It’s Slovak Sunday again, and I have a real treat for you. When first I saw this recipe in The Anniversary Slovak-American Cook Book, it didn’t really jump out at me. But then I looked a little more closely, and I realized that this is a recipe for a naan-like bread stuffed with MASHED POTATOES. It’s like a pierogi transformed into a pizza. You’re welcome.
I had never heard of pagach before making this, which is really a shame since it is so addictive and tasty. Since I had no idea what the finished bread was supposed to look like, I did a quick search on the interwebs. I found that it looks a lot like naan, and is common in Slavic countries, especially during times like Lent when lots of people observe a meatless diet. This particular recipe makes three giant loaves, so you could definitely make a full meal of it. We cut it into triangles and dipped it in sour cream, pierogi style, and had no regrets.
The dough for these pagach is similar to the dough for the kolac I made a couple of months ago. The first step is sprinkling some yeast over warm water. While that bubbles, warm some milk in the microwave or on the stovetop, then pour that over butter and sugar so that the butter melts. Once the milk has cooled to lukewarm, add in the yeast and water mixture.
Meanwhile, put the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add in the egg yolks and the milk-yeast-butter-sugar mixture, and stir everything together with a wooden spoon.
Pour the dough out onto a floured counter, and knead until you get a smooth dough that springs back when you poke it.
Place it in a buttered or oiled bowl (I washed out the bowl I used to mix everything), cover it with a kitchen towel or loosely with plastic wrap, and set it in a warm spot until it has doubled in bulk, which should take between 90 minutes and 2 hours. While it rises, make your mashed potatoes by peeling and dicing three russet or yellow potatoes, boiling them for fifteen minutes, then mashing them together with three tablespoons of browned butter.
Now it’s time to divide the dough into three roughly equal parts. Let them rise for 10 minutes, then preheat your oven to 375°F.
Take one of the dough balls and put it on a floured counter with room to roll it out. Flatten it with the back of your hand, and place about a third of your mashed potatoes in the center.
Fold the outsides of the dough up to the center, completely enclosing the mashed potatoes. The end result should look similar to a coin purse. Repeat with the other two dough balls, and let them rise another ten minutes.
Roll each ball out gently until it’s about 12 inches around. When you roll, really be gentle so that the mashed potatoes stay inside the dough. If any mashed potatoes start peeking through, cover them with a little extra flour.
Place one of the loaves either on a pizza stone or on the back of a baking pan. Bake it for ten minutes, then take it out of the oven, flip it over, and bake it another ten minutes. Once it comes out, brush it first with browned butter and then with heavy cream. If you want a sweeter dough, sprinkle it with sugar. Flip over the loaf and repeat on the other side.
This pagach is delicious while it’s still warm, but it also holds up well into the next day. You could use it as a side dish, a hearty snack, or as a meal on its own. It’s savory with just a hint of sweetness, with a surprise of buttery mashed potato flavor in each bite.
- 1 cup milk
- 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast (1 packet)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 cup warm water
- 5 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 3 large yellow potatoes
- 3 tablespoons butter
- Peel and dice the potatoes. Place in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about fifteen minutes. Drain and cool the potatoes.
- Brown the butter in a small saucepan.
- Mash the potatoes, then, in small quantities, use a spoon to push the potatoes through a sieve into a medium bowl to make them creamy. Add the browned butter and mix together well. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over a half cup of warm water. Put butter and sugar in a medium bowl. Heat milk in a small saucepan or in the microwave until hot, then pour ½ cup of it over the butter and sugar. Cool the mixture to lukewarm, then add the yeast and water mixture.
- Add the flour and salt to a large bowl. Add the eggs and yeast mixture, plus the remaining milk and water. Stir the dough together, then turn it out onto a floured counter and knead until the dough is smooth.
- Cover the dough with a kitchen towel or loosely with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until doubled in bulk, 1.5 to 2 hours.
- Turn the dough out on a floured countertop and divide it into three roughly equal portions. Cover each portion with a kitchen towel and let it rise for ten minutes. One piece at a time, take a piece and flatten it in the center with the back of your hand. Place the filling in the center and draw up and pinch the edges together. Let each piece of dough rise for another ten minutes while you preheat the oven.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. After ten minutes, turn each dough piece over and carefully pat it with your hands and roll it out slowly, being careful not to have the filling break through, until it has a 12 inch diameter.
- Place one piece of dough on an upside-down baking pan and bake for ten minutes. Take the pan out and flip over the dough. Bake another ten minutes, then remove from the oven and wrap with a damp cloth and place it on a cooling rack.
- Take the dough out of the damp cloth and brush it lightly with heavy cream, then with browned butter on both sides. Sprinkle with sugar.
- Repeat steps 6 & 7 with the other two doughs.