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March 30, 2011

Haliva—Circassian Pierogies

Strolling through the frozen isle in my supermarket, looking for ideas for my last Meltdown for March, hoping that the weather will melt down soon, too I came across pierogies. Right next to Polish pockets full of yummy I saw Chinese dim sum and egg rolls, Italian ravioli and even Turkish borek. Then I spotted Mexican empanadas, looking so sad with a frown next to frozen empanada dough disks. It dawned on me that there is variant unleavened dough wrapped around stuffing creations, fried or boiled, in almost any cuisine. I remembered our own—haliva. Whether fried or boiled—psi haliva, or with different stuffing—cheese, potatoes, meat—they are always a special treat!
I have heard that nowadays many cooks use frozen dough to make these hot pockets (oh, boy! now the jingle from the commercial ad for “Hot Pockets” is stuck in my head) and I agree that it is quite convenient. So why not make your own and freeze them?

Unleavened dough is very easy to make. All you need is water, egg, pinch of salt and flour. To be exact:
1 cup of warm water (102° F)
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
3 ½ + cups all purpose flour (you can use white or whole wheat)
  1. Put salt in the water, add egg and mix it all until well combined;
  2. On a clean dry surface pile up the flour, make a well and slowly pour water+egg mixture with one hand, starting the dough with the other;
  3. Knead the dough until semi-soft and smooth, cover and let rest for about half an hour for gluten to set.
Roll the dough in batches to 1/8˝ thick and cut out circles 5 ½˝ in diameter—I used a top of a small sauce pan.
This recipe yields about 50 disks 5 ½˝ in diameter. You can make these shapes smaller or bigger, depending on how you are going to use them. We like bigger size for fried halivas. Layer parchment paper in-between the disks or flour them generously and freeze them up to one month in a zip lock bag, 10 per each package. When needed, thaw the disks at room temperature for about one hour in the bag.

Unleavened dough is very versatile. You can stuff it and fry, boil or bake. You can make ravioli, tortellini, pierories, pelmenis, empanadas, dim sum, egg rolls, manti, borek, haliva and you can even layer it to make a lasagne dish! Not to mention it makes yummy unleavened bread.

Since this time of the year for unleavened breads and vegetarian diet, I decided to make cheese haliva this time. I made my own milk cheese.

I might sound intimidating to make home made cheese, but I can assure you it is not scary at all! All you need is a gallon of milk, a cup of white distilled vinegar, and some seasoning, if you desire.

This is what you do: bring a gallon of milk to a boil in a large stockpot. Stir constantly to prevent scorching. When milk starts to foam, turn off heat and add vinegar. Let it curd for 8 to 10 minutes, add seasoning—I used 1 teaspoon of ground savory and 1 teaspoon of salt. Line a colander with cheesecloth and pour the cheese through. You can collect the whey to use it in other dough recipes or to drink—it is quite thirst quenching—by putting a large bowl under the colander. Let the whey cool and then transfer it to a jar with lid and refrigerate. What is left in colander is your homemade cheese for haliva. Set it aside as you prepare your dough.

To assemble halivas, put one tablespoon of cheese on the disk, brush the edges with water using your finger or pastry brush, turn it and pinch sides with fork. I make large pinches because I like the crunchy edge. You can also use the dough wheel but I do not have one so fork works for me.

In a large skillet, heat ½ cup of vegetable oil—any light frying oil that does not burn, I used corn oil—and fry 3-4 haliva at a time. 2 minutes on each side. Do not let it brown; the color should be gold or orange.
Transfer the pockets onto a platter lined with paper towel to soak up the excess oil. Serve with hot tea, yogurt drink, or that whey that you have collected while making cheese.


{Note} If you don't like cheese you can substitute it with mashed potatoes. I know I will have to make potato version, too, just for Maya—my meat and potatoes girl!


  1. I can't believe how perfect and thin your dough came out! It's beautiful. I'll have to try filling my freezer with this. Thanks for making and posting!

  2. Thank you! I think the trick is to start it slowly and let the gluten set in. I don't own a pasta machine, but they say it's a great gadget to roll the dough thin, too.