A bierock—German stuffed bread—is not now, nor has it ever been haute cuisine, it is essentially a workingman’s lunch. When you are working, traveling, or having some kind of festival event, you do not always have time to sit down for meal. Having a meal in a neat, sealed package that you can slip into a pocket or pouch is a solution that many cultures have discovered.
I have made bierock before, but my wife, Jan, has a strong bias against German cuisine. It was only after she left home that she discovered that food could have spice or that vegetables did not have to be cooked to sludge. Recently, she found a recipe for bierock that she thought she would like.
I kept most of the ingredients of this recipe—it included garlic, dill, caraway seeds, and dill pickle brine. I had to use the tricks and techniques that I have developed over the years to make improvements. Looking at other recipes on-line, I noticed that some mixed German sausage with the beef. I also decided to add some non-traditional Worchester sauce to boost the umami (meaty) flavor.
I also used a Cook’s Illustrated browning technique for the meat. One of the Cook’s Illustrated chefs found that if you fried the meat in bits you ended up with hard pebbles when enough browning had occurred to enhance the flavor. By browning the meat in a large patty you get the flavor provided by the Maillard reaction, while still having most of the meat remaining moist and tender. I also used another CI trick of adding a bit of baking soda—which changes the Ph and allows the meat to be more tender and moist.
Karl’s Volga German Bierocks Ingredients
2 cups bread flour
1 cup+ AP flour
1 Tbs. sugar
2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 cup milk
2 tsp. active dry yeast
4+ Tbs. butter, separate uses
½ lb. ground beef (80/20)
2 bratwurst sausages
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
¼ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. baking soda dissolved in 1 tsp. of water
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced half moons (~1 cup)
¼ tsp. Kosher salt
3 cups green cabbage, shredded
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup fresh dill, minced
1 tsp. caraway seeds
½ tsp. black pepper
¼ cup dill pickle brine
1. Put the dry ingredients— flours, sugar, and salt—into a sifter and blend them together well.
Tip: I re-sift the dry mixture several times.
2. Put the milk in a large measuring cup and microwave it for one minute.
Tip: Some low powered microwaves may take longer. You want the milk warm, but not boiling.
3. Put the yeast into a small cup and add in ¼ cup of the milk.
4. Stir and let the yeast proof for 10 minutes.
Tip: If your yeast is good there should be a good head of foam covering the mixture after this time. If there is not, discard and buy new yeast.
5. Add 3 tablespoons of butter to the milk.
Tip: This both melts the butter and cools off the milk. You want it to be cool enough that it does not cook the eggs when you add them to the milk.
6. Scramble the eggs into the milk.
7. Make a “well” in the flour and add the yeast mixture, milk/butter/egg mixture.
8. Pull the flour from the sides of the “well” into the wet ingredients.
9. When the flour in the bowl is mostly incorporated, turn the dough out onto a well-floured smooth surface.
Tip: Put about half a cup of flour on the board.
Note: I prefer to make my initial dough a bit wet. It is easier to knead more flour into a wet dough than to add liquid to a dough that is too dry.
10. Knead the dough for 10-15 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
11. Add rub the dough bowl with some melted butter and rub the top of the dough ball in the butter.
12. Turn the dough over and cover the bowl with a smooth, clean, damp, kitchen towel.
Tip: Place the bowl in a warm place for one hour.
Note: Do not use a terrycloth towel, the dough might stick to it as it rises and be hard to remove.
13. While the dough is rising, put the beef and sausage in a medium mixing bowl.
Tip: Run a knife down the length of the sausages and peel off the casing before adding the pork to the bowl.
14. Add the Worcestershire sauce, pepper, and baking soda water to the meat and mix them in well.
15. Let the meat marinate for 20-40 minutes.
Tip: If you plan to let the meat marinate for more than 40 minutes, leave out the baking soda and water. Add them to the meat 20 minutes before you plan to start frying.
Note: While the chemical reaction cause by the baking soda slows down over time, it will eventually make your meat mushy if left in the raw meat for too long before cooking.
16. Add one tablespoon of melted butter to a large pan over medium high heat.
17. Form the meat into a single large patty, about half an inch thick.
18. Fry the patty for about ten minutes on one side, until crispy and well browned.
19. Turn the patty over and continue frying until well browned on the second side, about another 6-8 minutes.
20. Remove the meat patty to a plate to cool.
21. Spoon out all but two tablespoons of the grease from the pan.
Tip: Reserve the grease for later.
22. Deglaze the pan with a little water and then add the onions.
23. Sauté the onions with the salt until they are starting to pick up some color, about five minutes.
24. Add the cabbage to the pan and continue sautéing until the vegetables are soft, about another 5-8 minutes.
Tip: Stir the cabbage frequently, so that it cooks evenly and does not scorch from resting against the hot pan for too long.
25. Pull the vegetables to the sides of the pan and sauté the garlic in the hole in the center.
Tip: Add some of the reserve grease to the garlic, if necessary.
26. Break the beef patty into small bits and stir them into the cabbage mixture.
Tip: Using two forks to break up the meat keeps your finger clean.
27. Stir the garlic into the vegetables and sprinkle the fresh dill, caraway seeds, black pepper, and pickle brine over the cabbage mixture
28. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool as you prepare the wrappers.
29. Punch down the dough and divide it into portions.
Tip: How many portions you make with your dough is your choice. I found that dividing the dough into 16 portions, produced thin walled bierock that were not enough for a meal by themselves. This time I divided the dough into ten to make “full meal” bierock.
30. Divide the dough into 10 portions and pull in the sides into to make 10 dough balls.
Tip: This is a raised dough that depends on gluten sheets for its “lift.” When you cut your dough, there will be an outside surface—smooth—and several “cut” surfaces—covered in bubble holes. Stretch the outside surface around and push the cut sides into the center of the balls. Lay the balls down with the crimped side down.
31. On a lightly floured board, take a dough ball with the “crimped” side up and roll it into a disk about 7 inches in diameter.
Tip: Flour the rolling pin ads well.
Note: You want to leave a flat hump in the middle of the dough with the outer edges tapering down to a fairly thin sheet of dough. If you roll out the dough into a flat disk the top of the bierock will be very thin and the bottom very thick as you gather the outer edges of the disk over the filling. By leaving the middle thick and the edges thin, they even out to make a bun with the filling in the middle.
32. Place one quarter of a cup of filling in the center of the disk.
Tip: The meat mixture in the pan is fairly loose. I found—that by using a spatula and a ¼ cup measure—I could pack the filling down and place it in a tight packet in the middle of the dough. This made it easier to wrap the dough around the filling.
33. Pull the edges of the dough over the filling and twist then together.
Tip: Pick up the two opposite edges of the dough and pinch them at the top with one hand. Pick up the other two edges and bring them to the top. You will have four folds of dough sticking out from the sides. Pull each of these to the top, in turn and pinch and twist them together. Lay the bierock on the counter sealed side down and cup your hands around it and gently rotate the tough to further twist the dough. use your hands to gently form the dough into an even “bun” shape.
34. Lay the finished bierock on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
35. Let the bierock rise for 20 minutes.
36. Bake for 30 minutes in a preheated 375º F oven.
Tip: Rotate the tray after 15 minutes, so that they bake evenly.
37. Transfer the bierock to a wire rack for 10 minutes to cool.
38. Bierock are tasty both warm and cold.