Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Bierocks - the food of my people!

In Kansas, everyone eats bierocks. Bierocks are a bread pocket filled with meat & cabbage. Yes, I said cabbage! They are a delicious Volga-German food (most people in Kansas are part of this ethnic group somewhere along the line) and so far as I'm aware, they don't eat them anywhere else. Though they are clearly (to me at least) a cross between German and Russian food.

Everyone's grandma makes them better than anyone else's but few people under the age of 40 know how to make them, which is both sad and adds to their allure - if you only eat them a few times a year they taste darn good!  Most people make a whole bunch in one day and put them in the freezer, this can be a whole day project and aside from making the house smell vaguely of cabbage, a fun way to spend a long afternoon.

Shortly before Christmas, I went out to my Grandma's house for a visit, dinner and board games (I lost sequence a lot and won rummikub a lot). What was for dinner? Bierocks. I was in heaven. The problem with living so far away from everyone who knows how to make bierocks, is I never get to eat them.

So I needed to learn to make them. I had a consultation with Mom, with Grandma and I dove in. Now, keep in mind this is not a recipe but more like "orally communicated guidelines." Mom and Grandma (paternal) don't make them exactly the same way, so I pieced it together from what they said to figure out what would work for me.

Bierock guidelines


bread dough
ground beef
green cabbage, shredded
garlic, onion are optional 

-Make a non-sweet bread dough (Mom recommended using Pillsbury hot roll mix, Grandma uses some frozen dough for making dinner rolls, or you can go make some dough from scratch. I used the roll mix.)

-While your dough rises, brown ground beef in a large pan with  shredded cabbage, seasoning as desired. Allow meat mixture to cool somewhat.

- When dough is almost ready, grease a larger cookie sheet and preheat oven to 370.

- After dough has risen, take a small ball (bit smaller than a tennis ball) and roll the dough out into a circle. Place about 1/2 cup of meat mixture in the center and pull the corners of the dough up and join them together in the center. Pull the new corners up and join them together, until the dough is sealed and circular (so much as you can, it takes practice to get them a nice shape).

- Flip prepared bierock over onto a greased cookie sheet. Repeat until cookie sheet is full and bake for 20 minutes at 370 or until nicely brown.

- After removing from the oven, baste tops lightly with butter. Repeat until ingredients are depleted.

- Allow to cool and enjoy!

- If you use 1 box of Pillsbury hot roll mix, 1 lb of ground beef and 2-3 cups of cabbage you will get about 7 bierocks.
- Mom shreds the cabbage in a food processor to make it smaller, very few people make their bierocks this way but Mom always receives accolades for "less cabbagey" nature of hers and this is the secret.
- I said the directions to roll the bierocks out, my mom makes them in her hand, but how she does it is completely beyond me, feel free to try that if you're an over achiever!
- Most people like these with ketchup (including me) and some also with mustard, though this isn't strictly speaking traditional. 
- They also freeze very well but I don't think they are as good after being in the freezer.

Does anyone else's family eat these? If so, I want to know about it!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Date & walnut "icebox cookies"

My aunt made the best cookies when I was home for Christmas! Well, truthfully, she made lots that were so-so and one kind that was fantastic! It came from a Taste of Home cookbook/pamphlet that looked like it was circa late 80s.

1 cup butter/margarine/shortening
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 3 cups flour

1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup chopped dates*
3/4 cup chopped walnuts*

 Mix ingredients thoroughly and then shape dough into a log (or two),wrap in plastic. Chill logs for 2hrs or up to 1 week, unwrap and cut into 1/2in slices. Place on  un-greased baking sheets and bake 350 for 10 minutes. Yield 2 1/2 dozen.
*The original recipe says 1 1/2 cups of "extras" and suggests different types of raisins, chips, nuts or various other things. The dates & walnuts are what my aunt used and what made this yummy.
I changed the recipe to call for more flour because I don't know what happened but this was the stickiest cookie dough I have ever encountered. It stuck to me, the mixer, the spatula - everything. I added almost a whole cup of additional flour. It might be because I did not have enough stick butter and used some spreadable margarine to get up to the needed 1 cup, but I would plan on having some extra around if I were you. I could not fathom how I was to form this sticky, gooey dough into a log, so I added flour until it was workable and used more to coat my hands when I made the logs.