Kolaches

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Like all good Polish boys in Chicago, I grew up eating Kolaczky (Kolaches or Kolachky). My family bought ours by the dozen at a local bakery where my mom still shops. My favorites were filled with either cheese or apricot. I didn’t know until recently that these Eastern European wonders were also popular in Texas. The kolaczky in Chicago (which claim either polish or Czech descent) range in taste, shape and filling from each other. Some are a pastry or cookie, some are a yeast bread, but what they all have in common is a slightly sweetened dough filled with a variety of delicious sweet fillings which include fruit, cheese and nuts. They may be coated in powder sugar, drizzled with icing or finished with a crumb topping. The Kolaches in Texas seem more standardized, a slightly sweetened yeast roll which is topped with a spoonful of sweet filling.

If you have not already seen it, the current issue of Saveur is a real treat. It is dedicated to Texas and myriad of amazing food stuffs that are produced and consumed in that state. The issue is wonderfully designed and a real pleasure to read if for no other reason than the excellent collection of dessert recipes. Kolaches are one of the featured sweets and I knew immediately that I wanted to try this recipe. They may not be what I grew up with, but they sure looked good.

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Unfortunately, the Saveur recipe is crazy pants. I had such a hard time following and understanding it. Directions are vague and measurements are weird.  The good news is that despite all of that, these are relatively easy to make and the recipe comes together quickly. I liked both the strawberry and cheese fillings and think they compliment each other well. You can check out the original recipe here, or see below for my adaptation in which I try to make things a little more clear.

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Kolache Dough (adapted from Saveur, issue #121)

  • 1  1⁄4-oz. package active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened, plus 2 tbsp. melted
  • 1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3 1⁄2 cups flour, divided (plus more for kneading)
  • 3⁄4 cup milk

In a bowl, stir the yeast, 1 tsp. sugar, and 1⁄2 cup water heated to 115°; let sit until foamy. In a large bowl, beat softened butter and 3 tbsp. sugar until combined. Add salt and egg yolk; beat until smooth. Add yeast mixture, 3 1⁄4 cups flour, and milk; stir until dough comes together. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times until no longer very sticky, adding flour as needed (I needed to add about another 1/4 cup of flour) and form a ball. Return ball of dough to bowl. Cover bowl with a kitchen towel; set aside in a warm place to let rise, about 1 hour. (It will about double in size.) To make crumb topping, combine remaining sugar, 1 tbsp. melted butter, and remaining 1/4 cup flour in a bowl; set aside. (It will be sandy with small clumps of crumbs)

Heat oven to 375°. Divide dough into 16 balls; arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet about a 1/2 inch from each other (4 rows of 4). Brush with remaining melted butter; cover with plastic wrap; let rise for 30 minutes. Using back of a spoon or fingers, make an indentation in the top center of each ball. Spoon 1 tbsp. filling into each; sprinkle with crumb topping. Bake until golden, 25–30 minutes. These are best the day they are made.

Strawberry Filling

  • 8 oz. strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1⁄2 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Combine berries, sugar, lemon juice, and 1⁄4 cup water in a 2-qt. pan over medium-high heat. Cook until thick, 8–10 minutes. Remove from heat; mash berries until chunky; let cool.

Cottage Cheese Filling

  • 4 oz. cottage cheese
  • 2 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 egg yolk

Place the cottage cheese, cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice, and egg yolk in a medium bowl and beat with a wooden spoon until smooth.

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34 comments to “Kolaches”

  1. we have this issue sitting on our coffee table – those look just like the photo! brilliant work.

    cheers,

    *heather*

  2. I’m loving this issue of Saveur too. These look wonderful, Tim. I love that top photo!

  3. These look amazing! I need to get this magazine!

  4. These look so tasty, and perfect for a brunch I’m having in a couple weeks. Thanks for sharing, the pictures are great!

  5. These look delicious! I really want to try the one with cheese filling…

  6. Um WOW. Just. Wow.

  7. Yes, we Texans love our Czech pastries as much as the next guy! Tons of little towns in central Texas (near Austin) are known for their legendary kolache!

    I’m so impressed you attempted to make these! They look delicious!

    My favorite place in Texas to grab a bunch is here:

    http://www.weikels.com/

    Yes, it is attached to a Shell Station. Judge and drive ahead and the mistake is yours!

  8. I am slowly making my way through this wonderful issue. In march went I went home to TX, I went on a Kolache tour of sorts and found simply wonderful ones at a bakery in La Grange. Texas really is an amazingly diverse food state.

    I really love the top picture as well. Beautiful!

  9. Texans do love their Kolaches. My favorite growing up was a spicy sausage & cheese variety. This little doughnut shop stuffed an entire sausage in there!!

  10. Thanks for all of the nice comments! and tips.
    Weikels seems like a must-try. I’ll be in Texas in September and am hoping to do some Kolache tasting myself.

  11. Dawn in CA says:

    June 10th, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    Quote: “…the Saveur recipe is crazy pants.” Tee Hee! I just might have to use that line.

