Speķa pīrāgi or bacon pies/pasties have become the most popular and most recognised of Latvian treats. Traditionally they would be eaten at any major celebration, be it birthday, Chistmas or Jāņi; hand-made from yeasty dough and streaky smoked bacon.
The recipe comes from our aunt Brigita, who is the hostess (saimniece) at Sydney Latvian Church.
- 500ml milk
- 125ml cream
- 125g sugar
- 4 teaspoons dry yeast
- 125g butter, cubed
- 125g sour cream
- 1 egg, lightly whisked
- 1kg plain flour
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 500g middle bacon or side bacon
- 1 small onion
- salt and pepper
- Extra flour for rolling
- 1 egg for egg wash
- Pour milk and cream in a saucepan and add the sugar. Heat the mixture until it becomes blood warm. (Test by placing couple drops on your wrist, if the milk feels very hot, let it cool down a bit. Do not get the milk to the boiling point as it will kill the yeast.)
- Place the yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar in a small bowl and add half a cup of milk. Combine well and set aside for 15 minutes.
- In a large bowl, pour the remaining milk mixture and add cubed butter, sour cream and the whisked egg, combine well.
- Add the yeast, sifted flour and couple tablespoons of salt and mix until all is combined well to create the dough. Knead the dough until it becomes smooth and does not stick to the hands or the bowl (add a bit more flour if necessary).
- Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and place in a warm spot for an hour or until the dough has doubled in size (about 1 to 1 1/2 hours). To speed up the process, place the bowl in a sink filled with hot water.
- Meanwhile, make the filling: finely cut the bacon and the onion, add a teaspoon of finely ground pepper and combine well.
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Whisk the egg in a small bowl and set aside.
- Sprinkle some flour on the rolling surface and place the dough on it. Cut it in quarters and work on each quarter at a time by rolling it until the dough is 5 mm thick.
- Cut out circles about 6 cm in diameter (I usually use a mug for cutting) from the rolled dough. Place one heaped teaspoon of filling on one side of the circle and fold over. Tightly press the dough together using your fingers, place pīrāgs seam side down and bend in a shape of a half moon (the last bit is optional).
- Transfer pies on to the baking tray, spaced about 2 cm apart. Using a pastry brush, brush each pie with the egg wash.
- Place the tray in the oven and bake for 15-17 minutes until golden brown.
This amount of dough will make around 45 pies. Pīrāgi can also be filled with sauerkraut, mushrooms or minced meat. When used in other recipes, the amount of dough is considered to be one quantity.