Coulibiac – Traditional Russian pie
Coulibiac or kulebyaka (кулебя́ка [ku-lee-byá-ka]) is a traditional Russian dish – a closed pie with complex filling.
This complex filling distinguishes the coulibiac from other types of pies. It can consist of several types of minced meat, vegetables, rice, eggs, and so on that are laid sequentially. The layers can be separated by thin pancakes to prevent mixing. The weight of the filling in coulibiac is usually more than a half of its total weight. To keep all this filling inside, the dough should be thin and strong at the same time. Oval and elongated shape of coulibiac guarantees better baking of the filling.
The number of filling layers is only limited by the size of the coulibiac. So, the Soviet writer Vladimir Gilyarovsky once wrote about a huge coulibiac with 12 layers of various minced meat which was served in the Moscow Merchants Club. Those who wanted to taste it had to order it one day in advance.
Coulibiac is a universal dish. Depending on the type of dough and the filling, it can be served as an appetiser, as a main dish, or instead of bread for a soup or a stew. Coulibiac is rarely served as a dessert, although recipes with sweet filling exist.
Original old Russian coulibiac was made exclusively from yeast dough with several layers of filling: all sorts of meat, cabbage, buckwheat porridge, cool eggs, dried and boiled fish, mushrooms, onions, etc. It was a dish that, like blini, was regularly eaten by all classes of society – from peasants and artisans to boyars and tsars.
In the 19th century, French chefs working in Russia contributed to the international fame of coulibiac by adapting its recipe to the requirements of “high cuisine”: they started making it from the more delicate “French” dough and added more exotic fillings.
The Moscow coulibiac of the 19th century was the most famous one (along with the sterlet soup and kalach). It became the culinary symbol of the city and was often offered as a traditional “bread and salt” welcome for guests. St. Petersburg gourmets, including A.I. Turgenev, P.A. Vyazemsky, N.V. Gogol, gave a lot of praises to the Moscow coulibiac.
Do you feel like trying it at home? Read further and we will teach you how!
How to make the coulibiac
To simplify the task, we will not try to repeat the 12-layered recipe of Moscow chefs but make a simple coulibiac with two-layer filling: meat and eggs.
After practicing at home, you can increase the number of fillings to your taste. The fillings with meat, rice, cabbage, eggs, buckwheat, mushrooms, fish, onions, and cheese are very tasty. Make sure that whatever filling you add, it is already half or fully cooked (depending on the ingredients).
Flour – 4 cups
Milk – 1 cup
Dry yeast – 12 g
Eggs – 2 pcs.
Butter – 3 tbsp.
Sugar – 1 tbsp.
Salt – 0.5 tsp
Beef – 500 g
Onion – 1 pc.
Eggs – 2 pcs.
Vegetable oil – 2 tbsp.
Salt, black pepper, parsley – to taste
Yolk – 1 pc.
1. Warm up the milk and add in it sugar and salt, dissolve dry yeast. Let the yeast ferment for a few minutes until you see the mix growing in volume.
2. Add the eggs and melted butter, begin to gradually add flour constantly stirring. First use the whisk for mixing, then remove the whisk and knead with your hands.
3. Knead a smooth and soft dough. Cover it with a towel and put it in a warm place for an hour. After an hour knead again and leave for another half an hour.
4. While the dough is getting ready, prepare the filling. Fry finely chopped onions in olive oil. Add minced meat, salt and pepper and continue frying. Cook until liquid has evaporated. Cool the filling to room temperature.
5. Add chopped parsley to the meat filling and mix.
6. Boil the eggs for the filling and, when ready, cut them in slices.
7. When the dough is ready, roll it out on the table, lay the meat filling in the middle, place the slices of eggs on top and cover it all with dough on both sides. Оne side can be cut into strips with a knife to make a pattern.
8. Bind the coulibiac with strips of the cut part, cover the surface with a yolk and put in the hot oven (180 degrees).
9. Bake the coulibiac until browning for 30-40 minutes. When ready, take it out of the oven, sprinkle with water, cover with a towel and leave for a bit to cool down and soften.
10. Cut the finished coulibiac into slices and serve.
Bon appetit! 🙂