If you’ve lived in the American Midwest, particularly Kansas, Nebraska, or Oklahoma, you are very familiar with this dish. It is said to have been introduced to the US by German Russian Mennonite immigrants and is supposed to be a popular dish in the Volga German community. At least according to Wiki.
I’d never heard of bierocks until I met my husband’s family, who hail from Kansas. My late mother-in-law, Rita, would make it as a single-dish, dinner-time meal, and there wasn’t a family member who would pass it up when it was served.
This is one of those crazy yummy comfort food kind of dishes that grabs you by the heart and holds on. It is a geographic and cultural heritage meal that says home and family. And I love that two generations after Rita, her children and grandchildren still make and eat it. If you give it a shot, I predict it will become a part of your family heritage going forward.
My mother-in-law would make her bierocks using frozen bread dough like this one. She always used the loaf, but I have seen recipes that call for the dinner rolls of the same brand.
I like to make my dough from scratch because I think it is faster than waiting for the frozen dough to defrost and rise. The bread machine does all of the work. And since Rita gave me my first bread machine (back in the day when they were new and outrageously expensive), I feel that making the dough in a bread machine circles back to her. I like that connection.
The dough setting on my bread machine takes one hour and a half. I find that the most efficient way to tackle this dish is to cook the filling and then start the dough. Then you can walk away for an hour and a half. By the time the dough is ready, the filling has cooled to room temperature and you can start assembling the bierocks.
Start by browning the ground beef. I add some of the salt and pepper now.
I use my electric skillet for this dish because it has both a wider and deeper pan. Before the cabbage cooks down, it takes a lot of room. And this calls for a lot of cabbage. When I use my large regular skillet I always end up tossing the cabbage out of the pan and all over my cooktop.
Don’t short change the onion and garlic. They are the secret to this dish.
See what I mean? Lots of cabbage.
Once the cabbage has cooked down, I taste and season again. Then I turn off the heat and I add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. I do that to many of my ground beef stuffing mixtures because ground beef fillings sometimes have a tendency to dry up. Adding olive oil helps ensure a juicy bite of whatever you are stuffing.
Then transfer the mixture out of a pan and into a wide-bottomed bowl so that it cools faster.
This is when I start the dough cycle in the bread machine.
Here’s where recipes vary, depending on personal preference. Rita always rolled her bread dough, and so do I. Some people pull the dough with their hands to stretch it, and with the dough cupped in their palm, stuff the filling that way. What’s the difference between the two methods? Well, rolling the dough breaks the gluten strands, making the finished baked product thinner and less spongy.
I happen to like the bread on my bierock to be just enough to hold the ingredients, and not a thick pillow of dough that overwhelms each bite. So, it you want a puffier, “breadier” bierock, don’t roll the dough. But you may need to double the amount of dough you will need.
We Kemphs like our bierocks to be stuffed full. So heap the stuff in there!
I overlap the dough flaps to close the pocket, and then pinch the seams together to seal.
As you finish stuffing and sealing each bierock, place it in a prepared baking dish.
Then into a preheated oven until golden brown.
Let those babies cool before you start grabbing and biting into them! The moisture from the filling makes them dangerously hot inside the dough pocket. Bypass the third degree burn to the roof of your mouth and be just a little bit patient.
Your patience will definitely pay off, because these are worth waiting for. Trust me.
One bite and you will understand why all of the onion and garlic. They bind the simple ground beef and cabbage into something truly sublime and comforting. I feel REALLY comforted right now.
- FOR THE FILLING
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 3 cups chopped onion
- 4 large garlic cloves, diced
- 10 cups thinly sliced cabbage (about 1 lb.)
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- White pepper
- FOR THE DOUGH
- 3 cups bread flour
- 2 teaspoons dry active yeast
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup canola oil
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 +/- cup water
- Start with the filling so it has time to cool while making the dough.
- In a large skillet at about 250° F, brown the ground beef, adding some of the salt and pepper.
- Add the onion, garlic and cabbage.
- Stir to distribute and cook down the cabbage.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Turn off the heat.
- Drizzle the olive oil and stir in.
- Transfer cooked filling to a large flat-bottomed bowl to cool.
- Add all of the ingredients but only ¾ cup of the water for the dough into the bowl of a bread machine. Continue to add water as needed until a smooth dough ball is formed. You may not need the full cup of water.
- Use the dough cycle to prepare and proof the dough.
- When the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 350° F.
- Cut a section of dough at a time, spread with a rolling pin to about a 6-inch circle.
- Add about 4 tablespoons of the cooled meat and cabbage mixture in the middle of the dough circle, then fold the sides in to cover the filling and pinch the seams to seal.
- Place the assembled bierocks in a prepared baking dish.
- Brush with melted butter now or after they come out of the oven.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
- Cool slightly before serving.