A vatrushka is a Russian/Ukrainian open-faced pastry or tart. Made with various doughs and pastries and dozens of fillings, vatrushka are a traditional Russian/Ukrainian tea-time treat. After some reading, I learned it seems the most popular type is a yeast bun topped with sweet cottage cheese filling. I first ran across these treats on Pinterest, and decided I had to make some.
I drastically changed the recipe, so much that my Tart Cherry Filled Sweet Buns more resemble a danish than vatrushka, but the intention was there to recreate the Ukrainian pastry. The original recipe substituted fresh sweet cherries sprinkled with sugar for the cottage cheese filling. I had a few bags of tart cherries in my freezer from last year that I have been itching to use up, so I decided to go that route.
I made a half batch of my quick Sour Cherry Pie Filling using those frozen cherries, and let me tell you, this stuff never disappoints me. I could eat it by the spoonful, sour cherry pie is hands down my favorite pie. EVER. Halving the recipe pie filling recipe created enough filling to fill all 16 buns, and there was a little leftover, which I may or may not have eaten directly out of the pan. If you decide to skip making your own tart cherry filling, I think 1 can of cherry pie filling is the perfect amount.
We really need to address something before I go any further here. The crumb topping. Before I decided to go all in and douse the entire thing in a cream cheese glaze I tried a bun and I found the crumb topping didn’t really add much to the sweet bun experience. The topping in the original recipe isn’t quite a streusel, and to be honest I am not sure it added much to the pastry as a whole, granted I used half of the amount of topping (because I wanted to be able to see the pretty cherry filling). It was really dry and lacking something (maybe cinnamon?) Either way, I decided to remedy this with a cream cheese glaze. If you decide to skip the crumb topping I don’t think you will be missing much, in fact when I make this again I will most likely opt out of the crumb topping also.
The cream cheese glaze is what pushes my pastry over the edge, and makes it more danish like, although it doesn’t seem to be a stretch to compare a vatrushka to a danish. The yeast dough bun is incredibly light and fluffy and perfectly complemented by the tart cherry filling and cream cheese glaze.
Tart Cherry Filled Sweet Buns
Sweet Roll Dough
- 1 cup warm milk, about 100˚F
- 1/2 Tablespoon active dry yeast
- 4 Tablespoon granulated sugar, divided
- 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour, divided, plus more for dusting
- 1 egg, room temp
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg , beaten with fork (for egg wash)
Tart Cherry Filling
- 2 cups sour cherries, packed in water or individually quick frozen
- 6 Tablespoons sugar
- 1 Tablespoon tapioca flour
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon butter, optional
- 4 Tbsp butter, cold, diced
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1/2 cup flour
Cream Cheese Drizzle
- 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons milk
Prepare the Tart Cherry Filling
Drain the cherries, reserving 1/3 cup of water. Or defrost frozen cherries reserving 1/3 cup of cherry juice. Place the reserved liquid in small sauce pan.
Whisk the sugar and tapioca in a small bowl together until well combined.
In the saucepan, stir the combined mixture of the tapioca and sugar into the cherry juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened. Gently stir in cherries almond extract, salt and optional butter. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Prepare the Sweet Bun Dough:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, add 1 cup warm milk and sprinkle the top with 1/2 Tbsp yeast and let sit 5-7 minutes for the yeast to activate.
Stir in 1/2 cup flour and 2 Tbsp sugar and whisk until blended, then let rise in a warm 100˚F oven for 20 minutes (or at room temp 30-45 mins).
Whisk in 1 egg, remaining 2 Tbsp sugar, 1 Tbsp melted butter and 1/2 tsp salt. Now using the dough hook, add remaining 2 3/4 cups flour, 1 cup at a time, allowing it to fully incorporate between each addition. Add the last bit of flour slowly. You know the dough is just right when it is no longer sticking to the walls of the mixer bowl. Do not add more flour past this point. Note: humidity can affect how flour is absorbed, so add flour until it’s not sticking to the mixing bowl. Continue mixing your dough with the dough hook on low speed 15 minutes.
Cover your mixing bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm 100˚F oven for 1 hour (or at room temp 2 hours) . Be patient, your dough should triple in volume.
Transfer the dough to a good non-stick surface and cut it in half. Working with one piece at a time, cut each piece in half, then in half again. Repeat with the rest of the dough to make a total of 16 pieces of dough. Shape the dough into balls.
Butter a baking dish (either 2 round cake pans or one (9×13) rimmed baking pan). Place balls of dough, evenly spaced in your baking dish(es). Push a narrow drinking glass into the center of each dough round to make a well in the center of the bun for the filling.
Place a couple of tablespoons of filling into each well in the bun dough. Let rise in a warm place for 20 minutes, until they look puffy (30-45 minutes at room temp).
Make the Crumb Topping:
If using the crumb topping: Combine crumb mixture ingredients in a medium bowl and use a pastry cutter or rub together with your fingers until small crumbs form.
Brush the buns with egg wash and sprinkle the tops with the crumb mixture, if you choose to use the crumb topping. Bake at 360˚F for 20-22 min or until tops are golden brown.
Prepare the Cream Cheese Drizzle
Place powdered sugar and cream cheese in a bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Beat in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Add milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. If the drizzle seems to thin add additional confectioners sugar, if it is too thick add more milk, until it reaches the desired consistency. Drizzle warm buns with glaze.
Everyone in my house loved these, they were a great weekend breakfast pasty when you have a little more time to spend preparing the dough and allowing for the dough to go through its rising cycles.