In my husband’s family, everyone knows what a bambushka is, and may even start salivating involuntarily when you mention one. Before I met him, the only bambushka I had heard of was the similar-sounding Russian “babushka” (no M), meaning elderly woman, or sometimes referring to a Russian woman’s headscarf. Similar to my experience with my friend’s family’s noodlas, I can’t find anything on the Internet about bambushkas. The only thing I can figure is the Russian nesting dolls are sometimes called babushka dolls, so maybe these are named bambushkas because of the treasured filling inside.
So what are bambushkas? It is a rich egg and yeast dough, rolled thinly, and filled with a sausage, ground beef, bacon, onion and sauerkraut mixture. I think it’s the sauerkraut that makes it truly magical. When we made this batch, I ate two for dinner and then couldn’t wait until breakfast so I had an excuse to eat two more. They go quickly.
Like many family recipes, the instructions and quantities are loose and open to interpretation. Unfortunately, the expert baker, my husband’s mother, passed away in 2000 so we can’t ask her for details. I remember scribbling down the recipe from her many years ago, but I didn’t get the opportunity to apprentice her.
The dough itself is very stiff. We use our Kitchenaid stand mixer to knead it.
Once it’s ready, it sits in an oiled bowl until doubled in size.
For the filling, he starts with a few strips of bacon. Not a bad way to start, amiright? Then after the grease is drained, in goes onion and seasoning. When the onion starts to turn translucent, it goes out and the ground beef and sausage go in.
After everything is cooked up, the extra grease is drained and seasonings are checked, he adds in drained sauerkraut.
Then he rolls out the dough. He makes it quite thin, but it has to be sturdy enough to hold the heavy filling.
Once the squares are prepped, a spoonful of filling goes in each.
Each square is pinched together and placed on a cookie sheet, seam side down. Aren’t they gorgeous when they come out of the oven?
According to my husband, his mother made them flatter and the dough was so thin it was nearly translucent. He hasn’t been able to get it that thin in our own experimentations, and they tend to be puffier than he remembers. But they’re still mighty tasty.
Dinner is served! (The sides are roasted butternut squash, kale and Brussels sprout salad, and pineapple spears. Gotta go light with the sides when you’re eating such a heavy main.)
- ½ c warm water
- 1 yeast packet or equivalent
- ¾ c milk
- 4 to 4.5 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 3 slices bacon
- 1 medium onion, diced
- seasoning: pepper, celery seed, garlic powder, paprika; optional caraway seed
- 1 can sauerkraut, drained
- ½ lb ground beef
- ½ lb ground sausage
- In the mixer bowl with the beater attachment, mix yeast with warm water and let sit for 5 minutes.
- Add milk, eggs, salt, and 2 cups of flour. Mix together until smooth. The dough will be very wet.
- Switch to dough hook. Add remaining flour one cup at a time. Add extra flour if dough is too wet. Dough should become very stiff. Let it knead for 5 minutes. The dough should not be sticky and will quickly pull away from the sides of the bowl.
- Use the vegetable oil to grease a large bowl. Place the dough inside and turn to coat; cover with plastic wrap. Let it rise in a warm place until double, about an hour.
- While the dough is rising, prepare the filling. Fry up the bacon until crispy but not overcooked in a large pan. Remove bacon and drain fat; finely chop bacon and set aside. Add onion and seasoning and cook until translucent over medium heat, about 4 minutes. Remove the onion from the pan and set aside. Add the ground beef and sausage, breaking up into small bits as it cooks. Drain the mixture when it's cooked through; add the onion back in. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. When the seasoning is satisfactory, add the drained sauerkraut. Be generous with the sauerkraut.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a floured surface, turn dough out, gently pat it down and cut into four sections. Roll each section thinly, and cut into squares approximately 6" x 6". In the center of each square, place about 3-4 tbsp of filling. Pinch each square closed, folding in the corners so that the filling mixture does not show. Place seam-side down on ungreased baking sheet (we use a jelly-roll style pan with a short lip in case one of the packets leaks.)
- Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown. Be sure to let them cool a bit before you take a bite!