This is the very first recipe in my 193 Recipes Project.
Why did I start with Estonia? I figured I would begin with one of the Baltic states because I don’t know too much about the food in this region. This challenge is about eating new foods and learning about far away places. I certainly didn’t know what Estonians ate before I started to research.
My local library didn’t have much information on Estonian cuisine, but I found the information I was looking for on Wikipedia, Estonia’s Ministry of Rural Affairs website, and several Estonian food blogs. There’s a lot of meat and fish in the national cuisine— I saw many recipes that called for ground beef, pork, or fresh fish. There were a number of baked pastries and soups, as well as pickled vegetables and fermented foods. What I didn’t expect is how seasonal and fresh Estonian food is. There are many plant-based dishes, featuring fresh carrots, potatoes, peas, foraged berries, apples, and many varieties of local wild mushrooms.
For my recipe, I chose to make porgandipirukas, a savory carrot pie.
There are many variations on this pie, but the filling base is always boiled or sautéed carrots and onions, seasoned with salt and pepper. Sometimes a chopped boiled egg, cheese, smoked meat, fish, or chives are added to the filling. The pastry is Danish dough. Home cooks use frozen Danish dough, or make a quick yeasted enriched dough with butter and cheese. The pies are most often shaped into a long rectangle, and sliced thinly to serve— that’s what you’ll see in this post. Some cooks also make hand-pie versions, and others make open-top pies.
The version of porgandipirukas I made is filled with grated carrot, minced onion, and a chopped boiled egg, and wrapped in a buttery yeasted dough. The filling is sweet from the carrots, savory from the bit of onion, and almost meaty from the egg. The pastry is made in two parts— first milk, yeast, and flour are whisked together to form a wet dough, then a crumbly, buttery mix is kneaded in. It’s a simple yeasted enriched dough, but the two-part process also makes it pleasantly flaky and light. (There’s also an easier shortcut variation in the recipe notes.)
Below are a few photos to guide you through the pie-making process. At the very bottom of this post, you’ll find the recipe.
Here’s what the finished pie dough should look like:
You’ll roll it into a long rectangle, and fill it with the carrot-onion-egg mixture.
Here it is folded, brushed with egg, sprinkled with sesame seeds, and ready for the oven.
A fully-baked, toasty golden brown pie.
Here’s the cross-section.
Estonia – #57 of 193
- ½ cup lukewarm milk
- ⅜ tsp salt
- 1 tsp yeast
- ½ tsp sugar
- ¾ all-purpose flour
- 3 tbsp cold butter
- additional ¼ cup + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- beaten egg for brushing, optional
- sesame seeds for garnish, optional
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 large carrots, grated
- ½ medium white onion, minced
- 1 boiled egg, finely chopped
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- a pinch of nutmeg
- Begin by making the dough. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the milk, salt, yeast, and sugar. Add in ¾ cup flour, and mix until thoroughly combined. (Reserve the additional flour for later.) Set this dough base aside to rise for 15-20 minutes.
- While the dough rises, make the carrot filling. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the carrot and onion. Sauté for 5-10 minutes, until the carrots begin to soften, adding a water to the pan as needed to prevent browning. Remove from heat and stir in salt, pepper, nutmeg, and boiled egg.
- Continue to prepare the dough. Place ¼ cup plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour in a separate bowl. Cut in the 3 tbsp cold butter. Use fingertips to incorporate the butter into the flour. The mixture should look crumbly, and there should still be small chunks of butter in the flour mixture.
- Add the flour and butter mixture to the yeasted dough base. Fold the flour and butter in, then use your hands to knead it into a rough dough. Give the dough a few folds, adding an extra tablespoon or two of flour if needed. The dough should be mostly even, with some steaks of butter visible, and only slightly tacky to the touch.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Roll out the dough into a 9-by-13-inch rectangle. Transfer the dough to a baking sheet, and spread the filling down the center of the dough lengthwise. Fold each side of the dough over, and pinch down the ends
- (Optional) Brush some beaten egg over the top of the pie. Sprinkle with sesame seeds for garnish.
- Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes, until the pastry is cooked through and browning on top. Cool slightly before serving.
Alternatively, you can replace the dough with store bought puff pastry or frozen Danish dough.