  12. I grew up in Chicago but never had a Kolache. Poor me!

  13. Bless you! I have been looking for a great Kolaches recipe for years! This is going on my list to make! Thanks so much, I will let you know how they turn out!

  14. Happy Paczki Day (punchkee) Mazurek!

  15. This dessert must also be Chezch. We used to stop at a place between Dallas and Austin at a little shop called the Chezch Stop for our kolache fix. Haven’t had them in years. I think I will try your recipe but with cherries since they are in season now.

  16. oh lord-have-mercy, these look so amazing!

  17. I grew up eating kolaches in Texas (Houston/East Texas), but they were/are sausages baked in a delicious bread roll- they’re kind of torpedo-shaped. You can get varieties with cheese/sausage/jalapeno also. Shipley’s is the donut/kolache shop to beat in Texas (and there are loads, believe me). I never knew kolaches could also be sweet pastries…

  18. Okay, I am Czech and to be honest-I am really, really suprised that something like this is so popular!
    And about the word ‘kolachky’ (correctly written ‘koláčky’)-it is a diminutive for ‘koláč’ which is the universal appellation for a cake or a pie. And the kinds of ‘kolaches’ that is this recipe for are mostly filled with cheese, poppy or some kind of fruit jam. But it has many varieties.

  19. What about sausage kolaches? Is that a deviation from the traditional Czech brand? There’s this great Kolache shop in Houston on Bingle near Longpoint my Dad used to go to. He brought freshly baked jalepeno sausage kolaches into the house every Sunday! (And then I moved out of state……and lost weight )

  20. I love all of this talk about Kolaches! Yes, they can be savory too, at least in Texas. I’ve never seen a savory version of the Polish/Chicago ones. Anyone else know more?

  21. We have made the cookie variety (via Martha Stewart). They were delicious. I’d like to try the yeast bread variety sometime. The cottage cheese filling sounds good.

  22. Thanks for posting this! I don’t know if I want to make kolaches first, or run out and get that issue of Saveur! We’ve had amazing kolaches from a bakery in West, Texas but haven’t ever made them from scratch. This looks like the recipe to try! BTW, I can’t remember if we already told you that you’re on our blogroll, but we love what you’re doing!

  23. My Czech grandmother actually owned a bakery in Chicago that of course, stocked kolache! My dad was pretty adamant about passing on a heritage of Czech cooking so growing up we had a blue antique poppy seed grinder from Czechoslovakia that we used to hand grind poppyseeds to make a tar-like, sweet and earthy kolache filling. Plus, Italian prune trees in our backyard to supply fruit for the traditional plum. I sent him a link to this post and I know he’ll be delighted. Store bought anything is just never the same…

  24. Hi Tim!

    I’m catching up with your latest posts – congrats on your first 100th! Here is to much more! I enjoy your elegant and eloquent writing as much as I drool over the photos. (Once I get an oven, I’ll cook to the recipes you post, too!)

    And a few words on ‘kolaches’ — it seems in Russia we have the same deliciousness known as ‘vatrushki’. Suddenly, I feel nostalgic…which is good. Thanks!

  25. I’m making the sausauge ones today… Your dough recipe (- 1 Tbl of sugar), and stuffed with an 1/8th of a section of andouille sausage each. Top with butter and a sprinkling of sea salt. Swim Meet food to go.

  26. Sounds good! Let me know how your savory version turns out…

  27. I got so excited when I saw this recipe because my grandmother used to make kolachi (they were of Czechoslovakian descent). I have fond memories of apricot and nut kolachi, hers looked much different, but I am definitely going to try your recipe out. I really enjoy your blog, keep up the good work!

  28. I just made this recipe, via your helpful breakdown. Filled some with the cheese filling, others with homemade apricot and strawberry jams. Oh so good! Thanks for calling my attention to this recipe (and for sorting through the crazy on our behalf).

  29. The ones I have had are really thin pastry with apricot or blueberry jam on top. That is the tradition in my husband’s family, his grandmother made them that way. This looks yummy as well :)

  30. Haven’t made these since last summer’s swim meet. Making them tonight for the beach tomorrow. I guess I associate kolaches with summer. Sausage ones were great. Tonight I’m using some nice chorizo from Niman Ranch.

  31. Never seen these with a raised dough, the ones I’m familiar with are more of a cookie. I guess I’m thinking of Kolacky which are Polish?

  32. The way the Saveur recipe is written isn’t so “crazy pants” after all. Saying “19 Tbs + 1 tsp” is easier and clearer than saying “1 cup + 3 Tbsp + 1 tsp” or “1 cup + 3 1/3 Tbsp”. The large number of tablespoon measures called for in the remainder of the recipe simply maintains a consistent unit of measure. As with most of these types of foods, there’s no wrong way to spell them or make them, and dozens of delicious variations to work your way through!

  33. Hi Basia- Thanks for your comment, but I still think the recipe is crazy pants. ; )

  34. Thank you for simplifying the recipe. You’re right—I was just reading thru it before I came here and wondered why they made it so confusing. Love your photos!

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