Wild Bierocks/Runzas (BBB October 2020)

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BBB: Let's Keep Baking summary: recipe for wild Bierocks/Runzas wildly deviating from the traditional Volga German filling; pretty much staying at home again; falling into rabbit holes galore; information about Bread Baking Babes; reminder about World Food Day;

Sigh… late again!

Bread Baking Babes (BBB): Runzas/Bierocks

wild Runzas

Two nights ago, just before going into a Zoom meeting for work, I baked our wild not-quite Runzas that wildly deviating from the traditional filling. They looked good; they smelled good…. I set them aside until yesterday morning.

But first. Runzas? Bierocks?? What are those?

Most midwesterners never have heard of a runza, but those who have seem to be passionate about them. They’re a regional specialty, showing up in the Plains states, particularly Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado and Iowa. They’re German/Russian in origin, a point which becomes clear when you consider the simple ingredient list for the filling: beef, cabbage and onions. Settlers from the Volga River region brought this treasured recipe with them. According to Jane Palmer, food editor of the Omaha World-Herald, the word runza is a made-up name, coined by the restaurant chain, for what was originally known as a bierock. Recipes abound and they are quite simple to make at home […]
-Pat Dailey, Chicago Tribune | Here’s A Runza Recipe To Bring The Taste Of The Plains Back To, 28 June 1990
The beloved Nebraska meat pocket is a cult classic, yet the Runza sandwich wouldn’t be recognized by the residents of 49 other states. The Runza is a treasure that’s been hundreds of years in the making, with recipes carried to Nebraska by immigrants from Europe. […] The tale of that beloved Nebraska meat pocket — sometimes called a bierock — is […] a treasure hundreds of years in the making, involving broken promises, German immigrants, family recipes and eventually a woman named Sarah “Sally” Everett from Sutton, Nebraska. […] [O]nce a Nebraskan sinks her teeth into one, the recognition is instant: This is a Runza.
-Sarah Baker Hansen, Omaha World Herald | All Hail the Runza, 26 March 2017
Runzas (a.k.a. Bierocks or Krautburgers, among other names) are a pocket sandwich, a puffy, yeasted dough baked around a savory meat filling. They likely originated in Russia in the 1800s, and came to the Midwest with the Volga Germans, a population of German people who lived along the Volga River in southeastern Russia in the 18th century and settled in Nebraska, Kansas, and the Dakotas in the early 20th century.
– Shauna Sever, “Nebraskan Runzas”, Midwest Made: Big, Bold Baking from the Heartland (Running Press, 2019)

A filling of beef and cabbage, eh? We do like the idea of beef and cabbage, but we weren’t certain about it baked right inside bread dough… even though it sounds a bit like calzone.

Make sure you’re comfortable. Here’s the long and verbose account of what I did to the BBBabes’ October 2020 bread:

BBB Bierocks/Runza diary:

17 September 2020, 08:49 I’m with Kelly on making sure to use good sauerkraut. Our favourite Polish butcher just recently closed his shop (wwwaaaaaaaaaaaah!!) and he always had wonderful house-made sauerkraut in a big plastic bucket at the back of the store. Alas, he was forced to close his shop because his mother and uncle sold the building (!!!) after his father (who had started the business) died. This was just before COVID-19 lockdowns caused all sorts of shops to have to close their doors, and now the building is just empty. :stomp: :stomp:

Eeeek… do we have to make our own sauerkraut now?

Looking at the recipe for making 12 Runzas: 2 packages of yeast!?!! Am I right that the packages are 1/4 ounce each? If so, that means the recipe is calling for 14 grams (3.5 teaspoons)! Wow, that seems like a lot of yeast.

But it will be easy (especially for me, the queen of recipe alteration) to reduce the amount of yeast…. This sounds really fun, Kelly!

I’m looking at the eggs and butter and thinking it might take that much yeast to raise that dough.
– Tanna, in message to the BBBabes

17 September 2020, 11:15 Oh my! Tanna is right! That is a LOT of eggs and butter.

Heh. But no problem! I will simply substitute some of the eggs. And for the butter, I’ll use the technique of adding the butter AFTER the dough has had a chance to rise for an hour or so – I just read about this in James Morton’s book “Super Sourdough”. He makes enriched breads, including pannetone(!!) with his sourdough starter and zero commercial yeast!

13:58 I just put “Tasting Georgia” by Carla Capalbo on hold at our library. I cannot wait! My introduction to Georgian food was through reading the wonderful book “Anything Can Happen” by George and Helen Papashvily (when I was about 15). The descriptions of the food are so tantalizing. But it wasn’t until years later that I actually tried Georgian food (not in Georgia, but here….)

We recently read “Samarkand: Recipes & Stories from Central Asia & The Caucasus” by Caroline Eden. As a result, about a month ago, I ordered blue fenugreek from an Etsy site based in Greece so we can make REAL ajika. It just arrived yesterday. I had pretty much forgotten that I had ordered it! Ordering online is so fun!!

Ooops!! Talk about going offtopic! I’ll get back to Runzas/Bierocks now….

