I love speķa rauši.
My mother-in-law, without fail, would always set a huge clay bowl on the table at the holiday feasts filled to overflowing with speķa rauši.
At Christmas 2008, she and a close family friend decided to play a trick on the men. You see, neither my husband nor his father are fans of black pepper. Black pepper in any real quantity is incredibly spicy to them, and not in a good way. So, they took a bit of the dough, dumped a good tablespoon of ground black pepper in it, mooshed it around so it was all throughout and then formed it into some little rats, complete with nose and ears. (It was the year of the Rat coming up, you see, and they certainly didn’t want to get one of them by mistake.)
Except, they put them in the big bowl and set it on the table for folks to nosh on while the rest of dinner was put together. My husband and I were already there, having been shooed off to sit and not get in their way. So, we started digging in.
I snagged a roll, saw it was a little rat and thought it was cute. I took a bite and wow! Pepper! But, you see, I love pepper. I’m quite happy having cracked peppercorn burgers and steak au poivre. To me, this little guy was spicy and delicious. So I asked if there were two types of speķa rauši today and both Mom and her friend went stiff.
Turns out I had gotten the rat when I wasn’t supposed to as a guest. My father-in-law and husband both leaned over and whispered, “thank you!”, as they fluttered about apologizing profusely.
Me, I loved it. Just wished they’d made more than two.
Anyway. Speķa rauši is a yeast dough rolled out and cut into circles, topped with fried bacon and onions, sealed into a half-moon shape, brushed with egg wash and baked until golden brown and delicious.
This recipe uses a common yeast dough and lots of bacon. It’s enough for a crowd, so if you just want to try it, make the dough, quarter it and freeze the rest. Six slices of bacon and half a medium onion will be enough for a quarter of the dough.
Speķa rauši – Bacon and onion yeast rolls [printable recipe]
Adapted from Latviešu ēdieni and family recipes
- 250 g ap flour
- 125 g milk (about 1/2 cup)
- 40 g sugar + 1 tsp
- 75 g butter (about 6 tbsp)
- 1/2 egg
- 3 g salt
- 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
- 1/4 c warm water (100 – 110F)
- 2 egg whites, mixed with 2 tablespoons water (egg wash for brushing)
- 1 lb smoked bacon, diced
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
To make the dough:
Combine yeast with warm water and 1 tsp of sugar, stirring to dissolve, let sit for 10 minutes until doubled in volume. Mix in flour, half an egg, salt, butter and milk. Place in an oiled bowl on a rack over boiling/steaming water, cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for 1.5 to 2 hours until doubled.
To make the filling:
Fry bacon until cooked but not crisp, remove to a bowl. Pour off most of the bacon fat, reserving about a two tablespoons. Cook onion in remaining fat until soft and beginning to turn brown on the edges. Remove to a bowl.
Assembling the speķa rauši:
Roll out the dough to about 1/4″ thickness for more crunchy rolls, thicker for puffier rolls. Using a biscuit cutter or a glass whose rim has been floured, cut out rounds. I use a 78mm (3 1/16″) cutter for traditionally sized rolls and a 68mm (2 5/8″) cutter for two-bite-sized rolls. Roll out the leftover dough again and cut out more rounds. Repeat if necessary.
Top each round with a pinch of bacon and onion. Fold each little circle in half and pinch the edges shut. If the dough isn’t too floury, the edges can be pinched together without needing extra water. If the edges don’t want to seal or seal imperfectly, run a moistened fingertip along the edges before sealing. You should wind up with a little half-moon shape, like this:
Place the rolls on a baking sheet lined with parchment, foil or non-stick liner and brush the tops with egg wash.
Bake at 350F for about 10 – 12 minutes. Check on them periodically, they’re done when the top has a dark brown patch and the roll is turning golden brown. Remove, allow to cool (they can cool in the serving bowl, no rack necessary) and enjoy.
- This is a basic yeast dough called for in many Latvian meals. Probably other cuisines too, but I’m not that familiar with common yeast recipes.
- Like Alton Brown, I prefer to use metric when baking. It’s just easier to measure by weight.