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.
The Bread Baking Babes are –