Recipe courtesy of Damira Inatullaeva and the League of Kitchens
All young girls are taught to make dough as it’s essential to many Uzbek meals. Due to the length of time it takes to make the dough, let it rest, form into dumplings, and cook, barak are not an everyday dish. There are two ways to prepare the dumplings: fried or boiled. The fried are an appetizer, and often served at weddings (barak means prosperity and blessing). Boiled dumplings are considered more of a main dish. Damira uses a special rolling pin, called oklau, which is very long and narrow (like a broomstick handle) in order to roll out the large circles of dough.
LISTEN: Barak cooking lesson in our interview "Fate and dumplings: the Uzbek love story of Damira Inatullaeva and Sahib Aminov"
1 extra large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
3/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon sunflower or other neutral oil
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed for kneading and dusting
1 large white onion (about 1/2 pound)
3/4 pound ground beef
3/4 teaspoon table salt
2 cups sunflower or other neutral oil
1 tablespoon table salt
1 cup water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
Sour cream, for serving
Special equipment: a 3-foot long 1-inch diameter wooden dowel. The long rolling pin aids in getting the dough into the large disc.
For the dough: Crack the egg in a medium bowl. Dissolve the salt in the water and add to the egg. Whisk in the oil. Pour into the flour and mix with your hands, kneading and pinching and using your knuckles to knead. Add a few drops of water if the dough is too dry, or sprinkle with a little more flour if it’s too sticky. You want it to come together, lifting the flour from the bowl, so it’s smooth and not sticky. Cut the dough in half and form into 2 balls. Cover and let rest for 3 hours.
For the filling: Coarsely chop the onion and put into a food processor. Process into a puree. Remove any large pieces that didn’t get pureed. Add to the ground beef in a medium bowl, sprinkle in the salt, and mix together with your hands.
For rolling out the dough: Sprinkle one of the rounds with flour and press into it with your knuckles. Give a half turn and press again. Repeat for two more turns. The round will be about 1/3-inch thick and 8 inches in diameter. Sprinkle with a little more flour and start to roll it out, turning a quarter turn after a few rolls. Roll lightly, not pressing down on the dough, and move your hands back and forth on the dowel to get the disc even. Roll the bottom few inches of the dough over the dowel and roll upwards, keeping the dough around the dowel. Continue to roll the dough, turning quarter turns, until it’s a 20-inch round. This process creates a phyllo-like dough with many delicate layers. It will be thin and somewhat transparent, but sturdy. Repeat with the second round.
Use the dowel to fold the dough over on itself into a 3 1/2-inch wide stack. Cut into 3 1/2-inch squares. Unfold the long strips and place on top of each other. Cut off the ragged ends, and then cut into 3 1/2-inch squares. Put 1 teaspoon of filling in the middle of each square and fold in half. Hold the corners by your thumb and forefinger. Push your third finger into the middle of the filling and wrap the ends around that finger, which automatically turns the dough upside down, and pinch the ends closed.
At this point you can divide the number of dumplings in half and fry one half and boil the other. Or cook all of them one way – your choice.
To fry the dumplings: Heat the oil in a high-sided skillet over medium-high heat (it should come up the side about 1/3 inch). Fry in batches until the dumplings are browned on the first side, about 4 minutes, and then flip and cook until the other side is brown, 1 to 2 more minutes. Eat right away.
To boil the dumplings: Fill a large saucepan with water and add the salt. Bring to boil over high heat. Add the dumplings and, when they float to the top, after about 1 1/2 minutes, pour in the water and bring to a boil again. When the dumplings float again, they are ready, about another 1 1/2 minutes. Spread the butter on a serving plate. Top with the dumplings. Dollop with sour cream.
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