Latvian Pirages: Baked Bread Roll Appetizer with Onions and Bacon

Latvian Pirages are a traditional bread roll made with bacon and onion filling. Whether for holidays or just a fun appetizer anytime.

article image
by AdobeStock/Art Johnson

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds bacon (thick-cut), diced very fine
  • 1 cup onions, chopped (1 large onion)
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Dough

  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 4-1/2 teaspoons dry active yeast (two .25 oz. packages)
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 7 cup or more flour
  • 2 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten, divided
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup water

Directions

  • For filling, sauté onion and bacon together on medium heat until cooked through.
  • Add nutmeg, salt and pepper and set aside to cool.
  • In a small bowl, mix sugar and yeast with warm water. Set aside in a warm place for 10 minutes. Yeast should bubble up to double the size.
  • Meanwhile, scald milk, (heat until small bubbles form but do not boil), and put it in a large mixing bowl. Add butter to milk and stir to let butter melt. Add salt, sugar and oil and stir.
  • Separately, mix two eggs with sour cream. When milk is cooled to lukewarm, add egg mixture.
  • Add yeast mixture and two cups of flour. Beat thoroughly with wooden spoon or electric mixer. Add another cup of flour and continue beating.
  • Remove beaters and continue kneading by hand or with a dough hook. Add almost all of the rest of the flour. The dough will be quite stiff but still sticky. Beat with dough hook or knead by hand until dough is shiny and doesn’t stick to your hands, about 6 to 8 minutes.
  • When the dough is ready, slap the dough down on the counter a few times.
  • Place ball in a lightly oiled bowl. Sprinkle some flour on the dough and cover with a clean towel. Place in a warm spot to rise, about 1.5 hours, or until doubled.
  • Punch dough down and divide into 4 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long strand about 20 inches long. With a knife, cut each strand piece into even pieces about 1 inch long.
  • With your hands, roll and flatten each piece into a patty. Place 1 tsp of filling in the middle. Fold edges up and pinch seems together.
  • Place rolls on a lightly oiled cookie sheet with the pinched seams under. Bend rolls slightly into a crescent shape, cover with towel and let rise again until doubled, about 25 minutes.
  • Before putting into the oven, brush tops with lightly beaten remaining egg and stab with fork to release steam.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for about 12 to 15 minutes until golden light brown.
  • Brush with sugar water (1 t. sugar mixed with 1/2 c. hot water). Cool on rack.
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These pirages (pier-rogz) come from my Baltic roots. It’s a traditional Latvian bread roll made on birthdays and holidays. They taste best hot from the oven, either fresh or re-heated. The bacon and onion filling is rolled inside the bread dough. Since you rarely go wrong with bacon, it’s hard to go wrong with this recipe.

I can’t remember a holiday or special occasion when pirages weren’t served, with a mother from Latvia and a father from Estonia. The big debate, of course, were the recipe variations between the Latvians and Estonians — between mom and dad. Since my dad had a hard time boiling water, the Latvian pirages version was usually served during the holidays — except for my Estonian dad’s birthday, of course.

Fun fact: imperfections are coveted for this recipe. Sometimes during the baking process, the seal cracks on the baked rolls and a little bacon pops out. Don’t panic. In the Latvian tradition, these special pirages are “smiling” at you. Think of that the next time your homemade jelly drips out of the PB&J or artisan farmer’s cheese melts off the side of the grilled sandwich. The mess is actually because of its hand-crafted, real ingredients. So, savor the joy of cooking at home and homemade goodness, like my husband John Ivanko and I write in our farm-to-table cookbook, Farmstead Chef.

Growing up, we always had Latvian pirages on hand, in the freezer — or in the “ice box” as my parents called it. Larger batches of Latvian pirages can be made, with some frozen for later use. The pirages re-heat exceptionally well. And the bite size treats tend to win over kids, too.

Yields 7 dozen appetizers

Lisa Kivirist, with her husband, John D. Ivanko, a photographer and drone pilot, have co-authored Rural RenaissanceHomemade for Sale, the award-winning  ECOpreneuring  and Farmstead Chef cookbook along with operating Inn Serendipity B&B and Farm, completely powered by renewable energy. Kivirist also authored Soil Sisters. As a writer, Kivirist contributes to MOTHER EARTH NEWS, most recently, Living with Renewable Energy Systems: Wind and Solar and 9 Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living. They live on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin with their son, Liam, and millions of ladybugs.


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