27 March 2010

Holy Week - Piragi and Poetry

Holy Week

The lawn is strewn with tawny grass,
tiny palms lining the way to Spring…
last year’s offerings that died and
lay brown and sere … expectant.

The long and dark Winter holds on,
lashing out with stinging snow …
taunting faith and denying the sun,
dashing hope with bitter windy blast.

But wait, beloved! Look! See?
A tiny point of green is there…
a poignant spear that pierces
upward in a welcome burst of love.

Why do you weep and rail?                    
Bitter snow, chilly wind subsides,
as cold pebbles are rolled aside.
Purple crocus rise … triumphant.

-Susan Miller-Lindquist

Image:  http://hankinslawrenceimages.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/purple_crocuses.jpg

Easter is the traditional time for the Lindquist house to produce a huge batch of piragi for the Easter church service fellowship hour. Of course, there are more waiting at home for our Easter dinner, too! Let me say something about making these piragi. I am not, by nature, a patient person when it comes to food prep. I like to get the slicing and dicing and stirring and cooking done, but making bread is an exercise in 'getting the right feel' on a dough and then waiting. With this piragi recipe, there's the added chop-chop, cook-cook, mix-mix and then wait and let the herbs do their magic. THEN... you construct the piragi. For me, it's like waiting for the freakin' stars to align!

That being said, these little filled sweet rolls are so very delicious that when you pull them warm from the oven and pop one in your mouth, you realize that some things are really worth all the effort. If you're looking for a wondefully tasty bread offering  for a dinner party, this is really a rewarding recipe. Guaranteed!

A word about the recipe ... Yankee Magazine published a cookbook years ago. In it, New England folk submitted recipes and Yankee did  'bios' on the cooks and included a block of their work. I grabbed this recipe from a young Connecticut baker named Juris. A worthy offering...

Assemble the rest of the 'stuff' you need to work with the rolled out dough, while the dough is rising in a warm spot... I like the top of my woodstove when the fire's gone out for the day and it's still warm and toasty.

This dough is a yeasty, soft dough, as you can see from comparing the bowl levels ... kind of sticky and that's a good thing. When you have to roll it thin and cut out the circles pf piragi, you want it to cling and not shrink back in on itself too much after you've made the cuts...

Like the nifty 'piragi cutter'? It was the one kind of glass I have that fit the size specifications of the recipe ... I had a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc cold in the fridge... how fortuitous! Different glass, FYI. A little bacon does the trick and you roll it up into a cute little crescent... all this while listening to Celtic Sojourn on NPR. You needn't listen to the same, but music while you're constructing makes for a happy cook.

And there you have it... a big old plate of piragi waiting for folks to knosh...

Latvian Piragi
Oven: 375º F                                                                                                     Yield: about 5 dozen
Bake time: about 15 minutes

Dough Ingredients:

2 tbsp. active dry yeast
1 ½ c. warm water (105º)
4 ounces shortening, melted and cooled slightly
½ c. sugar
2 tsp. salt
5 to 6 c. unbleached flour
½ c. buttermilk

Filling Ingredients:

2 lbs. bacon, cut into small square pieces
1 medium onion, very small dice
3 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. caraway seeds
¼ tsp. black pepper

1 egg, beaten – for brushing the piragi before baking

Making the Dish:

1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water, allowing it to foam (5 – 10 minutes).

2. Whisk the dry ingredients together and make a well to receive the yeast, shortening, and buttermilk.

3. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry and work the dough until most of the flour has been incorporated.

4. Turn the dough out onto a cool, floured work surface and knead until the dough is no longer sticky (5 – 8 minutes). Use loose flour from dough bowl when kneading.

5. Oil a clean bowl and place the dough ball in it, turning to coat. Cover and place in a warm place to rise. Meanwhile make the filling.

6. In a large non-stick fry pan, fry the bacon until crispy, drain on paper towels.

7. Wipe out the fry pan and use it to sauté the onion in the butter until the onion glistens.

8. Add the caraway seed and black pepper, reduce the heat and allow the caraway to cook a bit and soften in the buttery onion-y goodness.

9. Turn the heat off, turn in the bacon bits, and stir to combine. Set aside for piragi construction.

10. When the dough has doubled, punch it down, let it rest a few minutes while you prepare to construct and bake. Lightly grease a few cookie sheets, clean off a rolling surface, divide the dough into three balls and cover them with a towel.

11. Working with one ball of dough, roll it out until it is quite thin (a little less than ¼ inch). Use a glass or round cookie cutter that is about 2 ½ to 3 inches in diameter to cut circles.

12. Place 1 tsp. of bacon/onion filling on each circle and roll the piragi closed. Pinch the seam to seal it and shape the roll into a crescent shape.

13. Place the crescents seam-side down on the cookie sheets leaving some space between them.

14. Brush with the beaten egg and bake for 15 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the cookie sheets and cool or serve them warm from the oven.

15. Store them in zip-lock bags from which you have pressed the excess air.

Note: I have frozen a bag for our Easter dinner, since I have church fellowship this Palm Sunday and ... I'm sorry... I only make these once a year. They may be tasty, but they are labor intensive and I'm a lazy brat... you can't call me this, but I can call myself  'the lazy brat'. So there...

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