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Cooking Ex-Nihilo: Bierrocks

When we lived in the village, every now and then we'd escape the craziness of the Grand-Central-Station-that-was-our-yard life and take a picnic out into the bush.  I am sure everybody thought these anasaras (white people) who had a perfectly good kitchen and table from which to eat were crazy to take their food into the middle of nowhere and eat outside.  

The view from our picnic spot
Well, the idea of getting away from it all by going on a picnic sounds like a good idea until you try to figure out what to take.  Sandwiches are ok, but home-made bread tends to crumble when made into sandwiches.  And the bigger question is what to put in sandwiches in a place where you can't buy lunch meat or sliced cheese!  Well, we discovered a great hot sandwich to make that totally eliminates the need for cutting bread or figuring out what to do with the bread.  I'm not saying these are less work ... in fact, they are probably far more work than just making a sandwich, but the deliciousness of them is worth it.

I am talking about bierrocks, apparently a good Mennonite food as the recipe is in the Mennonite cookbook, More with Less.  In some parts of the country, they are called runzas.  I can't tell you much about them as this is not something I grew up eating, but it is a recipe my girlfriends and I discovered when we were single together in Nigeria.  Wikipedia, however, informs me that, 
A runza (also called a bierock, fleischkuche, or kraut pirok) is a yeast dough bread pocket with a filling consisting of beef, cabbage or sauerkraut, onions, and seasonings. They are baked in various shapes such as a half-moon, rectangle, round (bun), square, or triangle. In Nebraska, the Runza is usually baked in a rectangular shape. The bierocks of Kansas, on the other hand, are generally baked in the shape of a bun.
I also notice that Wikepedia spells it bierock and my cookbook spells it bierrock, so we shall stick with the two r spelling.  Also, bierrocks traditionally are made of a mixture of cabbage and ground beef, but my cookbook suggests a pizza-flavored alternative, so of course we're going with the pizza one!

Here is the recipe:
First, get your adorable grandbaby to help. :)

Prepare as for roll dough:
2 c. warm water
2 packages (or 2 Tablespoons) dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 t. salt
1 egg
1/4 cup margarine
6 - 6 1/2 cups flour  (I am not going to go into details on how to make dough on this blog, but the secret to good dough is to NOT add all the flour at once.  Stir in about three cups, then add the rest little by little until you get the right consistency.)
Don't let the dough rise, but chill the dough several hours.

Meat filling:
Brown in skillet:
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1/2 cup onion
1 teaspoon garlic (the recipe doesn't call for garlic, but hey, you can't go wrong with adding garlic!)
To browned meat add:
3/4 cup tomato paste (not sauce, which would make this too runny)
1/4 cup water
2 t. sugar
1 t. dried oregano
1 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper

Cool slightly.  Meanwhile, roll out dough into thin sheets.  Cut in 5-inch squares.  Place 2 tablespoons meat mixture on each square. 


Sprinkle with a pinch of grated cheese.  

Fold dough over filling and pinch the edges (I make mine round shaped like a bun).  Place on a greased cookie sheet.  Let rise 15 minutes.  Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes.  Normally I would let them get a little browner than this, but I was still get used to an electric oven (may never get used to an electric oven!).  It is a skill to know when they are brown enough without letting them end up dry and crunchy and over-cooked.

Grab some fresh veggies, fruit, and some drinks and you're ready for your picnic!  It's nice to have some paper plates, but it isn't necessary!

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