I love how all the recipes I’ve seen call for “packages of yeast”! The recipe attached to the following is refreshingly different; it calls for an “envelope of yeast”. :lalala:
This recipe for Runzas, by Mary Beth Ehlers, is from The Smejkal Family Cookbook, one of the cookbooks created at FamilyCookbookProject.com. […] Growing up in Nebraska, eating at Runza’s was always a treat. A Nebraska original, the Omaha World Herald published this recipe years ago. Its so nice we can all have Runzas now, even if we’re not in Omaha!!
– excerpt from The Smejkal Family Cookbook | Runzas

Home Maker Enquiries - Runzas Dough
Omaha World Herald, Nov 13, 1968
Recipe for Bierocks, Krautburgers, Runza, and
all the other names they are known by

Ewwwww!! The Omaha World Herald recipe calls for margarine! (As if Russian German immigrants had margarine. Pfffft!) Good call for Kelly to suggest butter instead.

18 September 2020, 12:28 Here’s what James Morton has to say about butter. I know that I’ve seen similar instructions before in other enriched dough recipes but I had always glazed over and pretended that it really didn’t matter. This time, the instruction actually made sense.
Adding oil, butter or other fat-containing ingredients will have a profound effect on the structure of your dough. Add too much or too early and they will make creating your gluten matrix an absolute pain — how oil lubricates a car engine is exactly how it lubricates between the protein molecules. Rather than getting an ever-expanding gluten matrix, you get an ever-sliding mass of fatty globules. […] Therefore, if you are adding lots of oil or butter to your dough, add it after the mixing is complete, or at least towards the end of it. As a general rule, if the weight of fat is less than 5% of the weight of flour, it can be added safely at the beginning. If it’s above this, it’s best to leave it until the end.
– James Morton, Super Sourdough | Ingredients and Equipment: Fat

James Morton also offers a convincing argument about sugar:
You might think that adding sugar has a beneficial effect on the yeast, but it doesn’t. The yeasts that predominate in sourdough can’t metabolise it — meaning they can’t grow and repoduce. The lesser yeasts (including baker’s yeast) can, but there isn’t nearly as much of this in your starter. It doesn’t like switching between the sugars broken down from your flour and the sucrose. Adding extra sugar therefore means that the majority does indeed remain as sugar, instead of being broken down into carbon dioxide and alcohol.
– James Morton, Super Sourdough | Ingredients and Equipment: Sugar

Fascinating stuff!!

And speaking of rabbit holes, I’m now reading “Bread Science: The Chemistry and Craft of Making Bread” by Emily Buehler. I’ve gotten to the section with all the diagrams of hydrogen and oxygen molecules and how gluten is affected by water. I’m not sure I understand it completely (I’m having to reach way deep into the back of what’s left of my mind to remember how chemistry equations work) but here’s a sample:
Water “hydrates” flour to make dough. What exactly does this mean? The two main parts of flour are starch granules — starch molecules packed together — and protein molecules. The large protein molecules bond with water to form the network called gluten Water molecules move among the starch and gluten, forming bonds in certain places and causing changes in the starch and gluten structure.
– Emily Buehler, Bread Science: The Chemistry and Craft of Making Bread | 2.5. Water and protein

I’ve supposedly already read the section on sugars and I’ve only just got to the section on lipids (fats). But I’m going to have to read both sections at least a couple of times to try to sieve anything through my foggy brain.

20 September 2020, 12:36 Yes!! Elle is very wise! Brushing butter on top is definitely a must.

Even though we do eat meat, I like the idea of making these vegetarian. And the vegetarian mushroom version that Kelly linked to looks good. But it seems odd that it is missing the protein of the ground beef. I think I like the look of this one using black beans a little more:
Veggie “Runza”/Bierock (vegan)
[…] This one’s stuffed with seasoned black beans, purple and green cabbage and shredded carrots. The boys loved them, and any trick to get them to eat more veggies and legumes is a good one, right?
– Stealthy Mom | Veggie “Runza”/Bierock (vegan)

Ha!! I found another rabbit hole! Who knew that these were also called pirozhkis?! As a kid growing up in a city filled with zillians of Ukranian immigrants, I often had “pedaheh” – or at least that’s what I thought my friends were saying, when they were really saying pyrohy. The dumplings were usually filled with potatoes and cheese and served with sour cream and fried onions at friends’ houses. (It wasn’t until I moved to Ontario that I even knew the word “pierogi”. In fact, at first I thought people were mispronouncing “pedaheh”…)

27 September 2020, 16:28 It turns out that pirozhki/Pierogi/pyrohy translates to “pie”! (I LOVE the internet!)

пироги = pyrohy Ukrainian (pies)
вареніки = vareniky Ukrainian (dumplings)

