Daughter Eilene invited her friends over for the first time in a long while—it is finally warm enough that they can meet in the garage space they have set up without endangering my wife and me. I had made Volga German bierocks a few days ago and Eilene asked me to make some bierocks for her friends. Not to do the same dish twice in a row, I decided to mix things up.
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.
What you fill your bread wrapper with is limited only by your imagination. I have made several variations on this dish, filling my buns with different flavors from around the world—chicken or beef Florentine, curried or Moroccan chicken, Uyghur or Kūbide fillings, as well as bierocks with more traditional fillings.
Today, I decided to base my filling on bratwurst and I had to decide what would go to making bread and sausage into a complete meal. Wife Jan is constantly on me to add more vegetables to meaty dishes, so I added celery to bierock’s basic onions and green cabbage. I also decided at apples would also go nicely with bratwurst.
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 to retain its moistness.
Karl’s Bratwurst Apple Bierocks
2 cups bread flour, separate uses
1 cup+ AP flour
1 Tbs. sugar
2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 cup milk, separate uses
2 tsp. active dry yeast
4+ Tbs. butter, separate uses
5 bratwurst sausages
1 Tbs. Worchester sauce
¼ cup beer or sherry, separate uses
½ tsp. baking soda dissolved in 1 tsp. of water
1 medium yellow onion, diced finely (~1 cup)
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 cup celery, diced finely
3 cups green cabbage, shredded and chopped finely
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped finely
1 tsp. thyme
½ tsp. black pepper
1. Put the dry ingredients— flours and sugar—into a sifter and blend them together well.
Tip: Hold back 1 cup of the bread flour and mix the salt into the flour. Salt slows down the growth of the yeast. Do not be concerned if the dough seems very wet at this point, you will be adding this salted flour into the dough after the dough has had time to hydrate.
Note: When you add water to dry flour interesting things happen. The glutenin and gliadin—two of the proteins in wheat flour—attaches to the water molecules and link up to form gluten—the long stretchy molecule that gives bread its structure. This process is called hydration and—if nothing interferes with it—continues until all of the available water has been absorbed. During this phase the dough my seem very wet, but it jump starts the formation of the gluten and the growth of the yeast.
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. Stir the liquid into the flour until you have a smooth batter with not lumps of dry flour.
10. Cover the bowl with a wet kitchen towel and let it rest for 20-30 minutes.
11. Stir the salted flour into the dough.
12. 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.
13. Knead the dough for 10-15 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
14. Add rub the dough bowl with some melted butter and rub the top of the dough ball in the butter.
15. 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.
16. While the dough is rising, put the 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.
17. Mix the Worchester sauce, one tablespoon of the beer, and baking soda water in a small cup.
Tip: Stir the sauce until the baking soda has dissolved.
18. Add the sauce to the sausage and mix them in well.
19. 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 beer. 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.
20. Add one tablespoon of melted butter to a large pan over medium high heat.
21. Form the meat into a single large patty, about half an inch thick.
22. Fry the patty for about ten minutes on one side, until crispy and well browned.
23. Turn the patty over and continue frying until well browned on the second side, about another 6-8 minutes.
24. Remove the meat patty to a plate to cool.
25. Spoon out all but two tablespoons of the grease from the pan.
Tip: Reserve the grease for later.
26. Deglaze the pan with a little water and then add the onions.
Note: Depending on my mood, I will cut the vegetables into different shapes—like shreds or half moons—today, I cut all of the vegetables into a quarter inch dice.
27. Sauté the onions with the salt until they are starting to pick up some color, about five minutes.
28. Add the celery and sauté for another 2-3 minutes.
29. Add the cabbage to the pan and continue cooking 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.
30. 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.
31. Stir the garlic into the vegetables and sprinkle the thyme and pepper over the cabbage mixture
32. Reduce the heat and stir the remaining beer into the vegetables.
Tip: While you do not want to cook your to a mush, you want them to be soft enough that they do not poke holes in your dough wrapper.
33. Break the sausage patty into small bits and stir them into the cabbage mixture.
Tip: Using two forks to break up the meat keeps your finger clean.
34. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool as you prepare the wrappers.
35. 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.
Note: I knew that my usual recipe would not be enough to feed all of my daughter’s friends, so I boosted the amount of dough I was making—I added an extra cup of bread flour, half a teaspoon more of yeast, and an extra egg and a splash more milk. Of course, this left me with more dough than filling. Fortunately, I had some leftover taco meat from last night’s dinner which worked out quite nicely. In fact, wife Jan suggested that I make a corn meal bread to make sort of a cross between a bierock and an arepa.
36. Divide the dough into 10-12 portions and pull in the sides into to make 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.
37. 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 as well, otherwise it will stick and tear your dough.
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 will come out 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.
38. 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.
39. 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.
40. Lay the finished bierock on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
41. Let the bierock rise for 20 minutes.
42. Bake for 30 minutes in a preheated 375º F oven.
Tip: Rotate the tray after 15 minutes, so that they bake evenly.
43. Transfer the bierock to a wire rack for 10 minutes to cool.
44. Bierock are tasty both warm and cold.