Monday, November 16, 2015


I decided to celebrate my son’s birthday early, so yesterday we opened up presents because I couldn’t wait to give him his Minecraft toys. Then somehow he talked me into making a TARDIS cake. I tried. I truly tried, but I really don’t know that much about cake decorating, and it’s pretty far from being professional looking. Regardless, I’m glad I went with a lemon cake base and cream cheese icing. It tasted good, and everyone else thought it was awesome. Then I caved and let them make a blanket fort in the living room to sleep in while I watched shows and drank a little too much cabernet sauvignon in solidarity with the people of France in light of the attacks on Paris.

Confession: I ate two of these for breakfast, two for lunch, and two for dinner today.

So, anyway today is Latvian food day. And I’m starting with piragis. To make this, I started out dissolving my yeast packet and 1Tbsp sugar in ½ c of water and setting it aside to let it proof. In a different bowl, I mixed together ½ c sugar, 1 ½ tsp salt, and 2 ½ c of flour before I cut in 1 stick of softened unsalted butter. Once I got the butter cut in, I poured in my yeast mix and 1 c warm water and stirred. Then I added enough flour to make it a soft dough (around 2 c). I kneaded my dough for about five minutes before I placed it in an oiled bowl and covered it with plastic wrap, letting it rest for about an hour and a half. While the dough is resting, I cooked my bacon (about 4 slices) and chopped it up when it was cool. Then I sautéed my chopped onions (about a half of a large onion) in butter and added in my diced ham (I used an 8 oz package) and stirred to mix it with the onions. Then I added in 1 tsp caraway seeds, 1 tsp black pepper, and my chopped bacon bits and took it off the heat. To put this all together, I punched down my dough and divided it into four sections. Rolling each section out to about an 1/8”–1/4” thick, I cut out circles, put a dollop of mixture in the middle, then folded it over to make a half-circle shape, pinching the edges closed. I put mine on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and brushed them with an egg wash. Into the 375ºF oven they went for about 15-18 minutes. I took mine out when they turned golden brown, which was closer to the 18-minute mark. These were heavenly. Absolutely wonderful! I think I had three while I was waiting on the soup. To be honest, I think they were supposed to be much smaller. Mine ended up being about 5” circles, but that’s how I wanted it. (The recipe called for circles that were about 2 ¾”.) I love caraway seeds; they make me very happy, and the combination of the caraway seeds and the bacon and ham were a great combination, especially with the light and flakey bread. I’m not sure if I’ve ever had that combination before, but it was pure genius. I might even bring this for Thanksgiving next week.

This was very, very good. A great way to get those leafy greens in your diet. I'm sure the sour cream was super helpful, too.

The main dish today is called sorrel soup. It is kind of hard to find sorrel, especially perhaps in the fall (I might have had better luck in the summer). I wasn’t able to go to Meijer, the one store I wanted to check because they usually have a great selection of leafy greens. I know they carry dandelion greens, which I read Latvians often use. (I love dandelion greens!) Regardless, I’m using a substitute for sorrel: spinach with a bit of lemon zest. I started out by placing my pork ribs in a large pot with boiling water and let it simmer for about an hour. (I actually used pork chops made from center-cut rib meat.) While my meat was simmering, I peeled my potatoes, cut them into cubes, and set them to the side. Then I took my spinach leaves and sliced them with scissors, removing any stems along the way, and set them off to the side, too. I also hard boiled two eggs and sliced those as well. And you guessed it, I set those to the side. And it’s probably a good time to get your lemon zest ready as well. You don’t need much. (See, there’s a pattern.) When the hour was up, I removed the pork from the pan and put it on a plate (you thought I was going to say “set it to the side,” didn’t you?). In the same pot with the simmering water the meat came out of, I added in my potatoes to cook. While the potatoes were boiling, I cut up the rib meat. After about 10 minutes or so, I put the meat and the spinach into my saucepan along with the lemon zest and some salt and pepper to taste. I let this simmer together for about five minutes before taking it off the heat. This is when I stirred in my chopped eggs. To serve this, I ladled it into a bowl and topped with a dollop of sour cream and a little cilantro. I loved all of this. The lemon zest gave it a little pop, and the sour cream added a creaminess to the broth. I think next time, I’ll do it the way I was going to do it (outside of actually making it with sorrel), which was to use half dandelion greens and half arugula. I think that would be good, too. It was very comforting.

It didn't turn out the way it should, but I didn't abandon ship. I did prevail. Just the rye dough went overboard.

Seeing how I was super tired after the piragis and the soup, I continued my Latvian food adventure the next day with sklandrausis, or potato and carrot rye tarts. The first thing I did was make the fillings, which comes in two parts. The first part is the potato filling: I boiled a couple potatoes and then mashed them with some milk, butter, and salt. The second part is a carrot filling: I boiled baby carrots and mashed them with some honey, sour cream, and eggs. Then I made the dough: I mixed together butter, warm water, caraway seeds, salt, and rye flour, kneading it until it was consistent. Then I rolled this out so that it was about a 1/8”—1/4” thick, cutting out circles and turning the edges up a little. Except, my dough was far too crumbly. I added a little more water, and even though it sort of helped, it still fell apart for what I was trying to do with it. So, needless to say, it wasn’t on rye bread. I was going to scrap the whole thing, but after watching this episode of The Great British Baking Show, I realized the fillings were fine, just the bread didn’t turn out. So, I used some store-bought Italian bread (definitely not the same, but definitely bread. It’ll be like a vegetable Manhattan, right?) Then I placed the potato mixture on top of the bread and the carrot mixture on top of that. I covered the top in a sour cream mix: sour cream mixed with honey, vanilla extract, and cinnamon). 

A very good meal for a chilly fall day.

As I just mentioned, I’ve started watching The Great British Baking Show through Netflix. I’m actually learning a thing or two from people who are much better bakers than I am.  It’s interesting how each of the baker’s personalities comes through in their bakes. I’m only halfway through the first season, but I like this show very much. So, to follow on their format, clearly the piragis were the star dish for Latvian Food Day. The combination of flakiness and meatiness and spice was right in every way. And I’m saddened to say that the sklandrausis did not bring its A game today. There was so much potential, but it just wasn’t working together as a team. There’s always next time. And as they always say, “Keep baking!”

Up next: Lebanon

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