5 October 2020, 16:15 Warning warning – I’ve gone down another rabbit hole.

I was guessing that Runza is sort of like “Kleenex” and that Runza is the name – because of the name of the restaurant. But it was just a guess. But it turns out I may have been wrong. Take a look at this:
Though the chain Runza has trademarked the term runza, the particular type of filled bread roll called a runza in Nebraska, and a bierock in Kansas, predates the chain Runza. […] 1870, Russia removed the exemption from military service for its largely autonomous German communities. Faced with breaking their practice of pacifism, large numbers of Mennonites migrated to America, largely settling in the plains of Kansas, Nebraska, the Dakotas, and parts north, bringing with them their religion, their customs, their language, and their baked stuffed bread rolls, alternately called Krautbrot, Krautrunzen, or Bierocks. In Kansas, the name Bierock stuck. In Nebraska, the singular form Krautrunza was shortened to Runza.
– Jim Behymer, Sandwich Tribunal | Runzas, aka Bierocks

The list of common German American foods is endless […] Volga Deutsch specialties include bierocks (a Germanized version of pierogi), kraut runza (German for “cabbage bun”), stirrum and a scrambled pancake.
– Andrew F. Smith, Food and Drink in American History: A “Full Course” Encyclopedia | German American Food, Vol. 1, p399

I looked in a German/English dictionary to learn that “Runzeln” means “pucker”; “Ranzen” means “satchel” or “belly”.

So here is another guess about the origins of Bierocks/Runzas. Just as the Pennsylvania Dutch were actually Germans (as in Deutsch), so it may be possible that the word “Ranzen” turned into Runza with the mix of cultures (German, Swedish, British Isles, Bohemian, Danish) in Nebraska. It doesn’t seem all that far-fetched, considering how many alternates for the name Pierogi there are.
The traditional Volga German dish bierock, a bread stuffed with cabbage, onions and ground beef resembles pierog in etymology and is typical of the Russian meat pies pirozhki.
– Heather Arndt, The Volga Germans | Food and Drink

I wonder if that will work….

12 October 2020 We’re reading “Tasting Georgia” by Carla Capalbo right now. I’m veering away from mushrooms or black beans. How about filling with walnuts instead of meat and cabbage? And maybe a few pomegranate seeds too? (I know. Georgia isn’t really even close to the Volga! Nor are Georgians even close to being of German descent….)

Nigvzis sakmazi, a garlicky walnut paste with fresh herbs, is a building block of many Georgian dishes. It’s wrapped with fried eggplant to make Georgian eggplant rolls and combined with chopped, cooked leafy greens to make a pkhali, a vegetable pâté. Similar to pesto, it can be stirred into yogurt or sour cream to make a dip, thinned with water or olive oil for a salad dressing, or tossed with hot noodles. Traditionally, it is made using a mortar and pestle, but this quick version, from Tasting Georgia author Carla Capalbo, uses a food processor.
– Carla Capalbo, Food&Wine | Nigvzis sakmazi – Walnut Paste

13 October 2020, 12:11 I’ve got to be completely truthful. In spite of the zillions of people who say this is the best sandwich ever, the more we think about this sandwich, the less eager we are to have it. I’m thinking seriously about making just one vegetarian Runza and turning the rest of the dough into plain buns.

I know I’m a freak. But I just can’t wrap my head around making this filled bread with meat. So to give myself permission, I’ve burrowed down further into the internet rabbit holes to learn more about the Volga Germans:
Therefore, I thought I’d head down another rabbit hole to see if there were other traditional bread fillings that these Germans would have used if they had stayed in Germany. Onto the internet again, to learn what part of Germany these people came from:
The Germans who left their homeland to settle in the Volga valley did so at the invitation of the Russian Tsarina Catherine in July 1763. By the end of 1767 German settlers, coming primarily from central Germany, had organized more than one hundred colonies along the Volga River near Saratov. […] Between 1763 and 1768, approximately 8,000 families totalling 27,000 people—mainly of Hessian descent—immigrated into the Volga region. […] As conditions deteriorated for Germans in Russia at the end of the 19th century due to the abrogation of certain privileges previously granted by the Russian government, North America became the new promised land. Canada and the U.S. issued their own invitations to settlers and sent recruiters to Europe. Just as the Russian government had attracted Germans with free land and special rights, the governments of this New World made similar offers less than a century later.
– Manfred Prokop, Annotated Bibliography of the Cultural History of the German-speaking Communities in Alberta: From the 1880s to the Present | The Volga Germans

After learning that the Volga Germans originally came from central Germany, I searched “Central German bread fillings” and came across the following:
[I]n the Middle Ages, when the Catholic Church required that no meat (except fish) should be eaten on Fridays, the people in Schwaben tried to fool the local priest by serving what looked like noodles but ones that were stuffed with the meat they loved. So the filling for Maultaschen frequently includes meat, onion, breadcrumbs or rice, and seasoned with spices and garlic.
– Timothy J. Burleigh, Bicycle Germany | German Food & Drink
If I translate the word Maultaschen to English, it would be mouth pockets.
– Barbara, My German Recipes | Maultaschen – Swabian Filled Pasta (Ravioli)

So. Not much help for me there!! It’s still meat meat meat.

