it with a dough cutter into 20 pieces. Take each piece and roll it into a circle and place 1-2 Tablespoons of apple mixture in the middle. Then pinch. Make a ball. With your fingers press a little bit but be gentle so that the filling stays all inside.
7. In hot preheated oil of 350F drop away from yourself one piece at the time. I recommend using a Dutch oven or cast-iron pan. Put in only 4 pieces at a time and cook for a few minutes per side.
8. Drain the excess oil on a paper towel, immediately dust with powdered sugar or drizzle with honey and serve!