Food & Drink

How do you make 3,000 bierocks? With a lot of help

Ben Leyden lines up bierocks to cool in the gymnasium of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church. (September 18, 2016)
Ben Leyden lines up bierocks to cool in the gymnasium of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church. (September 18, 2016) The Wichita Eagle

Six hours and about 350 pounds of flour into their job, the trio of women making dough for the more than 3,000 bierocks being assembled that day were only halfway done.

But progress was definitely being made during the recent bierocks-making bonanza at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in west Wichita in preparation for the church’s 32nd annual fall bazaar from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

Along one kitchen counter, dough was rising in about a half-dozen stainless steel rectangular bins covered with plastic wrap. Some showed signs of having already been punched down and were rising again for a second and final such process.

In a corner of the cafeteria outside the kitchen, Natalie Jackson was pulling chunks of readied dough from one of the bins. She was preparing to shape each chunk into about a 6-inch, saucer-shaped mound that another set of volunteers would run through a machine that flattens the dough. During last-year’s bierocks-making day, she had the job of running each mound of dough through the machine three times.

Nearby, Megan Luke was taking a flattened disk and rolling it out even more.

“We want them to be about one-fourth of an inch thick,” said Tricia Miller, who has organized the church’s bazaar bierocks-making efforts for the past few years. “We don’t want them to be see-through or break open.”

A bierock (pronounced beer-rock) is an ethnic German meat pastry consisting of a pocket of slightly sweet yeast dough filled with a meat mixture of savory cooked ground beef, onions, cabbage and spices, and baked.

After rolling out the dough to the prescribed 1/4 inch, Luke used a 4-by-4-inch template to cut squares, filled each square with about 2/3 of a cup of the savory meat mixture she and other volunteers had cooked the night before, pulled up the corners to the middle and pinched the seams together. The template and laminated bierocks-making instructions are supposed to help volunteers create more uniform meat pastries, but some different shapes and sizes do creep in, Miller noted.

After three years of working on the bierocks crew, Luke was an old hand at it.

That wasn’t the case for Dray Aguilar, however.

“I’ve never made them before,” said Aguilar, who was diligently reading the instructions and taking her time making her first bierocks. “I’ve only eaten them.”

She had signed up for three two-hour shifts that day – spending 10 a.m. to noon making bierocks, then washing dishes from noon to 2 p.m., and then back to bierocks-making duties for her last shift. As she glanced at an older woman at another table who was sealing her creation with a unique twisting motion of the four corners, she said enviously, “She’s got some mad skills.”

200 number of volunteers it takes to make 3,000 bierocks

800 pounds of ground beef

400 pounds of cabbage

700 pounds of flour

The bierocks assembled during the day were partially baked, filling the cafeteria and the hallways outside it with the comforting smell of baking bread. Tables along one wall of the cafeteria were filled with trays of cooling, light golden-colored meat pastries.

Later that day, along another wall of tables, volunteers packaged the cooled bierocks to be taken to a commercial freezer for storage until Friday, when they will be trucked back to the church.

In all, it took about 200 volunteers from the church at 645 N. 119th St. West nearly two days – more than a half-day cooking the meat mixture and the next day making the dough, assembling and partial baking – to make more than 3,000 bierocks for its fall bazaar on Saturday. They used 800 pounds of ground beef, 400 pounds of cabbage, 80 pounds of onions, 700 pounds of flour and 100 pounds of sugar.

A third of the bierocks will be thawed and then fully baked early Saturday so they can be served at the festival for $4 each or $5 as part of a combo meal with chips and a beverage. The remainder – packaged by the half-dozen and selling for $17 – will be sold to those who want to enjoy them later.

“We used to sell out of them early, but over the last several years, we’ve had some left over,” Miller said about the packaged bierocks sales. Any leftovers, however, are generally gone the next day, snatched up by parishioners after church on Sunday.

The bierocks won’t be the only baked goods for sale at the bazaar. This year marks the return of cinnamon rolls, but the rolls – made by the parishioners of another church – will be sold as a dine-in option only, Miller said.

The church and its K-8 school are also encouraging parish families to donate baked goods for sale, billing Friday – when the kids are out of school for conferences – as the Second Annual Bake With Your (St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School) Kids Day. Donna Bachman, the bazaar organizer, has started a specific bake-sale Pinterest page, sharing recipes for items that would be ideal to make with the kids.

This year’s bazaar will have about 80 vendors, Bachman said. Nearly 2,000 people are expected to attend the bazaar, which raises funds for altar needs: linens, Communion bread and such.

Other dine-in and homemade options – besides the bierocks and cinnamon rolls – for lunch at the bazaar include homemade sausage and potato soup, homemade chicken and noodle soup, hotdogs and homemade cherry cobbler.

32nd Annual Fall Bazaar

Where: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, 645 N. 119th St. West

When: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday

What: The church’s 32nd annual fall bazaar featuring about 80 vendors and homemade goods for sale

Tickets: Admission is $2; homemade foods, vendor items, packaged bierocks and other baked goods may be purchased.