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A traditional Christmas time treat in many homes in the Coal Region is lasineciai – Lithuanian Bacon Buns.
Many cooks enjoy making these year ’round, not just at Christmas, because they are a family favorite. During the Christmas season, these special bites of heaven are passed around in Lithuanian homes. accompanied with the salutation, “Linksmu Kaledu,” which means Merry Christmas!
The Coal Region’s “Little Lithuania”
The Southern Coal region of Northeast Pennsylvania is known as “Little Lithuania”. Anthracite and the industry surrounding it lured many Lithuanians in during the 1860s to 1910s era.
Shenandoah (Pennsylvania) earned itself the nickname, “the Vilnius of North America” and was a much larger town during the Anthracite heyday than it is now. During that era, Shenandoah’s population was upwards of 40,000, a quarter of them Lithuanians.
Lithuanian migration to the Coal Region was often a result of Lithuanians back home being discriminated against under the Russian Imperial rule with their language banned between years 1865 and 1904.
In 1862, the first colliery in Shenandoah was opened. This was Shenandoah City Colliery.
“Shenandoah celebrates its ethnic diversity. In the 1870’s, the Irish were the predominate immigrants to come to Shenandoah. Beginning in the late 1870’s, immigration shifted from the Western European to the Eastern European countries, predominately Lithuania, Poland, the Ukraine, and Slovakia. As each new wave of immigrants arrived in Shenandoah, they set to establish their own church with services in their own language and eventually establish parochial schools where their children could be taught both in English and their own language and custom. In the 1930 Shenandoah boasted 22 nationalities, 22 churches.” (Source Downtown Shehandoah, Inc.)
The locations with the most Lithuanian heritage in Schuylkill County are Shenandoah itself, Shenandoah Heights, Frackville, Mahanoy City, Mount Carmel, and Tamaqua. Almost every town here has (or had) a Lithuanian church, cemetery, and club(s). Is it any wonder that Lithuanian foods are such a part of our Schuylkill County and Coal Region heritage and holiday celebrations?
These little pillows of heaven are too good to only indulge in once a year and aren’t limited to Shenandoah!
This recipe includes making your own dough, but you can use frozen bread dough to speed things up and cut down on the labor.
Bacon buns can be eaten hot or at room temperature and can be reheated in the oven.
Success with Bacon Buns
- Semi-frozen bacon is much easier to chop into pieces that refrigerated.
- Use a nice, meaty bacon like you find at a butcher shop or farmers’ market if at all possible.
- If you use frozen bread dough to make these, you will find they will not be the same texture and taste as the scratch-made dough in this recipe which is rich and sweeter than the frozen; more like a brioche dough.
- As you make successive batches and get more proficient, you may find you prefer to pinch off balls of dough, flatten, fill, and shape rather than use a cutter.
Lithuanian Bacon BunsCourse: Bread, AppetizersCuisine: Eastern European, Coal RegionDifficulty: Intermediate
A soft dough stuffed with chopped cooked onion and bacon then baked to a golden brown.
3/4 pound good bacon, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 cup whole milk
1/4 pound unsalted butter
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package active dry yeast or 2 1/4 teaspoons from a jar of yeast
3 large room temperature eggs, beaten
3 cups all-purpose flour
- Egg wash
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 Tablespoon water
- Put bacon and onion in frying pan, add water to barely cover. With lid on, simmer until water evaporates watching closely. Place filling in refrigerator to cool completely. Do not brown the bacon.
- Scald milk. Whisk in butter, sugar, and salt. Cool to lukewarm (110 – 115 F degrees). Whisk in the yeast. Place this mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer or other large bowl.
- Add the beaten eggs and flour and beat vigorously with wooden spoon or mixer’s paddle attachment until smooth.
- Lightly grease top of dough, cover bowl with towel and let rise until doubled in warm spot.
- Punch down dough and let rise until doubled one more time. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut in half and work with one half of dough at a time, keeping other half covered.
- Roll dough about 1/4 to 3/8 inch thick. Cut out 3 inch circles of dough with a round cutter.
- Place a tablespoon or so of cooled bacon mixture in center of circle. Fold over and pinch edges of dough together to completely cover the filling.
- Shape into a ball or torpedo shape and place seam side down on parchment lined baking sheet leaving space between buns to rise and expand.
- Repeat with other half of dough; re-roll scraps.
- Cover rolls lightly with greased plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled.
- Pre-heat oven to 375 F. Brush rolls with egg wash.
- Bake 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown. Brush with butter when removed from oven if desired.
- Can be served hot, at room temperature or reheated in the oven.