Pierog: Poppyseed Strudel

Pierog traditional polish poppyseed strudel recipe

This year, the Gastrognome and I decided to make the traditional Ukranian Christmas Eve meal, start to finish, completely from scratch. In years past, his mother would purchase the items from a Ukranian church, toss it all in the oven, and call it good — and it was good, at least the one time I had it, infused with the flavor that can only come from grandmotherly handiwork. But we wanted this year to be a little more special, so we set out with the old family self-published cookbook and a week’s worth off online research in hand to make everything, from the cheese inside the pierogis to the frosting on the strudel, ourselves.

The traditional Ukranian Christmas Eve meal is a big one: it took two full 6+ hour days in the kitchen to complete. But having as I do the world’s most savage sweet tooth, none of the savory delights (more on these in a later post) could compare to what ended up becoming breakfast on Christmas morning: Pierog, more commonly known as Poppy Seed Strudel.

Processed with VSCO with h3 preset

This one wasn’t in the family cookbook, so I used Saveur’s recipe as a reference. I had never made strudel before, so I was fairly skeptical of the dough, which was a pain to work with and didn’t rise the way I thought it might. I was particularly wary of the instructions to use what seemed like a painfully small amount of dough to make two loaves rather than one impressive beast of a strudel, but in the end, the smaller size was perfect.

I assembled and baked the Pierog on December 23, and iced it on Christmas Eve Morning, expecting to eat it later that night. However, after spending two hours feasting on three varieties of pierogis, kapusta (essentially a kielbasa and kraut casserole), halupchi, mushroom gravy, and braided Paska bread, no one in the house had room for dessert. So we wrapped the strudels and ate them on Christmas day with good strong coffee from a vintage percolator by the crackling fire of the wood stove at the Gastrognome’s farmhouse.

Processed with VSCO with a4 preset

Poppyseed Strudel with Almond Icing (Adapted from Saveur)

For the Strudel

  • 6 tbsp warm milk
  • 1 package (1/4 oz) instant yeast
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1 egg + 1 yolk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 c flour
  • 1/4 c canola oil

For the Filling 

  • 3/4 c poppy seeds
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 c milk

For the Icing 

  • 1 c confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt


  1. Prepare dough: Whisk together 6 tbsp heated milk + yeast and let sit until foamy (about 10 minutes). Whisk in sugar, salt, egg + yolk, and oil, then stir in flour until dough forms. Knead until smooth (about 6 minutes), then transfer to a greased bowl, cover, and let rise for 2 hours. Punch down, return to bowl, cover and let rise for another hour.
  2. Prepare filling: Combine all filling ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until bubbly and thickened. If you’re using whole poppy seeds, pulse the cooked mixture in a food processor or blender until it forms a paste. If you can find ground poppy seeds, skip this step!
  3. Assemble + Bake: Divide dough in half. Roll each half into a long rectangle and spread half the filling over each, leaving a 1″ border around the edges. Starting from one shorter side, fold into a 3″ wide, flat loaf. Place both loaves on a baking sheet, brush with egg wash, and bake at 350F for 20 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack before icing.
  4. Icing: Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl — add more or less milk depending on your desired thickness. Use a fork to drizzle icing over cooled loaves, then garnish with additional poppy seeds.

2 responses to “Pierog: Poppyseed Strudel”

  1. I love it! It is also a traditional cake for Polish Christmas Eve 🙂


  2. castlesandlattes Avatar

    Yes! It seems like there is a lot of crossover between the Polish and Ukrainian Christmas Eve meals — I love that they both make that night all about food though 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: