Going After the Elusive Birewegge (Swiss Pear Rolls)

As a child I used to visit my aunt in Switzerland very often. She lives near Zürich and it is very beautiful there. In Switzerland you will find great tasting food. The Swiss honour their traditions and their farmers. Small farms up in the mountains can make a living the way their ancestors did. The cows graze on the hillsides, cheeses are made in small batches right on site. Food made that way is not cheap, but you won’t find a better tasting yoghurt anywhere else. My favourite was the one you would buy in small brown glass jars, closed with a plastic lid. The yoghurt ripens in each jar individually and when you stick a spoon into it you will find a layer of cream on top. Mhmmm! After you are done, the jar is washed and returned to the grocery store.

Another favourite of mine are Birewegge, small rolls filled with pears. There are many different recipes ( and spellings) for them. Some have nuts added or prunes. I usually had the one from the chain supermarket Migros and these were the ones I wanted to copy. After several failed attempts I found the ingredients listed on the Migros’ website, which I translated into food I might find in my kitchen and took a good guess at the spices and measurements. To my delight the taste matched my memories.

I know, it does not look very special. This is more about inner values ; )

Here is my recipe:

Prepare the filling:

about 300g of dried pears
about 60g of dried figs, with the hard stem cut off

Fill the dried fruit into a cooking pot and add so much cold water that the fruit is covered. Let sit over night. In the morning bring the fruit to a boil, turn off the heat and let it cool.

Make a yeast dough with the following ingredients:

500g flour
80g sugar
80g butter, softened
1 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp yeast

Let it rise for about 1 hour. Pre-heat oven to 350°F (180° C).

Filling:

You can use a food processor for this or add everything to a bowl and mix it with an immersion blender. You need:

the cooked fruit, minus the juice
the juice and rind of one lemon
100g apple butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp each of ground cardamom and cinnamon
1/4 tsp each of ground allspice, ginger and pepper

Puree until you have a smooth consistency.

Roll out the dough into a rectangle,  about a 1/4 inch thick. Lay the dough onto parchment paper. Imagine the dough divided into thirds lengthwise. Spread a bit more than half of the filling onto the middle third. Fold the lower third over the filling and spread the rest of the filling on top, leaving one inch of the bottom free of the filling. Fold the rest of the dough over everything.

Lift the roll onto a baking sheet. It is best, if you turn it over so that the seam is down. Brush the roll with 1 egg yolk mixed with 1 Tbsp milk. Poke holes into it so steam can escape.

Bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown. Let it cool and serve it sliced.

If you ever had the original you will notice that the pear filling is much darker. I believe the reason for this is that in Switzerland the pears are not treated with sulfur dioxide so that they turn brown when they dry.

I am not the only one feeling very passionate about Birewegge, there is even a song about them:

Berewegge, Chäs ond Brot

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