I looked on the official Runza website to see what vegetarian options they offer. They are: “Original Vegetarian Runza® Sandwich (Cabbage | Lentils | Onions | Spices)” and “Southwest Black Bean Vegetarian Runza® Sandwich (Black Beans | Corn | Onions | Red Peppers | Spices)”

I admit it. Those fillings do sound good. In fact, the non-vegetarian fillings sound good too. Just not inside the bread until after the bread is cooked….

Also, while we have yeast in the fridge, I’m really on a wild yeast kick right now. I’m definitely going to alter it to use our Jane Mason starter.

Lol, Elizabeth, are you going to have to make a deconstructed runza?
– Kelly, in message to BBBabes, 13 October 2020, 15:43

16:29: I’m embarrassed to admit that I think I may have to do just that! Although I’m really not sure where we’re going to get decent Sauerkraut. And now it’s too late to make our own. (So much for planning ahead.)

14 October 2020, 08:34 I’m still trying to find internet permission to use nuts instead of meat as a filling for our not-quite-Runzas. Here’s what I found:

Here are some other savory fillings for Russian piroshki-
• sauteed mushrooms
• cabbage
• vegetables
• onion and cheese
You can fill the piroshki with a [sweet] filling.
• Apples with sugar
• Cherries
• Apricots
• Strawberries
• Farmer’s cheese or cottage cheese
– Valentina, Valentina’s Corner | Meat Piroshki Recipe

15:47 I just conducted a household poll. It turns out that it’s not just me who is feeling hesitant about Runza. Both of us really do prefer bread to be plain. Unless it’s cinnamon buns….

To preserve the relative tranquility in the house, I’ve decided to make most of this dough into an ordinary sandwich loaf (essentially a pain de mie) and use just a portion to make two not-quite-Runzas that have a Georgian-style hazelnut/garlic filling.

Piroshki are a popular Russian pastry of filled buns that are either baked or fried. Most piroshki are made with a soft yeasted dough that is enriched with egg […] The fillings for piroshki can range from savory to sweet, and include meat, vegetables, fruit, and jam. Piroshki typically come in two sizes: meal-sized or snack-sized. The larger form is often the size of a sandwich and can be served as a main dish […] Piroshki are definitively not dumplings, but are more akin to a hand-pie or empanada. While filled buns of all kinds exist across cultures, the style of pastry that is piroshki originated in Russia. Their appeal has extended beyond Eastern Europe and into parts of Greece — where they are called piroski — to Iran — where they are called pirashki — to Finland, Central and East Asia, and even to Japan (where they are still called piroshki).
– Sonya Sanford, The Nosher | How to Make Russian Piroshki Just Like Grandma
Volga Germans were accustomed to living as outsiders; they had done so for more than a century in Russia, maintaining their German ethnicity and language during the entirety of their settlement in the Volga River Valley. Volga Germans maintained their foodways as well, with few influences from their Russian neighbors. There are exceptions, however; […] The traditional Volga German dish bierock, a bread stuffed with cabbage, onions and ground beef resembles pierog in etymology and is typical of the Russian meat pies pirozhki. […] Culturally secluded Volga Germans did not eat tomatoes until they arrived in the United States, because these crops had not yet been integrated into German cuisine before they departed for Russia (like many northern Europeans, Germans were wary of the nightshade and stuck to keeping tomatoes solely as decorations until the late 18th century). Consequently, Volga German versions of some Russian dishes reflect this distinction. Volga German cabbage rolls called halupsi, for example, are based on Russian goluptsy, but whereas the Russian version is often served with tomato sauce, traditional Volga German recipes never called for tomatoes until they were Americanized.
– Heather Arndt Anderson, The Volga Germans: Food and Drink | Portland: A Food Biography (2014)

I’m just doublechecking the map and see that Georgia is not terribly far from the Volga. But where exactly on the Volga did the Volga Germans live?

click click clickety click click...

Well, wait a minute. It turns out that IS pretty far from Georgia to the Volga… It’s around 1000 kilometers from Tblisi to Volgograd. With a mountain pass to cross.

Fiddle-dee-dee! I’m still going to pretend that bierocks/runzas the Volga Germans brought with them to North America are not unsimilar to some of the filled breads made in Georgia! :stomp: :stomp:

As far as I can tell, hazel trees grow on the Volga where the Volga Germans settled….

09:23 I’ve mixed the dough, but kept the butter, salt, and egg to add later. Stiff dough!!

And then, just as I was tidying the counter, I noticed that the starter was still in its bowl. Oooops!

I managed to squoosh it into the almost solid piece of flour/milk/water mixture. It’s still stiff dough, but maybe it’s not so bad. When I add the salt in 45 minutes or so, I’ll make a judgement call about whether it needs a bit more water.

I’m feeling just a little bit guilty about refusing to add cabbage and/or sauerkraut to the filling. But I don’t dare suggest it. We’re back into semi-isolation by provincial decree.

