Kelly chose Bierocks or Runza for us, the Bread Baking Babes, to bake this month. Bierocks or Runza are soft golden brown yeasted buns typically filled with seasoned ground beef, onions, and cabbage or sauerkraut. They’re German or East European in origin and came to the American Midwest with the settlers. They can be round, square, rectangular, triangular or half-moon in shape depending on where they’re made. At the most basic, they’re Cabbage Buns.
These stuffed buns are better known as Bierocks in Kansas and Runza in Nebraska. As the story goes, an enterprising lady known as Sarah ‘Sally’ Everett of Lincoln coined the name Runza to describe her family recipe of dough filled with a cooked mixture of ground beef and chopped cabbage. Everett and her brother opened the first Runza restaurant in Lincoln in 1949. One suggestion for the name is that Runza comes from the German runsa which means bun shape. Others are that Runza comes from “Runzeln” meaning “pucker” or “Ranzen” meaning “satchel” or “belly”.
As for Bierocks, the suggestion is that the term “Bieroch” comes from the Russian “Pirogi/ Pirozhki” which describes any food that has filling stuffed into dough.Others say it is related the Turkish word “Berok or Boerek”.
Whichever way one looks, a couple of facts stand out. One that theses had origins somewhere in Germany-Russia-Eastern Europe. The second that they’re hearty filled buns and good country fare. The third is that Bierocks or Runza are names used interchangeably to describe small breads/ baked sandwiches filled with spiced ground meat, onions and cabbage! People seem to call them by all sorts of names where these are common fare. Some names include Kraut Bellies, Kraut Burgers, Kraut Bierocks, Krautbrod, and Krautkuchen. They were made with cabbage or sauerkraut with or without meat.
Stuffed breads similar yet slightly different in filling and cooking methods can be found across Eastern Europe. Some examples of these are the Polish Pierogi, the Russian Pirozhki, Turkish Borek, Krautranzen or Cabbage Buns. So the running thread through this whole thing has been cabbage in bread, perfect for the vegetarian in me. My vegetarian Bierocks/ Runza are filled with onions, cabbage (of course!), carrot, crumbled Indian cheese called paneer, Kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves), salt and pepper. I was tempted to spice it up Indian style but desisted however, as I wanted to stay truer to the original recipe.
You can grate the carrot but I chose to julienne it using a peeler I have for this. This way, I had the sliced onions, shredded cabbage and carrots more or less the same size and shape. I chose to make mine into squares, since Bierocks/ Runza come in a variety of shapes. Brush the buns with melted butter 10 minutes before they come out. This is optional but it makes a big difference in flavour and colour.
The buns might not excite you if do not like cabbage but if you like cabbage you will love these stuffed buns. You also might find the filling quite bland if you’re Indian and used to the variety of spices in Indian food. If so, feel free to improvise and make the filling to your taste. After all, food must be enjoyed.
Bierocks or Runza
For the Runza dough:
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp dried yeast
- 2/3 cup milk
- 2 3/4 cups all-purpose
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup water
- 35 gm butter soft at room tempertaure
- 1 egg
For the Filling :
- 1 1/2 tbps oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp fennel seeds saunf
- 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced onion
- 1/2 tsp minced garlic or paste
- 1/2 cup grated carrot
- 2 cups finely shredded cabbage
- 200 gm crumbled paneer
- 2 tsp kasuri methi
- 1 1/2 tsp crushed black pepper
- Salt to taste
- Melted butter for brushing on the Bierocks/ Runza (optional)
For the Filling :
- I would suggest making the filling first, as it needs to cool down before you can use it. You can make the filling the previous day and refrigerate it for greater convenience.
- Heat oil in a pan. Add cumin seeds and fennel seeds and stir a couple of times. Now add the onions and garlic. Sauté till they start caramelizing. Add the cabbage and cook down, stirring frequently. Salt the cabbage as it helps in cooking down. When the cabbage is almost done, add the carrot and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the pepper and check for salt.
- Take it off the heat and stir in the Kasuri methi and crumbled paneer. Keep aside till required or refrigerate for later use.
For the Bierocks or Runza :
- You can knead the dough by hand or machine. Proof the yeast by mixing it with half a cup lukewarm milk and some of the sugar. Put the flour, the remaining sugar, salt, soft butter and egg in the bowl of your machine and mix. Add the remaining milk, the proofed yeast and as much of the water you need to knead into a soft, smooth and elastic dough. Start by placing 1½ cups flour, sugar, yeast, and salt into a large mixing bowl.
- Shape the dough into a ball, and transfer to a well-oiled bowl rolling to coat in the oil. Cover loosely and let rise in a warm place for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours till double in volume.
- Degas the dough by kneading lightly and shape into a rough square. Lightly you’re your counter with flour and roll out the dough into a thinner square about 12” and about less than 1/4” thick. Cut the dough into 9 equal squares. You can also make round buns. Just divide the dough into 9 portions and roll out each into a circle less than 1/4” thick and proceed as follows.
- Working with one piece at a time, put some of the filling right in the centre. Be generous with the filling as there’s nothing great about a filled bun that is more bread than filling. Pull up the four pointy edges together and seal. Pinch together the gaps along the edges to seal. Make sure you have sealed the dough well or it will open up on baking.
- Quickly work with the remaining dough squares and filling and make similar “packets”. Place them on a greased or parchment lined baking tray, seam sides down. Bake them at 180C (350F) for about 20 minutes till done and golden brown. You can brush the top of the Bierocks/ Runza with melted butter 10 minutes before they come out.
- Cool on a rack.
The Bread Baking Babes are –