Meltingly soft cabbage and gooey cheese tucked inside of a savory dinner roll… turn any meal into a celebration! Even bread-making novices will be baking with confidence with this easy to follow recipe!
You may have recently read about my culinary approach in the intro of my cookbook- and you know I’m a big fan of updating classics. Dishes need to evolve and adapt in order to survive and thrive. I LOVED my grandmother’s cooking, but now most of the things I make of hers differ from the way that she prepared them. Great recipes evolve with time, and at their core, with love, live on through generations.
I will have my grandmother’s special Slovakian Christmas Eve meal in my memory forever. But just as I’ve made adjustments to her peas and mushroom gravy, after years and years of trying to get my grandmother’s pagatch just right, I decided it was hopeless. It was time for reinvention.
Pagatch is a Slovakian dish; a yeasted dough, rolled to fit a sheet pan, stuffed with either mashed potatoes or braised cabbage, topped with a layer of dough, and baked to buttery goodness. I can still picture my grandmother on Christmas Eve, bending over in front of the oven with a stick of butter, rubbing it atop the pagatch as it baked.
When I’ve tried, I could never quite get the dough and the filling to mesh together like Grandma did. I’d bake up this beautiful sheet of fluffy, chewy dough, with a delicious layer of sauteed cabbage inside, then when I cut to serve in squares, the tops would slide right off. Plus, mine were always TOO puffy and doughy. Maybe I’m misremembering some idealized version of how perfectly hers turned out, but mine don’t hold a candle.
So for my take on her pagatch, I’ve turned it into a roll – not the typical dinner roll, mind you, but a savory version of the beloved cinnamon roll that gets stuffed with nice things, rolled up, sliced, and then proofed in its baking pan.
While they are still hot out of the oven, I rub butter all over the tight little coils, so it glazes the dough and melts into all the nooks and crannies. My grandma was onto something with that trick!
One other addition… CHEESE! I don’t remember my grandma including it in her pagatch, but cheese makes everything awesome, plus in this case it acts as a glue, ensuring the cabbage and the dough are firmly married.
I can’t call this dish, “pagatch”, but I can call it really, really delicious, and something that everyone will love as part of their extra-special holiday feast.
Are there any tips or tricks when making these cheesy cabbage buns?
- Make sure all the liquid is cooked out of the cabbage before filling the dough, otherwise the buns will be soggy instead of moist and delicious.
- It’s important to evenly distribute the cabbage and the cheese on the rolled-out dough. You don’t want one roll to be overfilled, while another is dry and has not enough. Make sure to go all the way to the ends!
- An easy way to cut even rolls is to cut the log in half, then cut each of those in half again, then cut those pieces in half one last time to get 8 equal sized pieces.
- A trick I use if I need to take the chill off of an egg in a hurry is to place the whole (uncracked) egg in a bowl of warm water and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.
- If you don’t have a stand mixer, you could also knead the dough by hand. You will need to knead it for slightly longer, about 8-10 minutes.
Cheesy Brioche Cabbage Buns
For the dough:
- 1 envelope active dry yeast about 2 ½ teaspoons
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- ¼ cup warm water
- ½ cup warm milk
- 1 large egg at room temperature, beaten
- 6 tablespoons softened butter plus extra for buttering the pan
- 3 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
For the filling:
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 small onion chopped finely
- 1 small savoy or green cabbage about 2 pounds, cored chopped
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
- ½ cup water
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 ½ cups 4 ounces grated Emmental cheese, or substitute with Comte or gruyere
Butter for serving
- Combine the milk, warm water and sugar and stir until dissolved. The mixture should be between 105 and 110 F, or if you don’t have a thermometer, slightly warm when you stick your finger in it. Stir in the yeast, then let the mixture sit for 3-5 minutes until foamy. Whisk in the egg.
- Place the flour and salt in a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment and mix to distribute the salt. Pour in the yeast mixture and mix on low speed until it comes together. Knead for about 2-3 minutes, then add the softened butter and mix until combined. You can leave it in this bowl, or transfer it to a buttered bowl (for easier removal later), and let it rise until doubled, about 1 to 1 ½ hours.
- While the dough is rising, make the filling. Heat the butter in a large skillet and add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook until softened, about 8-10 minutes. Add the cabbage thyme and remaining teaspoon of salt and plenty of black pepper and cook over medium high heat until it begins to brown. Pour in the water, sugar, and cider vinegar, stir to scrape up and brown bits from the bottom, then cover and turn the heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is meltingly soft. It might take up to 30 minutes. If it begins to dry out and brown, add some water and turn the heat down. Make sure to cook off any extra moisture, it should be fairly dry at the end, then let cool to room temperature.
- Roll the dough out on a floured board to a rectangle about 16 x 9-inches. Spread the filling over the dough going all the way to the edges and sprinkle evenly with the cheese. Then, beginning with the long end, roll into a log, pinching the seam together to seal. Use a serrated knife to cut the dough into 8 rounds and place them in a buttered 9-inch round pan. Cover and let rise for another 45 minutes. *At this point, you could also cover and refrigerate for up to 12 hours. Return to room temperature before proceeding.
- Preheat your oven to 375 F. Bake the rolls for 30-35 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and rub a little butter over the tops so that it melts into the hot buns. Serve warm.