Ontario’s fight against COVID-19 is far from over. Everyone must do their part to keep each other, our families and our communities safe. Ontario’s successful recovery depends on the collective efforts of individuals, families and businesses to continue to follow public health advice, including:
• Stay away from others and do not go out if you are feeling ill, even if you have mild symptoms or are unsure if it’s COVID-19
• Stay home, except for essential purposes, going to work, school, the doctor or to get groceries
• Keep two metres apart from people outside your immediate household
• Wear a face covering in indoor public spaces and any time physical distancing is a challenge
• Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water
– Province of Ontario, Reopening Ontario in stages, October 2020

It’s not quite cold enough outside to use the outdoor fridge (the car in the garage) for storage and we just got the _hugest_ most beautiful cauliflower ($3.00!) at one of our favourite vegetable stores. Which means the fridge cannot handle a cabbage as well.

(Hmmmm, do cauliflower greens work the same as cabbage?)

13:14 I’ve already kneaded in the butter, salt, and egg about an hour ago. The dough is nicely not-at-all-stiff any more, and I’ve just now turned it again. The dough is beautifully smooth.

Moot point about the cauliflower greens. I checked the fridge to see that the cauliflower has zero leaves left. We’ve already had oven-roasted cauliflower for two dinners – serving mountains and mountains of it each time. There’s easily enough cauliflower for at least another dinner! Not bad for $3.00, eh?


But you can see by the size that there really isn’t room for a cabbage to go into our already over-stocked fridge right now. Not to mention that we will not be going to the vegetable store today at all.

I showed T two different hazelnuts fillings. He told me to do the second one:

based on Carla Capalbo’s recipe in Food&Wine
» 65 grams hazelnuts
» 15 grams water
» 1 garlic clove
» 2 grams fresh mint
» 2 grams fresh coriander leaf
» pinch dillweed (Swallowtail larvae ate all our fresh dill; I will use dried)
» 1 gram salt
» 1 small fresh chili
» pinch coriander seeds, ground
» pinch blue fenugreek
Put everything onto the board and use a mezzaluna to crush it all.

Sigh. Apparently, this is NOT the one that T wants. He wants the one in “Tasting Georgia” by Carla Capalbo, because it calls for Khmeli Suneli containing the characteristic flavour (and smell) of blue fenugreek. T’s wish is my desire….
One of the secrets of the Georgian kitchen is the basic spice blend called kmeli suneli in Georgian. I say “the”basic spice blend, but of course it varies among cooks, among regions, and according to the dish it is used for.
      These days cooks in Georgia usually buy their kmeli suneli at the market, but many adjust the blend they buy, tweaking it to suit different dishes or their own tastes.
Found only in the Swiss Alps and the mountains of Georgia, blue fenugreek (Trigonella caerulea) is native to Europe. Although Georgians call it utskho suneli, meaning foreign spice, it is an essential ingredient in Georgian cooking. It’s sold with the dried seeds and leaves mixed together. I hope that with the growing popularity of Georgian food, blue fenugreek will soon become available in North America. In the meantime, you can substitute a mix of dried fenugreek leaves and powdered fenugreek, as specified in the recipes.
– Naomi Duguid, Taste of Persia | Georgian spice blend, p21, and Blue Fenugreek, p215

Alas, Naomi Duguid’s wishes have not come true. Blue fenugreek is not widely available. How great that it can be purchased online! Now that we have blue fenugreek, we are really having fun with it. Even if it does stink… (it stinks so much that I call the spice mix “Nelly Smelly”). :lalala:

I’m going to make a wild guess that because of the Caspian-Volga trade route, Persians MUST have influenced Volga cuisine. Mustn’t they? And blue fenugreek must grow freely along the Volga too. Mustn’t it?

And as far as I can tell, Hazel trees grow on the Volga.

That’s my justification for using hazelnuts and blue fenugreek instead of beef and cabbage. I’m sticking with it. :stomp:

17:37 It turns out that crushing blanched hazelnuts with a double-bladed mezzaluna is not as easy as it would seem. But once the nuts were no longer rolling all over the board, things progressed a little more smoothly.

Marigolds and Mezzaluna
untraditional filling of hazelnuts

When the filling was ready, I pre-shaped the breads. And wow, it is gorgeous dough! Last night, we had an executive meeting and, after some discussion, voted to make just two almost-Runzas, and one round loaf.

bierocks - untraditional filling

19:08 The round loaf isn’t quite ready to bake. But the not-quite-Runzas were. They’re in the oven now.

19:29 Oh oh. They’re not quite done yet. I have a Zoom meeting in one minutes. I set the timer for 15 more minutes. T will get the Runzas out of the oven and put the round loaf in.

Sigh. I forgot to tell T to brush the top of the buns with butter after taking them out of the oven!

When I got out of my meeting, I couldn’t believe the wonderful aromas wafting up from the kitchen! Remind me to always knead butter into the dough!!

wild bread

We already had dinner ready (Thai curry with rice and green beans) and decided we would try the Runzas for breakfast today.

This morning, first thing, when T was still snoring, I raced down to the kitchen to prepare the last few Romano beans I had rescued from behind the garage when I planted garlic (that’s where all those beautiful marigolds are flowering prolifically as well). I thought I would pretend that they are sort of like cabbage. They’re green…. Some of the beans were quite young and could just be chopped. I sauteed some onion, added some chopped up dried cayenne pepper, the beans, a little chicken stock (from Thanksgiving chicken), and some dried oregano. They didn’t look like much. But they tasted fabulous!

