I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am to be posting this recipe - this is something I've been wanting to do for YEARS.
I grew up in a small town in western Kansas, with a strong Volga German heritage. We ate lots of meat and potatoes, lots of things with heavy cream, and lots of things that most people have never heard of. I don't even know how to properly spell "kedovel and glace"to try to look it up, but we ate it and it was good and let me tell you - those recipes didn't pull any punches.
Bierock was a staple at our house, especially after my Dad married Connie - a hard working, big hearted woman who loves to cook. I would venture to say that Connie is happiest when she's in the kitchen, and she is especially gifted at cooking for large, hungry harvest crews. My Dad is a wheat farmer and whenever harvest was around the corner, Connie would busy herself with filling the freezer to accommodate all the hungry men who would be over for dinner after a long, hot, dirty work day.
|Dad and Connie, looking good in denim|
|Dad and Connie cuttin' a rug|
Bierock was at the top of the list. For those of you who don't know it, bierock is a German meat turnover, that features stewed beef and cabbage in a slightly sweetened, yeasted dough. While making them is not complicated, it's an involved process that can easily take the better part of a day. They're not something you throw together for dinner, they take time. As such, whenever women back home would make them, they'd go big and make upwards of 100. Then they'd freeze them - 4 to a large freezer bag - to be pulled out for quick, easy meals.
I want to take a minute to acknowledge Joan Berens, mother of six kids (all with names that start with "J"), married to my Dad's dear friend Joe Berens, who was also one helluva bierock maker (Joan was, not Joe, was that confusing?). My first experience of seeing them being made as a kid was sitting at her kitchen table, and I'll never forget how she let me play with the dough and make my very own, tiny, one inch bierock.
Now I quit eating meat around 7 years ago, and since that time it's always something of a struggle when I go home to Russell to eat with the family. For years after I moved away from home, whenever I'd go back for a visit I'd go straight to the freezer for a bierock, and suddenly I was no longer able to do that. And while I really lost the taste for meat long ago, I've always kind of wished I could still eat them.
Hence, my desire to make a vegetarian version. I'm not too keen on TVP or other fake meat products that undergo tons of processing and that my grandparents wouldn't have recognized as food. I like to stick to whole foods, as unadulterated as possible. This morning I was once again mulling over ideas about how to make a vegetarian bierock that would satisfy my desire for what I grew up with. The idea of cabbage alone was boring, tempeh might give it an asian flare I wasn't looking for, tofu didn't sound good, and I've already spoken my peace on the TVP. Then it hit me - mushrooms. Mushrooms have that certain succulence that no other vegetables have, and I figured they would be the perfect, earthy element to compliment the cabbage.
What follows is a brand new recipe for not only vegetarian, but vegan bierocks, the likes of which, I believe, would please even my Dad.
|A rare and priceless picture of my Dad at the ocean|
I looked around online for a good dough recipe, but everything I found had too much sugar. This is an adaption of a recipe I found here, and it turned out quite nicely. If you're not vegan or don't have soy milk on hand, feel free to substitute regular milk and butter for the milk and olive oil.
Start the dough first.
2 T Yeast
1 T maple syrup
1 t salt
1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk - slightly warmed
4 T olive oil
4 cups - 50/50 white/wheat flour mix
Combine the yeast, maple syrup, salt, milk, and water in a medium bowl and set aside long enough for the yeast to start to get frothy.
Measure the flour into a large metal bowl and make a well in the middle.
When the yeast is looking activated, pour it into the middle of the flour and mix well with your hands.
Knead the dough until it's well incorporated and slightly springy, about 5-6 minutes (you can just do this with one hand in the bowl rather than dirty up a counter space)
Once the dough has doubled, give it a good punch in the middle and let it rise again for another hour or so.
1.5 pounds crimini or portobello mushrooms
1 large yellow onion - french cut
3/4 of 1 large head of cabbage - shredded
Salt and Pepper
1 T Vegetable Stock Powder (optional)
5-6 T Creamy cooking soy (I used Belsoy) or Heavy Cream if you do dairy (both optional)
Start by sweating the onions over medium/low in a large soup pot with a big pinch of salt and 1 small glug of olive oil (about a tablespoon) for 5-7 minutes. Be sure not to brown them.
Add the mushrooms to the pot, another pinch of salt, a few cracks of pepper, and sweat them together, semi-covered, for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
When the mushrooms have shrunk down, started to brown, and have released a lot of liquid, add the cabbage. Continue to cook over medium/low heat, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage has softened and released it's liquid as well.
Add the soy cream, if using, and stir to incorporate.
All in all, this pot ends up being on the stove at a consistently low/medium heat for about an hour.
Taste and adjust for seasoning. This is when I noticed mine was a bit bland and added the tablespoon of veggie stock powder.
Transfer the filling to a bowl to let it cool - it's much better to assemble the pockets when the filling is cooled properly. Alternatively, you could make the filling the day before and refrigerate it over night. This is what Connie does and it gives great results.
Now that everything is ready, prep a work surface and gather your tools. Cover a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper, and whip up an "egg wash." I mixed a splash of the soy cooking cream, a splash of water, a splash of olive oil, and a pinch of salt.
Working with one half of the dough at a time, roll the dough out nice and thin into a big square.
Using a butter knife cut the dough into squares, roughly 5X5 or 6X6.
Spoon the cooled filling into the center of each square
Place the bierock, seam side down, on the parchment paper and let rest/rise for 20 minutes
Brush with egg wash
Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.
Now at my house we just put salt and pepper on top and called it good. While working at Wheatfield’s, I had the opportunity to work with Don Fortel – a great man, who taught me a lot about cooking and a lot about life. He made bierock for the bakery one day and served them with whole grain German mustard. I was scandalized by such an unseemly act at first, but of course he was right. Good quality mustard is the perfect condiment for this.
I hope that some of you try these savory little pockets, and enjoy them as much as I do. This is truly a recipe from the heart - a tribute to a whole lot of people I love. People who, as life would have it, would much rather have the meaty version. But, alas, this is just my way of doing my thing while honoring where I come from, and there’s joy in that for me.
All this for 17 bierock.