A look through the crisper drawer yesterday revealed very little. Beets, cabbage and little else. So then, what to do with these meager supplies? I thought first about making cabbage rolls but as I checked out my cabbage I realized that its time in the back of the crisper drawer had left it frozen just a bit on the bottom. So then I thought, maybe soup, the frozen cabbage might work out in there. Then, it hit me, Bierocks. Bierocks are a German dish consisting of slightly sweet dough stuffed with a mixture of cabbage, onion and ground beef.
I'm of German descent and much of my family is from the Midwest. I spent a lot of time at my Grandparent's house and if there was one thing you could count on, it was the fact that there would be at least one potluck at the Lutheran church while I was there. My Grandmother and other ladies of the church would make hundreds (if not thousands) of these every year.
My uncle, who is a professor, writes articles, books and keeps a Web site dedicated to life on the plains. He keeps several family recipes on the site so I went there to find a recipe to start with.
Here's the ingredients for the dough:
2 packs yeast
1 Tablespoon + 3/4 cup sugar
1 cup warm water
1 Tablespoon salt
2 cups warm milk
8-10 cups flour, divided (but you might need more)
2/3 cup butter (the original recipe calls for lard, but I didn't have any of that laying around)
I pretty much followed my uncle's (somewhat confusing) instructions for the dough.
In each of two small bowls, I stirred together 1 packet of yeast, 1/2 Tbls. sugar and 1/2 cup warm water to proof the yeast. I proofed each packet separately because I was a little worried that one or both of the packets wouldn't be good because of their age (the one on the left was a little iffy, but I decided to go with it).
In a small saucepan, I warmed the milk along with 3/4 cup sugar and the salt.
In the bowl of my stand mixer I combined 4 cups (20 ounces) of the flour ...
... along with the butter ...
... and the eggs. Then mixed to combine.
To this I added the proofed yeast and warm milk and mixed a bit more to create a batter. I set this aside to rise. We keep our house pretty cold, so I set the "warm and ready zone" on our stove to high ...
... then set a pan over it straddling the burners, then put my covered bowl of batter above this where it's nice and toasty.
Two hours later, it had risen quite a bit (and was nicely bubbly and yeasty, more signs my yeast was good, phew).
I put this on the stand mixer and added 4 more cups of flour.
I mixed it to combine, but I could tell that there was not nearly enough flour in the mix (it was soooo sticky). So, I added flour 1/2 cup at a time until it was just a little bit sticky. In all I ended up adding about 2 cups more of flour. Then I used the mixer to knead the dough for about 3 minutes (until it had developed a nice stretch). I returned this to the warm area to rise again.
While the dough was rising I set to making the filling. My uncle says he seasons the filling heavily with garlic salt, pepper, caraway, a Bavarian herb mix and soy but provides no idea about measurements (and what the heck is in a Bavarian herb mix). With a little research I came up with what seemed like it would be a tasty, German-type combination.
Here's the ingredients:
1 pound ground beef
1 onion, chopped (my uncle calls for 2 onions, but I only had one in the pantry so I also added...)
1 bunch scallions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 sprigs or so of fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped
16 or so fresh sage leaves, chopped
2ish Tablespoons mustard seed
1ish Tablespoon dry mustard
1/4 cup or so soy sauce
1 head cabbage, chopped
lots of salt and pepper (I used a red wine infused salt that a friend gave me)
Okay fine, my measurements aren't great either, but it should end up very heavily seasoned because it needs to stand up to the bread that it will be wrapped in.
I browned the ground beef then added the onion, garlic, seasonings and cabbage and cooked it until the onions and cabbage were soft.
I set this mix aside to cool while I waited for the bread to rise.
One hour later ...
The bread has risen alright.
I punched down the dough and turned it out onto my board (I put a couple of silpats down so sticking could be avoided). Using my hands I spread the dough to about a 1-inch thickness then used a 2-inch biscuit cutter to portion the dough.
I flattened each piece of dough a bit.
Spooned on about a tablespoon of filling.
Then folded the dough around the filling.
And pinched the edges together.
Then laid them out on a baking sheet.
I made an egg wash by beating together an egg with about a tablespoon of water and then brushed each of the bierocks with it. I don't think this step is traditional, but I figured this would help the outsides of the bread to get GBD (golden brown and delicious)
This made 42 bierocks total and as my husband and I are obviously not up to eating that many in one sitting I stuck the majority of then in the freezer (once frozen, I'll be able to take them off the baking sheet and stash them in a Ziploc to eat later).
I set the oven to 350 degrees and baked the ones meant for dinner for 15 minutes.
My uncle recommends eating bierocks with"pickled stuff" in the winter. So I made quick-pickled beets and served them along with cornichon pickles to complement the rolls.
Mmmm, perfect fall dinner (and especially fitting for October, you know with Oktoberfest and all). I was a little worried that I had gotten too crazy with the seasonings, but once it was eaten all together it seemed just fine.
These may have taken a while to put together (this was a nice rainy day, all-day project) but I'm looking forward to eating these warm, toasty buns in the weeks to come.