Malty Pilsner complements hearty brunch spread

Malty Pilsner complements hearty brunch spread

LUCY SAUNDERS

Special to The Journal

FEW PEOPLES of the world celebrate the onset of spring with as much zest as the Eastern Europeans. From Bohemia to Ukraine, Eastern Europeans embrace the beginning of spring and create elaborate buffets to herald the event. The hearty fare baked hams, dumplings, mushroom and kasha pilafs can be adapted for an early spring brunch for beer lovers.

Start with an assortment of breakfast breads. Shaped like a pretzel (we’re thinking beer here) and glazed with sugared almonds, a saffron bun makes a perfect start. Serve it fresh-baked and warm, or sliced and toasted with butter and fruit preserves. Or try a malted honey butter: Blend 1 teaspoon malt extract, 1 tablespoon honey and 3 tablespoons softened butter. It makes a great topping for muffins, too.

Next, a rich blini batter, leavened with a little bock beer, complemented by homemade lamb sausages. The sausages require no casings but taste best if made with freshly ground lamb. Ask a butcher to grind some well- trimmed lamb for the recipe, about 1 1/2 pounds of meat total. Blended with warm spices such as cinnamon and hot paprika, and melted with garlic, onions and carrots, the lamb sausages make an excellent counterpoint to the delicately crisp griddle- cooked blini. A fruit salad would make a good side dish.

And last, a word about the beer: Keep it traditional, and serve the light-hued but surprisingly malty Pilsner Urquell. Its gentle carbonation will cut through the rich texture of the lamb sausage and blinis with sour cream, making a memorable brunch meal that will warm a chilly day in early spring.

THE saffron bun recipe is adapted from “Please to the Table: The Russian Cookbook” by Anya von Bremzen and John Welchman (Workman, 1990, $18.95).

Saffron Bun

1/2 cups half-and-half cream, scalded

1 package ( 1/4 ounce) active dry yeast

1/2 cup sugar (divided) 5 1/2 cups flour (divided)

1 large egg plus 2 egg yolks, beaten

4 tablespoons ( 1/2 stick) butter, melted

3/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed with back of spoon into 2 tablespoons warm milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon rum

3/4 cup raisins, soaked in 1/2 cup bock beer

1/2 cup candied chopped citron and mixed citrus peel

1 egg, beaten

1/4 cup almond slices

1/4 cup pearl sugar or large sugar crystals

Scald half-and-half; let cool to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine yeast, 1 teaspoon of the sugar and warm half-and-half in large bowl. Let stand until yeast is dissolved and foamy, about 5 minutes.

Gradually add half of flour to make batter (sponge), and beat until smooth. Cover bowl; set in warm spot to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, beat eggs with remaining sugar, butter, saffron mixture, vanilla and rum with electric beater until smooth. Drain raisins, and fold into sponge, with chopped candied fruit. Then add egg mixture in thirds, alternating with remaining flour, mixing well until dough is integrated and somewhat sticky.

Place dough on floured surface and knead, adding flour if necessary, until smooth and elastic.

Place dough in large buttered bowl, cover, and let rise 2 hours or until doubled in bulk. On large floured surface, roll dough into tube about 3 inches thick and 36 inches long. Place on large baking pan and twist ends in center, and outward, to shape giant pretzel. Cover with damp cloth; let rise 40 minutes.

Beat egg, and brush on pretzel, then sprinkle with sliced almonds and crystal sugar. Let rise 20 to 30 minutes, then bake at 350 degrees until golden brown, about 45 minutes. Let cool before slicing and serving. May be made the night before, and reheated until just warm. Blini

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons sugar

Large pinch of salt

3/4 cup flour

1/2 cup buckwheat flour

1/2 cup dark bock

4 tablespoons clarified butter (divided)

Whisk together eggs, milk, sugar and salt in large bowl. Gradually add flours and beer, beating until smooth. Cover batter; let rest 1 hour, then gently stir in 2 tablespoons melted butter.

Heat crepe pan over medium heat, and brush with melted butter. Ladle about 2 to 3 tablespoons batter into pan, and swirl batter about until surface is coated. Let cook until edges turn golden, about 1 minute. Flip blini, and cook 30 seconds on other side. Slide onto plate set in warm oven. Repeat with rest of batter to make about 16 blini. Serve with sausages, fruit and dab of sour cream. Makes 8 servings. Lamb Sausages

1 1/2 pounds ground lamb

2 medium onions, finely chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped

3 large cloves garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon hot paprika

Salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Bock beer

Chopped fresh parsley

Blend all ingredients except parsley and beer. Form patties about 3 to 4 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick. Saute in pan until well-browned on both sides, about 10 minutes.

Deglaze pan with a few tablespoons bock beer and handful of parsley. Serve with blini. Makes 8 patties. Lucy Saunders is a free-lance writer who lives in Shorewood.

Blessing of the Bock will be held

The 1995 Blessing of the Bock will be held from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Eagles Auditorium, 2401 W. Wisconsin Ave. Fest organizer John Zutz expects more than two dozen bock beers to be served, as well as ales, pilsners, stouts and other beer styles from participating brewers. Expect some new brews to be tapped just for this occasion. Brewmaster Chris Swersey and assistant brewmaster (and Milwaukee native) Ryan Ashley of the prize-winning Mickey Finn’s brew pub in Libertyville, Ill., will introduce a bock beer.

“The original gravity was 1,071, close to that of a doppelbock,” says Swersey. “It’s got a great dark amber color, amply accented with perle and Hallertauer hops.” In addition to representation by regional microbreweries and importers, there will be exhibits from home-brew clubs, home-brew suppliers and glassware vendors.

Several area restaurateurs, such as Rick Castillo of Palomas and Dick Miller of Daily’s and Miller Bakeries, will donate food samples for the crowd. Admission is $20, with the tastings scheduled to begin after the Blessing of the Bock takes place at 12:30. For more information, contact John Zutz at 372-0749.

Copyright 1995

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