Assembling bierocks with a crew of parent volunteers in the kitchen at Thomas More Prep-Marian High School brought back memories of childhood for Beverly Stark, Hays.
“I feel like I’ve been doing this all my life,” said Stark, rolling out dough like she did growing up near Leoti with seven brothers and five sisters.
“Every Saturday we’d make sweet rolls because Mom and Dad would go dancing,” she said, her sleeves rolled up to flatten a big ball of dough. “So they’d have a sweet roll when they got home. And we’d have them for breakfast on Sunday. That was always my job to make sweet rolls on Saturday so they could go dancing.”
But it took the annual TMP-Marian event for Stark to learn how to make bierocks. This year, once again she and her husband, Bill, were among more than 65 volunteers who started early Friday morning making 4,200 bierocks from scratch.
The purpose was the school’s annual fundraiser, which started in 1999. Each year it raises more than $12,000 to buy and maintain buses, suburbans, minibuses and vans for the 600 students attending TMP-Marian and Holy Family Elementary, said Troy Ruda, advancement director for TMP-Marian.
The bierocks sell for $35 a dozen, with orders as small as a dozen to as large as 10 to 15 dozen, said Sandy Losey, advancement office assistant who organizes the project.
“We only accept orders for up to 350 dozen because that’s the maximum we can produce,” said Losey.
On Friday, the toasty aroma of the freshly baking bierocks wafted into the parking lot. By Friday afternoon that’s all that was left, as the fundraiser’s strong local following, which pre-orders in October, had picked them up by 6 p.m.
Pre-orders go fast, so some may miss the boat.
“We have a waiting list for 10 dozen,” Losey said of this year’s orders. “So we’ll make them until the meat runs out.”
Latecomers who miss out on the popular German staple may find sympathetic friends and relatives willing to share.
“You can give it a try,” she said.
Early Friday morning, Ruda was manning the bread dough machine, each batch taking 18 eggs, 30 pounds of white flour and three pounds of white sugar, not to mention hot water, lard and salt.
“I love to cook at home,” said Ruda, a 1993 graduate of TMP-Marian, “but certainly not in this quantity.”
Amidst the clatter of pans, the opening and closing of oven doors, and lots of chatter, racks of finished bierocks were rolled into the cafeteria to cool on tables, then gathered into packages.
Pinching the beef-filled dough into pillows, school cook and volunteer Randa Cooper recalled one bierock customer commenting previously on his order of bierocks that “they don’t look the same.”
“They won’t if they’re made by humans,” she said. “These aren’t made by a machine.”
Carol Feautr, who’s worked in the TMP kitchen for 35 years, credits the volunteers with the bierocks fundraiser’s long legacy of success.
“They are doing great, we’re way ahead. They’ve already got alot made,” she said. “This day is fun. You get to visit while you make them. It’s enjoyable.”
Duane Mader is in his fourth year as a volunteer. On Friday he was punching down dough, trying to keep the growing gooey mess from oozing its way out of the pan.
“It tries to run away,” Mader said laughing, estimating there’s 20 to 30 pounds of dough in each pan.
At the four work tables, teams of four or five volunteers worked and chatted as they assembled bierocks. Conversations wander in all directions, but visiting is clearly one of the best parts of the day, including plenty of joking, and lots of it directed at the oven crew, nicknamed the bun boys.
The three-man baking crew on Friday morning included Bill Stark, Mark Bieker, and Curtis Schmidt, a 1995 graduate. Each pan of two-dozen bierocks is slipped into warm proving ovens to let the dough rise. When the bierocks are just right, the pan is moved to one of four ovens.
“The bread proofer allows the yeast to rise,” explained Stark. “You have to look at it and the bread has to have the right fullness.” Eyeing one batch, he pointed at the disappearing dimples in the dough. “Those are getting close,” he said. “They are ready when the dough smooths out.”
Bieker, a 1980 graduate, has volunteered for 20 years or more. Now he’s the parent of a daughter who teaches at the school.
“Everybody does a good job,” he said. “It takes a village.”