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Kolaches

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.

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 [1], or see below for my adaptation in which I try to make things a little more clear.

Kolache Dough (adapted from Saveur, issue #121)

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

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

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