Romano Beans

Then, when T finally emerged, we warmed up one of the Runzas. (They’re huge!! One is easily enough for two people.)


Well. The runza was delicious! It was especially delicious with the beans. And the unconventional hazelnut filling? Wow. Is it ever good!

This afternoon, after coming home from a bike ride, we decided to have toast as a little late afternoon snack. No surprise, the bread makes beautiful toast! T kept asking if it had been hard to make. When I said it hadn’t, he kept saying, “We have to have this again. This is my kind of bread!”

wild bread

Thank you, Kelly! All that burrowing around you made me do was fun! And – win win – both not-quite-Runzas and the bread were delicious too!

Here is the October 2020 BBB recipe that we were given. And here is what I did to it:

Wild Runzas with Unconventional Hazelnut Filling
adapted from the BBBabes’ recipe for Bierocks/Runzas dough, and Carla Capalbo’s recipe for Spiced Walnut Paste in her book “Tasting Georgia”

Each family has their own favourite recipe for [walnut paste]. […] It’s used on all sorts of vegetables , stirred into stews, and is a delicious condiment to have in the fridge to liven up hard-boiled eggs, cheese or cold meats. – Marina Kurtanidze, ManDili Wines, Saguramo, Georgia
Hazelnuts are cheaper for those who don’t have their own walnut trees. – Tsiuri Makhatatze, Kvaliti, Georgia

makes 2 Bierocks/Runzas and 1 Round Loaf


  • 20 grams (or so) Jane Mason whole wheat starter from fridge
  • 50 grams “No Additives” 100% whole wheat flour
  • 50 grams water, at room temperature


  • 400 grams “no additives” unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 100 grams “no additives” 100% whole wheat flour
  • 10 grams wheat germ
  • 0 grams (Zero) sugar
  • 12 grams instant skim milk powder
  • 295 grams water
  • all the leavener from above
  • 57 grams unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 10 grams seasalt

Filling for 2 Runzas

  • 50 grams hazelnuts
  • 1 clove garlic
  • nelly smelly (See note below)
  • pinch nutmeg
  • pinch cinnamon
  • 1 dried cayenne pepper
  • salt
  • sunflower oil
  1. Leavener: In the evening of the day before making the runzas/bread: Put the starter, whole wheat flour and water into a smallish bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon until the flour is stirred in well. Cover the bowl with a plate and set aside overnight in the oven with only the light turned on.
  2. Mixing the dough In the morning of the day you will be baking the bread: Sift the flours into a large mixing bowl (reserve the bran to add after shaping the loaf). Whisk in wheat germ and milk powder. Pour 295 grams water over top and using a dough whisk or wooden spoon to mix these ingredients together make a rough dough. Note that it seems very dry and suddenly realize you forgot to add the leavener. Add it all, using one hand to mix it in by folding and turning the dough in the bowl. Cover with a plate and leave on counter for about 40 minutes.
  3. Adding the butter, egg, and salt: Smear the butter on top of the dough. Crack the egg into a small bowl. Sprinkle salt over top and whisk until the salt is incorporated, then pour this over the butter. Use one of your hands to squoosh the slimy mess into the dough; use the other hand to steady the bowl – this way you always have a clean hand. Keep folding it over onto itself until it is relatively smooth. Cover with a plate and leave to rest for about 30 minutes.
  4. Stretching and folding the dough: Use one of your hands to reach down the side of the bowl to the bottom; use the other hand to steady the bowl – this way you always have a clean hand. Turn the bowl as you fold and re-fold the dough onto itself into the center. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave on the counter (or if the kitchen is cool like ours in winter and spring, into the oven with only the light turned on). Repeat the folding step about 3 times in all at 30 minute intervals. You’ll notice that after each time, the dough will feel significantly smoother. After the final time of folding, re-cover the bowl and set aside in the oven with only the light turned on, until the dough doubles.
  5. Preshaping: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board. Cut away about a quarter – enough to make two runzas. Shape the larger piece into a round. Cut the smaller piece in two and shape them into two rounds. Cover with a tea towel and allow to rest for about 30 minutes.
  6. Prepare the filling: Put all the filling ingredients except the oil onto the cutting board. Use a mezzaluna or large sharp knife to finely cut and mix everything together. Scrape it into a bowl and add a small splash of sunflower oil, just enough to hold it all together.
  7. Shaping:
    • Bierocks/Runzas: Flatten the two smaller rounds and roll each one into a disc that is around 0.5 cm thick. Divide the filling evenly by spooning it into the center of each disc, making sure to leave the outer edges clear. Fold each disc in half and seal the edges with your thumbs, followed by the tines of a fork. Place the half-moons onto a parchment papered cookie sheet. Cover with a teatowel and leave to rest on the counter for about 30 minutes.
    • Loaf: Lightly flour the palms of your hands and gently flatten the larger round. Then gently fold a third over from the right, followed by another third from the bottom, followed by a third from the left, and so on until you have another round. Turn the round over and gently shuffle it back and forth on the board to tighten it (without breaking the skin). Put the round seam side up into a well rice-floured bread form. Scatter the bran (from sifting the whole wheat flour) on the seam. Cover the bread form with an overturned mixing bowl and leave to rise until almost double.
  8. Preheating the oven: With a bread stone on the center rack, turn the oven to 450F.
  9. Baking: Put the bread in the hot oven (the round into a cast-iron combo cooker and the bierocks’ tray onto the stone). Immediately turn the oven down to 425F. After 30 minutes of baking, turn the bierocks tray around to account for uneven heat in the oven. At the same time remove the lid from the combo cooker.
  10. Cooling: The bierocks/runzas only need to be cooled partially before serving. They can also be reheated later. However, the loaf must be allowed to cool completely before cutting into it: when it has finished baking, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool completely on a footed rack. The bread is still cooking internally when first removed from the oven! If you wish to serve warm bread (of course you do), reheat it after it has cooled completely: To reheat any uncut bread, turn the oven to 400F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread into the hot oven for about ten minutes. This will rejuvenate the crust and warm the crumb perfectly.


