In Latvia (Lettonia), I went down the wrong path — figuratively, of course.
Having baked eight types of bread out of 20 dishes from the EU countries visited so far in our virtual tour, I decided to bake a Latvian bread. I found a recipe, I made it a couple of times, was almost ready to write about it and then decided I was not enthusiastic enough about the recipe to share it on the blog. So, I started researching Latvian dishes again and finally found one that intrigued me: sklandrausis.
The sklandrausis, a small... pie made of rye flour with a filling of potatoes and carrots, has received a “Traditional Speciality Guaranteed” designation from the European Commission, according to the commission’s representative office in Rīga. [source]
Sklandrausis obtained TSG designation a few months ago. (If you are not familiar with the EU designations for products, on this page you can find an explanation.) As part of the process, the organization requesting the designation must provide information in support of its petition, including a detailed description:
'Sklandrausis’ is a round pie, 8-14 cm in diameter. The base of a ‘Sklandrausis’ is made of firm rye-flour dough rolled out to a thickness of 2-3 mm. Discs, which form the bases of the pies, are cut or pressed out of the rolled-out dough and their edges are folded upwards. The base of the ‘Sklandrausis’ is filled with layers of boiled potato and carrot filling in a ratio of 1:2 to 1:1. The potato is put in first and the carrot is placed on top. The finished ‘Sklandrausis’ is between 1,5 cm and 2,5 cm thick. The base of the ‘Sklandrausis’ is firm and well-baked, and the filling is porous. Typically it has a yellowy orange carrot colour. A layer of cream may be spread over the surface, or it may be sprinkled with cinnamon or caraway seeds. ‘Sklandrausis’ may range in taste from sweetish to very sweet. Although the base leaves the unmistakable taste of bread in the mouth, the taste of carrots predominates.
The full document is available online and it contains also a recipe. I was immediately intrigued by the combination of ingredients — rye flour, potatoes and carrots (farina di segale, patate e carote) — and also by the layering. When planning my rendition, I decided to make a number of changes. Most importantly, I omitted sugar altogether and, instead of making individual pies, I made one large tart. Hence, I am calling my rendition "sklandrausis-inspired" vegetable tart.
I tested a few variations, including using rainbow carrots vs. orange carrots (see top photo) and baking the tart at high vs. moderate temperature. Here's the recipe, based on our household's preferences.
For the potato layer:
- 300 g / 10 1/2 oz. potatoes of a variety that is good for mashing
- 60 ml / 1/4 cup homemade kefir
- A pinch of fine sea salt
- A dash of freshly ground black pepper
For the carrot layer:
- 340 g / 12 oz. / 3/4 lb carrots (the orange variety preferred)
- Olive oil
- 1 large egg, preferably from pastured poultry
- 100 g / 3 1/2 oz. homemade ricotta
- A pinch of fine sea salt
- A dash of ground cinnamon
For the base layer:
- 150 g dark rye flour
- 7 g lard + 7 g browned butter OR 14 g / 1 tablespoon / 1/2 oz. unsalted butter
- 1/2 tablespoon / 5 g caraway seeds, lightly smashed in a mortar with a pestle
- A pinch of fine sea salt
- 60 ml / 1/4 cup water
How to prepare potatoes and carrots
I opted to roast the vegetables. I chose 3 medium potatoes weighing about 100 g / 3 1/2 oz. each and a nice bunch of freshly harvested carrots from the farmers' market, still sporting their green mane. This time of the year, the carrots are fairly small and quite tender.
Preheat oven to 375 F / 190 C.
Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat. Scrub potatoes and carrots well (after cutting away the greens, if present). With a knife, scrape carrots' to remove then skin.
Place potatoes on the baking mat. Place carrots in a bowl and with a mister, spray some olive oil on them and roll to coat, then spread on the baking mat.
Place vegetables in the oven and bake until tender, about 45 minutes. Check the vegetables after 30 minutes to estimate how much longer they need.
Peel potatoes as soon as you can handle them and rice them. Let cool a bit, then add kefir and stir. Finally, season with salt and pepper and stir. Cover to keep warm.
Roughly chop carrots and place in a food processor bowl fitted with the steel blade. Process to mince.
Add egg to the bowl and process briefly.
Add ricotta to the bowl and process until all the ingredients are blended. Season with salt and cinnamon and give a final whirl.
How to prepare the base
Rub the fat into the flour. Mix in caraway seeds and salt. Add the water and make a firm dough.
I found that the easiest way to roll the dough is to use wax paper as surface. (I also found that I did not need to flour the dough as it was not at all sticky.) Roll the dough to a disk of 3 mm / 1/8 inch thickness.
Prepare a 9 or 9 1/2-inch / 23-24 cm fluted round tart pan with removable bottom. If you used wax paper as rolling surface, flip the rolled dough over the tart pan, centering it, and delicately press it all around so the corners are well covered. Peel away the paper.
The tart pan I have is about 1-inch / 2.5 cm high, which is too high for sklandrausis, so with a knife, I trim the border at 1 cm / 3/8 inch, then use the excess dough, as necessary, where I came up short, making sure the border is an even thickness all the way around (see photo below).
How to assemble and bake the tart
Preheat the oven to 350 F / 177 C.
Spread the mashed potatoes evenly on the dough.
Spread the puréed carrot and ricotta blend evenly on the dough.
Place pan in the oven and bake for 40 minutes, or until the visible rim of the crust is golden.
Remove pan from the oven, place on a cooling rack and let rest for a couple of minutes.
With the tip of a knife, gently probe the small arches all around the pan to ensure that the crust does not adhere to them. Push up the tart bottom to remove the fluted ring and place back on the cooling rack.
After a couple more minutes, with the help of a spatula, transfer the tart onto a plate (a long icing spatula is perfect for this step).
Slice and serve.
The tart has layered texture and taste: the rustic crust is nicely flavored by the caraway seeds. The potato layer is soft and the natural sweetness of potatoes is balanced by the tangy kefir. The carrot layer moves the palate more clearly on the sweet camp, thanks in part to the cinnamon nuance, but not too far into it. The combination is satisfactory to all the senses.
I most recently served this vegetable tart with a side of purple sprouting broccoli and it was a nice pairing.
My take on sklandrausis can be served as appetizer or main course. As the filling is firm, I can imagine offering thin slices of it even at a party where finger food is on the menu.
I contribute my vegetable tart to the 21st installment of the Abbecedario culinario della Comunità Europea (European Community Culinary ABC), an event organized by Trattoria MuVarA that will bring us to visit 26 countries of the EU (all except Italy) using the alphabet as guide. U like Ūdens klinģeri (Latvia) is hosted by Brii of briggishome.
This is also my contribution to edition #425 of Weekend Herb Blogging, an event started by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen, now organized by Haalo of Cook (almost) Anything at Least Once and Brii of briggishome and hosted this week by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook.
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post. I could not find a phonetic description of the pronunciation of the Latvian word sklandrausis, so I cannot vouch for that part of the recording.
or launch the tortino di verdure stile sklandrausis audio file [mp3].
[Depending on your set-up, the audio file will be played within the browser or by your mp3 player application. Please, contact me if you encounter any problems.]