Latvian meal Part 1- Speķa pīrāgi (Bacon Turnovers)

Do you have a favorite magazine you subscribe to? I don’t mean, just any magazine where there’s a favorite section, etc.  A magazine where you read from the front to back!  My absolute favorite magazine is Saveur!  I first started the subscription to this magazine probably 5 years ago and I enjoy reading through each magazine and I kept all of them.  Part of this month’s feature is on Latvian food, and few days ago I had my cousin and her family over and tested out the recipes on them.  Since the recipes are rather long, I decided to divide in to section/parts.  The first part is this delicious bacon turnovers!! 

This will make about 60:
1-1/4 cups milk
12 Tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 (1/4 ounce) packages active dry yeast (approx. 14 grams or about 2-2-1/2 teaspoons)
5 cups flour
1 Tablespoon canola oil
1 pound double-smoked bacon, cut into 1/8 inch cubes
1 small yellow onion, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tablespoon heavy cream
1 egg yolk
1 egg white, lightly beaten

Make the dough: heat milk, butter, 1/3 cup sugar, and salt in a 2 quart saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves; set aside.  Whisk together remaining sugar, yeast, and 1/4 cup water heated to 115F in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook; let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.  Whisk in milk mixture, add flour, and mix on low speed until dough forms.  Increase speed to medium-high and knead until smooth, about 8 minutes.  **Add flour little at a time if the dough is still wet. 
Cover bowl with plastic wrap; let sit until doubled in size, about 1-1/2 hours. 

Filling: Heat oil in a 4 quart saucepan over medium heat, and add bacon; cook stirring, until fat renders, about 6 minutes.

** We got this home smoked bacon slab from a butcher shop in Reading Terminal Market
Add onion and cook, stirring, until onion is lightly caramelized but bacon is not crisp, about 6 minutes.  Remove from heat; season with salt and pepper.  Let cool completely.

Finishing: Heat oven to 400F.  Whisk together cream and egg yolk in a small bowl; set egg wash aside. 
Transfer dough to a floured work surface and cut in half.  Working with one half at a time, roll dough until 1/4 inch thick.  Using a 2-1/2 inch round cutter, cut out dough round.  Place 1 heaping teaspoon bacon filling in center of each round
Using your fingers, moisten edges of round with egg white; fold over to enclose filling, and pinch edges together to seal.  Transfer turnover, seam side down, to parchment paper –lined baking sheets, spaced 3 inches apart. 
Using a pastry brush, brush wash over each bun; bake until golden brown, 12-15 minutes.

My opinion: YUUUUUUUM!!!!!  This is time consuming, especially if you’re not used to bread making from scratch, you may feel intimidated, BUT please, please, try this out!!!  It’s well worth your time and effort.  I wish I can say you can substitute the dough with the ready made pie crust or pizza dough, but the taste and texture will be very very different. 
I am so glad I used the thick slab of home smoked bacon, such wonderful smoked flavour and not much fat.  When you cook the bacon cubes, you can bypass adding oil, you still get enough oil out from this slab.  Caramelized onions add a wonderful twist to this filling. 
This was a great great hit with the children and adults!!  I told my girls I’ll try to make this again before the weather becomes too hot!
On a side note:  I used to be very intimidated about making breads from scratch.  Bread makers are very useful and great, but there’s something about mixing the ingredients and kneading the dough yourself, and letting it rise.  Once you try and get over the fear and insecurity, making bread will be one of the treasured part of your home cooking/baking.  I only bake bread from scratch when I have enough time and be able to give my full attention to this task.  So if you’re in a rush, don’t start it, wait until you have time.


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