All-Natural Whole Wheat Bierocks with Cheese
If you’ve never had a bierock (we pronounce it BEER-OCK in Kansas where I grew up), you are really missing a treat. This authentic German bierock recipe using ground beef comes from Ellis, Kansas, center of the Volga-Deutsch settlements that sprung up all over Kansas and Nebraska in the 1870s. It’s a soft, slightly sweet bread roll, filled with ground beef (or sausage, or whatever you have), onion and cabbage or sauerkraut. You can also add cheese, as I have. In fact, you can pretty much add whatever you want – this is the kind of meal a family would prepare out of anything they had on hand. The only must-haves are the cabbage and sweet dough.
You can find easy bierock recipes on the internet that call for frozen bread dough, or canned crescent roll dough. Don’t fool yourself: Those are poor imitations of the real thing. And frankly, with all the thawing and rolling and messing with super-sticky frozen dough, you’re better off just making your own dough the way you like it.
If you’re planning on adding cheese, I recommend using something that will melt well, without separating into fat and protein. You may love the flavor of an aged cheese, but the older a cheese is, the more likely you’re going to get separation and a big oil slick on your baking sheet. I tend to stick with good, young monterey jack or colby cheese – but try a gruyere or provolone sometime!
Whole Wheat Bierocks with Cheese
- 4 1/2 tsp active dry yeast (2 packs)
- 3/4 cup sugar, plus 1 Tbl for yeast
- 1 cup warm water (110F)
- 1 Tbl salt
- 2 cups warm milk
- 8 cups of flour (I used 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 unbleached organic all-purpose flour)
- 8 Tbl melted butter
- 2 eggs (plus one extra if you’d like to add a shiny egg-wash to the rolls)
- 2 lbs ground beef (I used 1 lb beef and 1 lb spicy sausage)
- 2 yellow onions, chopped
- 2 lbs of cabbage (about 1/2 a large head)
- 2 cups grated cheese, your choice (I used a peppered monterey jack this time)
- Salt and pepper (I used 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.)
- Caraway seeds (the original calls for 1 Tbl, but I only use 1 tsp in mine.)
In a small bowl, combine yeast and 1 Tbl sugar. Whisk in 1 cup warm water. In another bowl, combine salt, warm milk and 3/4 cup sugar.
In a large mixing bowl, combine 4 cups of flour, melted butter and eggs. Mix with paddle or spoon, then add yeast mixture and the milk mixture. Mix to combine. Add remaining flour, 1 cup at a time. Switch to a dough hook when the dough gets too tough for the paddle – around 6 cups. Using the dough hook knead the dough for about 8 minutes. Or, turn the dough out on a floured surface and knead until dough is smooth and elastic. Return to a large, greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Why whole wheat? I enjoy the nuttier flavor as well as the added fiber. It goes perfectly with recipes calling for stronger spices like caraway. If you’re looking for different fillings, check out my new post with spicy sausage or pizza stuffing!
In a large pot (you’ll need ALL the room!) brown the hamburger or sausage, leaving the fat. Add the chopped onions and cook until translucent. Add the cabbage and caraway, salt and pepper to taste. Cook the cabbage al dente – not to mush, but still firm enough to resist your teeth a bit when you bite.
I added 1 Tbl of caraway, but I would cut that back to 1/2 Tbl or maybe just 1 tsp. It’s a heavy-duty spice. You can also try some red pepper flakes for a little punch.
When the dough has risen, turn it out again onto a heavily floured board or surface. You’ll need to cut it into 24 somewhat even pieces. I cut the big lump in 1/4, then stretched those pieces out and cut them into 6 pieces. A little variation is fine. Cover your pieces with plastic wrap while you work rolling them out.
Roll a piece of dough into a ball, then with a rolling pin roll it out to about 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick. Even at 1/8″ you’ll have plenty of bread, so don’t worry about making them too thin. You should have a circle about 6″ in diameter.
Place 1/2 cup filling in the center, then top with 1 Tbl of cheese. Pull up opposite sides of the circle and pinch them together. Pull the OTHER sides together and do the same. Pinch up the sides to seal all the way, fold all this under the roll and place that side down onto a greased sheet or baking pan. (If you like, you can brush each roll with the egg wash – just beat one egg with a little water until it’s a light yellow, then use a pastry brush to coat the top of each roll).
Bake the rolls at 350 for 25 minutes, until the rolls are golden brown.
You can serve immediately, or let them cool, store in plastic freezer bags and reheat them anytime. They keep very well in the freezer.
I’d love to hear your comments and suggestions – this recipe has a million variations. Please leave a note below!
I use my Kitchenaid stand mixer to mix the dough – it’s worked perfectly for more than 20 years. Here are some of the latest models: