I grew up eating these little meat-filled pastries called runzas. My mom would make them every so often, even though they are a TON of work, because they are really tasty. My family calls them runzas but I've also seen them called bierocks. According to the internet, they originated in Russia and Germany. Communities of Volga German immigrants brought the recipe to the Great Plains region of the US in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Runzas remain popular in Midwest apparently, but I've never heard anyone else talk about them in real life.
Anyway, that's your history lesson for the day! Here's how I make my family's Iowan version of runzas:
Start by proofing your yeast. I used 2 1/2 Tablespoons yeast for this and stirred it into a half cup of sugar and one cup of warm water. After ten minutes or so, yours should look like frothy like this. If not, start over.
While we're talking about yeast, here are some things I've discovered to be murderers of yeast:
Next up is adding the flour. Use 2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour and 2 cups of high gluten bread flour. These two bags of flour came from Stringtown Grocery, one of my favorite places to shop for baking supplies.
Add 1 1/2 tsp baking powder and a teaspoon of salt to the flour mixture. You can sift the flour if you want, but I usually just whisk it- it accomplishes nearly the same thing. Whisking the baking powder and salt into the flour prevents the salt from killing the yeast, too.
Melt about half a cup of vegetable shortening and cooled it to room temp, then add it to the mixture. Add a half cup of milk and mix it all up.
Next, start incorporating the flour mixture, adding a little less than half to start. Gradually add all four cups and continue mixing until the dough pulls together and forms a ball at the bottom of the dough hook. Let it rest for a few minutes, then knead it in the bowl until it begins to feel elastic- about seven minutes.
Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let it rise!
You want it to double in size, but don't be discouraged if it doesn't.
Mine definitely did not double, it did rise substantially, but it turned out fine. It took about 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, grab a head of cabbage and shred it up. I hack off big sections of cabbage and use the cheese grater on them. It's worth the extra effort to grate rather than chop, trust me.
Cabbage shredded up and looking fine...
Isn't it pretty?
Chop up a whole white onion next. You can also chop some garlic now if you'd like. I cheat and buy the bottles of pre-chopped garlic because I'm lazy, but to each their own.
Sautee the onions in a skillet with some olive oil, then after they've softened add 1 pound of ground beef or turkey. I'm sure there is a good vegetarian substitute but I'm pretty clueless about those things. Leave me a note if you know of one!
Brown the meat and then drain out the extra fat. Season with a few tablespoons each of soy sauce, worcestershire, yellow mustard and dijon mustard. Add any other seasonings you like; I used celery salt and black pepper. Finally, stir in the cabbage. If it seems like a lot of cabbage, don't worry because it wilts down a lot.
Finished meat mixture
By now, your dough should be ready so punch it down (yes, literally punch the dough) and set it on a lightly floured surface. Let it rest a few more minutes and then begin cutting out sections to make the runzas. You want to dough to hold about 2 tablespoons of meat each, so experiment with the proportions and see what works for you.
Here they are ready to go into the oven- 350 degrees for about 25 minutes.
Save the leftover cabbage and meat to eat with the runzas!
2 Tablespoons active dry yeast
1 cup white sugar
1 cup warm water
Stir ingredients together and let stand for ten minutes to proof yeast
2 cups high gluten bread flour
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
Whisk together and set aside
1/2 cup melted room-temperature shortening
1/2 cup milk, room temperature
Add these to the yeast mixture and combine, then add the flour mixture gradually. Knead dough for about seven minutes and cover with damp cloth to let rise, about 45 minutes.
1 white onion
1 head cabbage
1 pound ground beef/turkey
2 Tablespoons each of soy sauce, worcestershire, yellow mustard and dijon mustard
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp black pepper
Meanwhile, chop one white onion, shred a head of cabbage and mince garlic. Sautee the onion first in a bit of oil, then add the garlic and sautee one more minute. Add the meat and brown, then drain the extra fat. Season with soy sauce, worcestershire, mustards and spices. Finally, stir in the cabbage.
Punch dough down, let rest a few minutes, then cut off pieces to flatten for making runzas. Flatten the dough by hand or roll out, then fill with 2 tablespoons of meat mixture. Seal up the rolls and place, seam side down, on greased 9x13" baking dish. Bake in preheated oven for about 25 minutes, dough should turn golden brown.
Serve with extra meat and cabbage or with a sauce of your choosing- grainy mustard would be good!