I grew up in a small Kansas town heavily populated with people of German and Eastern European descent. My first taste of bierocks, an Eastern European “sandwich” made from sweet bread dough filled with cabbage, ground beef and onions, came when I was in grade school.
Our school lunch director was one of those Eastern European descendents, and she made bierocks once a month for our entire school to enjoy. Her version was less seasoned than mine, so as to appeal to the bland diets of grade school children.
Bierocks are easy to prepare but take about five hours start to finish — three hours of which is allowing the dough to proof.
They also freeze and reheat well, making them ideal for weekday lunches or dinners on the go. Simply cover with a damp paper towel and microwave the frozen bierock for about a minute.
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Makes 24 servings
4 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast (or two packs)
1 Tbsp. and 3/4 cup sugar
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
2 cups warm 2 percent milk
8 cups of flour, plus more for rolling dough out
11 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs, whisked
3 pounds of ground beef (80/20 works best)
2 large yellow onions, finely chopped
2 10-ounce bags of shredded green cabbage
Salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
In a small bowl, combine yeast, 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 cup of warm water. In another bowl, combine the salt, warm milk and remaining 3/4 cup of sugar.
In a very large bowl, add 4 cups of flour, the melted butter and the whisked eggs. Combine this mixture as much as possible and then add the yeast mixture and the milk/sugar mixture. Using a wooden spoon, mix the batter to evenly combine. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the batter to rise for about 1 1/2 hours.
Remove the plastic wrap and add the remaining 4 cups of flour using your hands. Remove the dough from the bowl, and on a floured work surface knead the dough into a large disc. Return the dough to the bowl, cover and allow to proof for another 1 1/2 hours.
Note: The dough will not be perfectly smooth. There will be pea-sized pieces of butter throughout the dough. Don’t fret. After baking, the butter will be completely melted, and the dough will be very smooth.
While the dough is rising, prepare the bierock filling. In a large heavy pot, brown the ground beef. Do not drain off any of the fat. Add the onions to the pot and allow to cook for about 5 minutes, or until they begin to soften. Add the cabbage and caraway seeds, and season with salt and pepper.
I like to season the mixture heavily so the flavor of the filling comes through the sweetness of the dough once baked. Set the filling aside while the dough continues to rise.
Once the dough has risen, remove it from the bowl to a heavily floured work surface. Using a bench scraper, or a knife, cut the dough into 24 pieces. I find the easiest way to do this is to first press the dough into a large disc, then quarter it and cut each quarter into six pieces. Don’t be too concerned about making every piece exactly the same size, as some variance in size adds to the rustic nature of this dish.
Before you begin rolling out the dough, prepare 3 to 4 baking pans by coating them in nonstick spray. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Keep the dough pieces covered with plastic wrap while you roll out one piece at a time. Using a rolling pin, roll each dough piece into a 1/4-inch thick round. Place half a cup of filling in the center and pull the edges of the dough into the middle, pinching them together. Place the bierock down on the greased pan, seam side down. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces.
Bake the bierocks in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until they begin to lightly brown on the top. Once baked, serve immediately or allow to cool at room temperature before placing in large reseal able bags and freezing. Bierocks can remain in the freezer for up to one month.
Jessica James is a millennial mom and professional chef whose passion is inspiring families to cook and spend quality time together in the kitchen.