Between throwing punches for cardio boxing classes and leading cycling sessions, 125 LIVE Executive Director Sylwia Bujak Oliver is busy preparing delicacies that give a nod to her Polish heritage. What’s she cooking up? Pierogies. Her pierogi-making class will take place at 5 p.m. Thursday, at 125 LIVE.

“The closest polish restaurant is in Chicago,” Bujak Oliver said, “so opportunities to try genuine Polish cuisine in Rochester don’t happen too often.”

Pierogies are half-circle dumplings filled with either a savory or sweet filling. What makes them special is their unleavened dough. Pierogies are usually boiled or pan-fried, and sometimes both.

Bujak Oliver has been the executive director of 125 LIVE for a little more than two years.

The facility is designed to focus on physical, social and intellectual opportunities for those 18 and older. In addition to amenities like a clay studio with wheels and kilns, the building also has an educational kitchen, where Bujak Oliver will reveal the intricacies of making pierogies.

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Bujak Oliver said the dumplings are traditionally a Christmas dish. Her earliest memories of them “involve family gatherings and holiday times.”

On Christmas Eve, her family has the tradition of making wild mushroom- and sauerkraut-filled pierogies. Perhaps because of this, her favorites are of the savory variety.

“I never liked sweet filling, even though it is very popular,” she said.

The trick to getting pierogies just right is in the dough. Bujak Oliver said she’ll spill all her secrets about what makes a great pierogi dough at the class. Though she said the process is messy and time-consuming, she promises that it's “so worth it.” She also said pierogies are at their best when topped with bacon and onions.

Pierogi in the making, by Sylwia Bujak Oliver (contributed photo)
Pierogi in the making, by Sylwia Bujak Oliver (contributed photo)

To reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, participants must wear masks and space out at tables to maintain social distancing. They will also need to have their temperatures taken before entering the building. As an added precaution due to the pandemic, Bujak Oliver will be the only one preparing the dumplings.

“Historically, everyone helped with preparations and learned hands-on,” she said. “This time, I will be the only one preparing the meal, whilst others will observe.”

If you go

What: Pierogi Day with Sylwia

When: 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 8

Where: 125 LIVE, 125 Elton Hills Drive NW, Rochester

Cost: $10 for members, $20 for non-members. Register by calling 507-287-1404.

Potato Pierogi

507 Editor Anne Halliwell’s family makes potato and cream cheese-filled pierogies around Christmastime. This recipe makes about 70 dumplings, but can be halved or frozen freeze the pierogies on cookie sheets, then transfer into bags once solid.

Ingredients

1 large egg

2 tablespoons sour cream

1 cup milk

4½ to 5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted, plus more for plastic wrap

4½ pounds (about 8 medium) russet potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters

2 tablespoons salt, plus more for seasoning

6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

Pepper

2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal

Dough

Whisk together egg and sour cream in a medium bowl. Whisk in milk and 1 cup water until smooth. Gradually stir in 3½ cups flour, a half-cup at a time, until a very sticky dough forms.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Knead, slowly working in 1 cup of flour (using a bench scraper, if you have one). Continue to knead, working in up to an additional ½ cup flour. Stop when the dough is elastic and no longer sticky, 8 to 10 minutes. Put the dough in a lightly floured bowl, covered with buttered plastic wrap, and let it rest.

Filling

Cover potatoes with cold water in a large pot. Bring to a boil, adding 2 tablespoons salt. Cook until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot — cook until dry, about 2 more minutes. Mash the potatoes, and add 4 tablespoons butter and the cream cheese, until well incorporated.

Assembly

Lay a clean linen towel on a large, rimmed baking sheet; sprinkle cornmeal on top. Divide dough into 4 pieces. Working one at a time, roll the dough out onto a well-floured surface until about ⅛-inch thick. With a 2½-inch round cutter or drinking glass, cut out as many circles from each as possible.

Mold filling into 1½-inch balls (one heaped tablespoon) and place in the center of each circle. Gently fold dough over filling and pinch edges with thumb and forefinger to form a well-sealed half-moon. Pierogies with gaps in the dough will not remain sealed when cooked. Transfer to baking sheet.

Cook

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Working in batches, add pierogies to boiling water. When they rise to the top (about 5 minutes), boil for a minute more, then remove with a slotted spoon. Serve drizzled with melted butter and/or caramelized onions.