Today in our Russian section we present “Kulebyaka”. This traditional pie is an ideal dish for special occasions and it makes a perfect brunch. My daughter helped me to make it – we’ve been preparing dough, making crêpes used in stuffing and decorated the pie together. As we were cooking, I have shared with her the story of this dish and how it should be served. I hope you are interested too, so here it is.
“Kulebyaka” (or “kulebyak”) is a closed pie with complex staffing; it is traditional for Russian cuisine. It is mentioned by many writers in their novels, for example by Gogol in his “Dead Souls”. The main distinction of kulebyaka from other pies is its complex staffing. Often it’s made from few types of ground meat or fish, eggs, rice, cabbage, mushrooms, layered with crêpes to prevent different types of staffing from getting mixed up. When you cut the pie every slice of it has every kind of staffing. Usually, kulebyaka is made from yeast-based dough, but puff pastry or fresh dough also can be used.
Traditionally, decorations are dough made “pigtails” or “branches” placed on the top of the pie which is greased with egg after being decorated. Few tiny holes made with the fork help to keep the density of the pie consistent across all layers while it is being baked.
Kulebyaka is served cut into pieces in such a manner that every piece would have all layers of staffing. It goes well with melted butter or sour cream if the pie is the main dish, but if served with soup butter or sour cream is not used.
This is very simple kulebyaka, it has only 2 layers, usually, there are 4 or 5 layers of stuffing.
- For the dough:
- 4 cups (500g) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp active dry yeast
- 2 Tbsp. sugar
- 1 cup (200ml) warm milk
- 2 eggs
- 7 Tbsp. butter (100g), melted
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 egg yolk for egg wash to finish the pie
- For the crêpes:
- 1 cup (200ml) milk
- 2 eggs
- 1 Tbsp. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- For the fish stuffing:
- 1 1/2 lb. skinned salmon fillet
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
- 2 Tbsp. dry white wine
- 1 tsp thyme
- For the mushroom stuffing:
- 1 cup cooked rice
- 1 tsp. salt, plus more, to taste
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
- 1 medium chopped yellow onion
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 lb. mushrooms (of your choice), brushed clean and thinly sliced
- 2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and finely chopped
To make a dough: In a small bowl, stir together the yeast, sugar, and warm milk; put it aside for about 10 minutes until the mixture starts to foam. In a large bowl, combine the flour with salt. Add eggs, melted butter and yeast mixture. Knead until dough is well mixed. Cover with an overturned bowl or loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for 1 hour.
To make the crêpes: Brush a crêpes pan with a little oil and heat. Ladle in a little bate and tilt the pan to cover the bottom thinly. Cook the crêpe for 1 minute. As soon as little holes appear all over the surface, turn the crêpe over and cook the other side for 30 to 40 seconds. Transfer to a plate and cook the rest of the batter, stacking the crêpes interleaved with waxed paper as they are cooked. You should have 7-8 crêpes.
To poach salmon: fill medium shallow saucepan or skillet with enough water to cover about two-thirds of the salmon fillet. Bring water to a gentle boil over medium heat. Add the wine, thyme, salt, pepper and salmon, cook 10 minutes or until salmon just begins to flake. Remove salmon from poaching water and cool. Flake into bite-sized pieces.
To make a mushroom stuffing: In a deep, ovenproof sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add chopped onion, garlic, the salt, and pepper. Cook until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Add chopped mushrooms and sauté a little more 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the cooked rice and cooked eggs. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper, sprinkle with the fresh dill.
Assembling the kulebyaka: On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough. Cover with the 3 cold crêpes. Down the middle, lay fish stuffing. Cover with 2-3 cold crêpes. On a top lay mushroom stuffing and cover with the rest of the crêpes. Fold the crêpes over and brush the edges of the dough with egg wash (1 egg yolk + 2 Tbsp. milk or water + a pinch of salt). Fold one of the longer sides of the dough over crêpe-wrapped stuffing. Brush the top of the dough with egg wash, then bring the other side up over the first side. Fold up the ends. Turn the kulebyaka over onto a baking sheet and start your decorations.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350F/ 180C.
After decorations, brush kulebyaka with egg wash completely. Bake in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes. Serve the kulebyaka whole at the table and slice with a very sharp knife. You can serve it hot or at room temperature.