Leavener: The BBB recipe, as do virtually all the recipes for Bierocks/Runzas I saw, calls for commercial yeast. We are so pleased with our wild starter that we had to use it instead. The leavener above is made with a 100% hydration whole-wheat starter. It takes about 5 days to create. (Please see our take on Jane Mason’s Natural Starter made with Wheat Flour.)

Sugar: The BBB recipe calls for “2 tbsp sugar”. It just didn’t seem like a necessary addition.

Filling: The traditional filling for Bierocks/Runzas contains ground beef, onion, garlic, shreded cabbage, and sauerkraut. Sometimes cheese is added as well. As much as I tried, it seems that nuts have never been used as the filling by Volga Germans. The hazelnut mixture we used is often used as a filling for grilled eggplants across the Caucasus Mountains in Georgia. (I tried to find it used as a filling for Georgian bread but failed….) Next time, we will add a few raisins or chopped dried apricots to the mixture.

“Nelly Smelly”: The spice mixture is inspired by recipe for the Georgian spice mixture Kmeli Suneli (ხმელი სუნელი which literally translates as ‘dried spice’) in “Taste of Persia” by Naomi Duguid, and based on the recipe for Khmeli Suneli in SAVEUR Magazine. The mixture contains blue fenugreek, ground coriander seed, dried marigold petals, and dried sweet paprika.


This morning, we are going to have mushroom omelettes with unfilled Bierocks toast. What could be better?!

October Morning

Bread Baking Babes BBB: Let's Keep BakingBierocks/Runzas

Kelly is hosting October 2020’s Bread Baking Babes’ project. She wrote:

I am offering up […] bierocks or runzas, which is a Nebraskan dish (also US regions with strong Eastern European and German heritage). It is a hand held meat pie similar to a Cornish pasty I think. […] I understand the dough holds well in the fridge and you can leave the filling in a crockpot all day to get nice and soft, no crunch wanted from the cabbage or kraut. So these have good make ahead possibilities and are freezer friendly. I am fine with any substitutions to the filling, the standard is onions, beef and cabbage as the base, I heard that adding sauerkraut is a secret to make it really tasty and I love me some fresh sauerkraut. But I was actually quite tempted to try it with some chopped spicy kimchee! You are all welcome to use whatever filling and dough recipe that appeals to you, and I have seen vegetarian bierock fillings out there.
– Kelly, in message to BBBabes

We know you’ll want to make Bierocks/Runzas too – whether meat filled or not! To receive a Bread Baking Buddy Badge to display on your site: make the doughnuts in the next couple of weeks and post about them (we love to see how your bread turns out AND hear what you think about it – what you didn’t like and/or what you liked) before the 29 October 2020. If you do not have a blog, no problem; you can also post your picture(s) to Flickr (or any other photo sharing site) and record your thoughts about the bread there. Please remember to contact the Kitchen of the Month to say that your post is up.

Please note that it’s not enough to post about your bread in the Facebook group. Because of the ephemeral nature of Facebook’s posts, your FB post may be lost in the shuffle. Please make sure to directly contact the kitchen of the month if you want to be included in the BBBuddy roundup.

For complete details about this month’s recipe, the BBB and how to become a BBBuddy, please read:

Please take a look at the other BBBabes’ October 2020 Bierocks/Runzas:

More About Volga Germans

I am absolutely fascinated by the migration of these Germans and couldn’t stop reading various sources available on the internet. (This is largely why my October BBB post is a day late.)

