Absolutely nothing in our family home was coveted more than piragi, Latvian bacon buns. My mom rarely baked yet every now and then, especially near the holidays, something magical would happen. Mom would bake these sweet fabulous bacon buns that would remind her of home in Latvia. They now remind me of home in Toronto with my family.
She sent me this Latvian Cookbook available only from the Latvian Canadian Centre in Toronto, as far as I know, a couple of years ago when I had decided to begin my foodie odyssey. I was shocked to find that there was not one quintessential recipe in there for piragi… there were three! And, none of them resembled my mom’s recipe. So I called her up for her recipe and the following is a breadmaker adaptation of her recipe that she had printed in my public school’s cookbook many years ago.
The original recipe calls for nine cups of flour. When my mom made these, she was going to make so many that they would last. I decided to divide the recipe in half so it would fit in the breadmaker and make my life easier. Fill loaf pan in this order:
1 1/2 cups warm (not hot) milk
6 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1/2 cup cooking oil
1 egg + 1 yolk
4 3/4 cup flour
2 3/4 tsp of yeast
Select dough cycle. As you can see in the photo above on the right, this made quite a wet dough so I added some more flour until it all came together. Always check on the dough when you use a breadmaker to see if it is too dry or wet!
I got one package of turkey bacon and my mom said to cut them into strips which looked weird to me. I ended up using a spatula to cut them into finer pieces. I also added one finely minced onion, some salt and a ton of pepper. You really want to go heavy on the cracked black pepper. Cook together on medium heat for 8-10 minutes, do not brown. Let filling cool. (BTW, if you can use regular bacon, do it. The flavour is irreplaceable. The turkey bacon is OK but it is not the same.)
Update: I recently put so much bacon into my bacon buns that I could only make half the recipe so make sure to have an extra package of bacon just in case.
OK, maybe you only need 2 tsp of yeast! I made the dough and filling the day before. I did not have enough energy to make it all in one day. I put the dough in a greased bowl, made sure it was covered in oil, then wrapped it in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge along with the cooled filling.
The next day I divided the dough into four sections.
You want to divide each quarter into 15 pieces. Roll into a ball, flatten until 1/8″ thin.
Fill with as much filling as you can. Seriously, this is my Mom’s secret to the perfect piragi. Believe it or not, I did not have enough filling for all the dough! I suggest adding an additional 1/4 of a package to bacon to the filling.
Pinch seam together and then use a glass to cut and seal the edge. Filling all those piragi took a while, even with me making only half a batch. Turn on the radio or some good music. You are going to be here a while.
Whisk an egg with 1 tbsp of water to make an eggwash and brush on to the buns. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Next you are going to need very strong and sweet coffee. Right after the buns come out of the oven, brush coffee generously onto the buns.
This is absolutely essential! After each bun has been brushed with the coffee mixture, cover with a tea towel moistened with hot water. Let the buns steam for a quite a few minutes but do not leave on too long or else they were wrinkle. Trust me, I learned the hard way!
Yes, these take quite a while to make but for me, they taste like Christmas at home. I am missing my family terribly this year. This will be the fourth Christmas I spend away from them and I am more than just a little homesick.
These are of course not a substitute for family but I will indulge in the unique flavours of my childhood with pleasure and nostalgia.
Here is the original recipe: