For at least forty years I have been putting off making bubbat, a Mennonite dish that combines meat and bread dough for an inexpensive dinner. Jerri’s family did not make it, so neither of us knew what to expect when I finally found the courage to try it. We bought a pound of Farmer’s Sausage at Louie’s Finer Meats on our way to the cabin, and I baked our first bubbat to accompany a turkey vegetable soup made with leftovers from our Thanksgiving dinner.
Our judgments were mixed. We agreed that bubbat was edible and rather attractive, but we also agreed that it would probably not become one of our favorite foods. When I researched bubbat on the Internet, I found some recipes that tell the baker to chop the sausage into small pieces and mix them into the dough. Others call for raisins instead of sausage. Both suggestions appeal to me. Since one version of raisin bubbat includes a cup of whipping cream to enrich the dough, I think that I’ll try that one first.
Raisin bubbat is a side dish served with meat, often roast chicken or turkey, while Esther Bargen’s bubbat is a main dish. This recipe comes from the Mennonite Community Cookbook by Mary Emma Showalter. According to the cookbook, bubbat is “A Favorite of the Russian Mennonites.” Mrs. Bargen was married to Bernhard Bargen, who was an associate professor of economics at Bethel College and the first manager of the Mennonite Press in North Newton, Kansas.
I am sure that Mrs. Bargen cooked many popular Mennonite dishes, one of which was undoubtedly her bubbat. She probably learned how to make it by watching her mother. Here is her recipe. I substituted active dry yeast for cake yeast and reduced the amount of salt.
2 1/4 tsp. yeast
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 tsp. salt
3 T granulated sugar
1 lb. Farmer’s Sausage
3 1/2 – 4 cups all-purpose flour
Warm the milk until it is steaming, then let it cool to lukewarm (105 – 110º F). Let the egg come to room temperature while the milk is cooling. Stir the sugar and yeast into the warm milk and allow it to proof for three or four minutes. When you see bubbles forming on the milk, beat the egg until it is lemon colored and, using a wooden spoon, stir it into the milk along with a cup of flour. Stir until you have a smooth batter.
Stir in more flour a half cup at a time until you have a batter that you can just stir with the spoon. You will have the right consistency when the batter begins to come away from the sides of the bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and allow the batter to rise in a warm location until it has doubled in volume.
Cut the sausage into pieces about three inches long and grease a nine by thirteen-inch baking pan while the batter is rising.
When the batter has risen, spread it evenly in the pan with a spatula and press the pieces of sausage into the batter at two to three-inch intervals. Cover the pan and let the dough rise until it has nearly covered the sausages.
Preheat the oven to 350º while the dough is rising in the pan. Put the pan on a center shelf and bake thirty-five to forty-five minutes or until the dough is nicely browned.
Take the pan from the oven, cut the bubbat into twelve pieces and serve immediately. Leftovers should be warmed before serving.
This recipe makes four to six servings.
NOTES: Mrs. Bargen’s recipe says to bake at 375 or 400º for about forty-five minutes, but 350º works better. Like most vintage recipes, this one almost certainly assumes you will use whole milk. If you don’t have whole milk in your refrigerator, melt a tablespoon of butter in the hot milk.
Farmers sausage is a mild smoked sausage seasoned mainly with salt and pepper. You can use any smoked sausage you enjoy for your bubbat.