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A Great Day! And…Pi Li Li’s

Pi Li Li's

If you want to read about my great day, you will have to read to the bottom of this post. If you want to read about what the heck Pi Li Li’s are start here:

Pi Li Li’s or Pee Lee Lee’s, whichever way to want to spell it,( it sounds like the second version) are little fried pillows of dough. These are a sourdough version of a fried doughnut that grandma made. Quickly made, rolled in sugar, or cinnamon/sugar, powdered sugar or dunked in a honey glaze, they are great for a Sunday breakfast.

The dough is soft and is handled like a biscuit dough where there is minimum handling and you keep the dough and surface dusted with flour. To make up add to a large mixing bowl:

  • Sourdough Starter 166% hydration – 1 cup/9 oz/255g   (255 grams of 166% starter = 192 grams 100% starter plus 63 grams water).
  • Water – 1/2 cup –4 oz– 113g
  • Canned milk – 1/2 cup –4 oz– 113g
  • Vanilla extract- 1 Tablespoon–.5 oz–14g
  • Sugar- 2 Tablespoons– 1 oz–28g
  • Salt-1.5 teaspoons– .3 oz–9g
  • All Purpose Flour-3 cups–14 oz–396g
  • Whole Wheat Flour- 1/2 cup–2.1 oz–59g
  • Baking Soda-1/2 teaspoon
  • Baking Powder- 1 teaspoon


You can divide the wet and dry ingredients into two bowls, mix each separately and then combine. Or…you can be lazy like me and put in the wet ingredients, mix, then add the dry ingredients to the top of the wet ingredients and then mix again, until you can gather the dough into a ball.


Take the dough ball which should weigh right in around 2 lbs and place it on a floured surface. The dough should be sticky. Knead the dough about 10 times getting a bit of the flour into the dough to stiffen it a little – you want the dough soft and slighty sticky. Then keeping flour on the bottom and top, roll the dough out into a rectangle about the size of 14″ x 12″.


Let it set for five minutes to rest. Then take your dough scraper blade and cut the dough into small pieces about 3″ x 1″ or whatever small size you like. If your dough isn’t exactly a rectangle like mine, some of the pieces will take on their own size anyway. 🙂

Cut dough

The secret (yes, of course there is a secret!) to light fluffy Pi Li Li’s filled with air, is to take the dough and stretch it. I stretch it a bit widthwise and lengthwise and then let the dough pieces set and wait their turn. I took a piece of dough and did not stretch it, and then did a stretched dough and compared the two for you:

Stretched dough pieces

Two dough pieces

these two pieces of dough were selected because they started out the same size, look at them now! The one on the left was stretched, the one on the right was not.

The inside of the Pi Li Li

You can see the two back pieces are mostly hole and very fluffy and large, the front and right side pieces are dense.

The dough pieces are fried in oil which is the temperature best used for doughnuts- 350-375 F degrees. The best fat to use for doughnuts is a fat which is solid at room temperature, but I like cooking in vegetable oil even if they are a little more oily when finished.


So you have to decide which works best for you.  I use a heavy bottom large skillet and put in 1.5 – 2 inches of oil. Make sure the oil is up to the right temperature before dropping in your dough, and make sure to bring up the temperature each time between Pi Li Li’s.


Frying Pi Li Li's

I usually fry four pieces at  a time, they take around one minute per side. I like to push the dough under with a spatula while it is frying on the first side, to get the top down under the hot oil too, but just for a few seconds.


Then take out your done Pi Li Li’s and drain them on a rack. They need to cool a bit before you shake them in sugar.

Drain Pi Li Li's

After they cool down a bit but are still warm, shake them in a brown bag of sugar or sugar/cinnamon mixture or powdered sugar. You can also thin down honey a bit with some water and then dip the warm Pi Li Li’s in the honey glaze.


Next place the Pi Li Li’s on a plate on the kitchen table and see how long they last!

Pi Li Li's ready to eat!


This is another recipe that is good for using up the extra sourdough starter.


If you haven’t done so yet, check out the former post about Peter Reinhart’s new book “Artisan Breads Every Day. If it isn’t too late, you can still post and have a chance to win a signed copy of his new book. See what I am talking about at: http://northwestsourdough.wordpress.com/2009/10/30/peter-reinharts-new-book-artisan-breads-every-day/


I have a note to add to here:


I received Peter’s signed books in the mail. I was going through my copy and was really enjoying it. He has some nice recipes in his new book. I am planning on baking his Cinnamon Chocolate Babka soon, it looks delicious!


I also want to tell you that when I got to the end of his book and was reading the resources page…I suddenly stopped in shock …there was my name right in the book. I really can’t tell you how shocked I was. This is what Peter said in the book:


“For Sourdough fanatics, join Teresa Greenway and her group of correspondents at www.northwestsourdough.com to share the passion.”


Peter and I had been corresponding over the imminent release of his new book and his helping me to get my book into the editors hands at Ten Speed Press and he never once mentioned to me that he was going to do this! I think he must have had a good time imagining my face when I saw that in his book! Thanks again Peter! What a great day!


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  1. Bonnie Bullers Bonnie Bullers
    March 15, 2014    

    I’ve been dying to try this recipe. I am a newbie to the world of the little yeastie beasties. I am a little confused by the vanilla measurement. It seemed a little high and then usually 1 oz. is 2 T. in American measurements and the next measurement is a dry measurement. I am having trouble with the conversion in my brain. Thanks for your help.

    • March 15, 2014    

      You’re right Bonnie, it should read .5 oz or 14g of vanilla. Thanks for finding the mistake.

  2. ericka ericka
    January 18, 2013    

    can you say more about where the word Pi Li Li comes from?

  3. April 2, 2011    

    I am glad you liked them Karen. It was my mother in law who first introduced them to me, a non sourdough version, but they were still good.


  4. Karen Karen
    April 2, 2011    

    Made these, so good. These are similar to what my mom made when I was a child. Thanks.

  5. Greg Creager Greg Creager
    March 19, 2010    

    Question on the canned milk, is that sweet and condensed or evaporated?

  6. Natalie Kohn Natalie Kohn
    November 13, 2009    

    Your work is AMAZING! I was checking out Shell’s blog and saw that she put your blog in there and said you were updating it! So of course I had to come check it out! Now I’m SUPER jealous I’m not over there enjoying all your special sourdough foods! I miss your sourdough bread SOO BAD! Stephen wants me to get into it, but I am afraid after eating the best bread in the world(yours!) Ugh! Maybe once I get into our new house I’ll be brave enough to try! I’ll definently be checking back all the time for updates! Love ya so much Mom!

    Love your favorite daughter, 🙂

  7. Patty Patty
    November 7, 2009    

    Hi Teresa! The Pi Li Li’s are beautiful. Your family must be so happy when you get to fooling around in the kitchen! And congrats on the plug in Mr. Reinhart’s book–you deserve it–there’s a reason we all keep coming back for more. 🙂

  8. Mimi Mimi
    November 7, 2009    

    What a very cool surprise! I’m so happy for you.

  9. November 7, 2009    

    Glad to see that you and Peter have turned a page – Nice! We’ll cross our fingers in hopes for the book!

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