The majority (about 95 percent) of those who settled in the colonies established by Catherine the Great along the Volga River were ethnic Germans from the war-ravaged German states where religious strife and economic hardship had created a climate ripe for immigration. […] Since the establishment of the first colony in 1764, the descendants of the original Volga Germans settlers have migrated to other parts of Russia, Asia, North and South America, Africa, and Australia as well as back to Europe. […] We have chosen to define the Volga German geographical area as that region along the Volga River near Saratov […]
– The Center for Volga German Studies at Concordia University (Portland Oregon), The Volga Germans | Who are the Volga Germans?
A characteristic feature of the Volga Germans was the preservation of the linguistic and cultural traditions of their German homelands in the mid-18th century
– Dr. Igor Pleve (Richard R: translator), The Volga Germans | Center for Volga German Studies at Concordia University: History of the Germans in RussiaThe first German colonists—some 30,000 people—came to settle in Russia in 1763 at the invitation of Catherine the Great, herself of German descent. The majority of the early German colonists were refugees from the central German states, such as Hessen and the Palatinate, ravaged first by the Thirty Years’ War […] Less than a month after her coronation in 1762, Catherine the Great issued a manifesto inviting in all persons who wanted to settle in Russia […] to populate the lower Volga frontier […] The manifesto promised religious freedom, exemption from military service, thirty years of tax freedom and more. […] Between 1763 and 1772, German colonists founded 106 settlements along the banks of the Volga River
– Asya Pereltsvaig, Languages of the World | The Tragic Saga of the Volga Germans
By 1920, according to the census of the United States, there were 116,539 persons here who were born in Russia but still spoke German as their mother tongue.
– Richard Sallet (Dr. LaVern J. Rippley and Dr. Armand Bauer, translators) “Germans from Russia Heritage Collection”, North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies


empty bowl Incidentally, I haven’t forgotten that yesterday was World Food Day and hope that you didn’t either. Indeed, in these rocky times, it seems as though every day is World Food Day, doesn’t it?
Please remember that along with having to deal with the current pandemic, there are impoverished and hungry people everywhere in the world. Here is just one of our local organizations: Daily Bread Food Bank. Please look in your community for others.



6 responses to “Wild Bierocks/Runzas (BBB October 2020)

  1. Karen (Karen's Kitchen Stories)

    You definitely are the master of the rabbit hole. So much good information! Your loaf and runzas both look fab.

    edit 17 October 2020, 17:12: Ha! You can’t even imagine how far down that rabbit hole I went, Karen. I know it’s difficult to believe, from the sheer volume of meanderings noted above, but I actually decided to leave lots of what I learned out! :-) -Elizabeth

  2. Kelly (A Messy Kitchen)

    Oh my gosh, this post was a great way to start my morning! Thanks for the trip to Wonderland, and so glad your interpretations turned out to your liking!

    edit 17 October 2020, 17:04: Thank YOU for the trip, Kelly! I don’t think we would ever have tried this otherwise. We had the second not-quite-Runza for lunch. We decided that the filling needed to have a bit of sweetness. So with T’s half, he had butter and red currant jelly and with my half I had yoghurt and raisins. Both versions were great! -Elizabeth

    1. Kelly (A Messy Kitchen)

      Interestingly enough, this is one we will not repeat. The family was just meh about it.

      edit 17 October 2020, 17:07: I know what you mean. And how interesting that I was just meh before having it, and now am thinking there may be ways for it to work really really well. And. It was certainly worth it to learn that wild yeast does work as a leavener for dough containing lots and lots of butter. -Elizabeth

  3. Tanna (My Kitchen In Half Cups)

    I am so grateful to jump down rabbit holes with you! Always make for a fun baking. Now I must try blue fenugreek! Your marigolds are gorgeous and is the bread loaf! Love the shape and filling of your Runza! I must tell you we did really love the ground turkey, sauerkraut and onion runza! it was a little surprising. I agree when I first thought of it it seemed a little odd but boy those were good. Had no beef and with the Worchershire sauce it worked beautifully.

    edit 18 October 2020, 09:28: Thank you, Tanna! It’s a relief to hear that my long-windedness isn’t too annoying. And those marigolds are amazing, aren’t they? Who knew they were edible!?
    Blue fenugreek is pretty amazing, Tanna. It’s really quite similar to regular fenugreek in smell (ie: it stinks pretty much the same) but it really is more delicate in flavour.
    Your enthusiasm about your runza filling has almost convinced that we should try the groundmeat/sauerkraut/onion filling. Almost…. -Elizabeth

  4. Katie (Thyme for Cooking)

    Have you come up for air yet?
    Just kidding – I also love rabbit holes….
    I love the look of your loaf.
    Interesting about the oil…. I’ve been adding oil to my sandwich bread recipe based on my starting recipe (I’ve been tweaking) and the bread is quite dense. Maybe I should forget the oil. I never used to do that I’m now remembering….

    edit 18 October 2020, 18:30: Hahahaha – almost. But I’m still gasping and finding myself plunging back down to check just one more – no two more – things.
    I don’t usually add oil at all to bread and, while this bread is good, I really do think I prefer the leaner bread made with just flour, water, and salt. -Elizabeth

  5. Cathy (Bread Experience)

    I like those half moon shapes even if you did only make two. That loaf looks great though so I don’t blame you for using the rest of the dough to make it.

    edit 19 October 2020, 08:34: The loaf was pretty darn good. Surprisingly though, we found that it lacked salt. It seemed to be crying out for filling! -Elizabeth


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