Scrumptious Kansan Krauts: English Students Bake Bierock with Bakery Science

Cooling Bierock surrounded by undergraduates Claire Adamyk, Chase Bauman, Melaina Gross, Jolyon Griffith, Sarah Hemenway, Anna Jirak, Bella Lane, Olivia McComb, Reagan Montgomery, Hailey Rush, Zyler Wyman, Rachel Zimmerman together with Jeanette Rohleder, Elisa Karkle, and Steffi Dippold, instructor for ENGL 210 “Honors English: How to Cook a Raccoon: The Memory Work of Cookbook Collections”

Bierock is a quintessentially Kansan deliciousness: the pastry pocket sandwich typically envelops a filling made of cabbage, onion, and ground beef.

I know this because I just baked up a storm of Bierock in my ENGL 210 “Honors English: How to Cook a Raccoon: The Memory Work of Cookbook Collections” class taught by Steffi Dippold.


Optimistic and about to start our Bierock extravaganza.


Recipes are complex memory banks that construct identity, record family traditions, and chronicle regional histories. A case in point is the savory staple of our local cuisine that traveled from Eastern Europe to the Midwest in the nineteenth century. Specifically, Volga Germans left Russia when they were pressured to culturally assimilate. They immigrated to the great plains after Kansas railroads promised affordable farmland and legal exemption from military service on religious grounds, which particularly appealed to pacifistic Mennonites. A hybrid between a Russian Pirogi and a Turkish Börek, the scrumptious Kansan Krauts stuff the German love for Sauerkraut into a bread-like yeast dough which can then be baked or fried. Americanized versions, at times, get creative with the filling and include cheese or jalapenos.  

My class stayed traditionalist and baked classic Bierock under the guidance of Jeanette Rohleder, the owner of the Alma Bakery and Sweet Shoppe. Jeanette Rohleder has run her business in Alma for over twenty years, where she sells lots of different baked goods with Bierock being the star. In collaboration with Dr. Elisa Karkle in Bakery Science, our class prepared Bierock like professionals in a fully equipped baking lab at Shellenberger Hall. Jeanette Rohleder showed us with the ease of an expert Bierock baker how to fill and hand-form the yummy bread-pockets. She made Bierock production look like a walk in the park. With dough-covered fingers and filling messes, however, we quickly learned things were rather more complicated. Still, we proudly pushed seven pans of fabulous and fabulously idiosyncratic Bierocks into the oven: some the size of a gumball, others closer to a flattened orange. In the end, everybody was able to bring a bag filled with perfectly baked Bierock home to show off and try once they had cooled.


Jeanette Rohleder and Elisa Karkle with Bierock for the professional oven.



For those interested in exercising their culinary creativity: there is a Bakery Science Club at Kansas State open to students of all majors. The club meets every other Tuesdays at 4:30pm in Room 110 at Shellenberger Hall (see @BakeClubKSU). What’s more, K-State is the only school in the United States that offers a four-year degree in Bakery Science and Management, and the program has a 100% job placement.

I just hope they bake lots of Bierock!

Sarah Hemenway (BA ’26)

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