Every good Texan knows two things about Kolaches: One, you never drive through West or Caldwell without stopping to get some, and two, you always get enough to share. At the holidays, coordinating who will bring kolaches is just as important as coordinating who’s making turkey and dressing. (At our house, we count on Aunt Cindy and Uncle Paul.) There are lots of chain restaurants and donuts shops that sell them, but nothing beats the little hole in the wall kolache shops with stained tile floors, a leaky faucet in the bathroom and the same three laminate booths that customers have sat in for 50 years.
This Czech/Tex pastry is sweet, but savory; fluffy; but filling, delicate, but hearty. So I knew when I decided to tackle the art of making them, the chances of getting it right the first time were slim. My first batch was too dense and the filling ran out. The second batch would have been perfect….if I had been making danishes. The third batch was a charm. It took me the better part of a day, but they were so worth the wait. They were glorious. So for those of you, like me, too far away from home to get our fix….
- 2 packages of yeast
- 2 Tbs. sugar
- 1/2 c. warm water
- 1 c. sour cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 7-8 cups flour
- 1/2 c. melted butter
- 2 beaten eggs
- 1/2 c. sugar
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 c. melted butter
- your favorite fruit preserves or filling
- Cream Cheese filling (recipe below)
- Crumble Topping (recipe below)
Cream Cheese Filling
- 6 oz. cream cheese
- 1/4 tsp. lemon juice
- 3 Tbs. sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 Tbs. butter, melted
- 1/4 c. flour
- 1/4 c. sugar
1. Stir your 2 Tbs. sugar into 1/2 c. warm water. Sprinkle in 2 packages of yeast. With the back of a spoon, I gently dunk the yeast into the warm water. Let it sit until the yeast is foamy.
2. Meanwhile, mix milk and sour cream. Add in yeast mixture.
3. Add 2 c. of flour. It should be pretty runny at this point, like pankcake batter.
4. Mix in 1/2 c. melted butter, eggs, sugar and a pinch of salt.
5. Slowly add in 5 to 6 more cups of flour. Too much flour makes it dense and tough, so it’s better to have too little than too much. Add 1/2 c. at a time until your dough is smooth and tacky. I used my dough hook on my kitchen aid to get it started, but kneading it in by hand really proved to be the best route for me.
6. Set your oven to 350 degrees, and let preheat for 3 minutes. Then turn it off and your light on.
7. Coat a large bowl with nonstick spray or butter. Place your smooth ball of dough in the bowl, and cover with plastic wrap.
8. In your oven that is OFF but warm, place your bowl. Let it rise until doubled in size, an hour to an hour and a half.
9. Punch your dough down, and pinch off dough to make 1.5 ounce balls. I fight extra steps when I cook, but weighing the dough out gave me uniform kolaches with just the right consistency….no small, burnt ones or big, raw ones. You can get a scale for less than $10 at Wal-Mart. Worth. It.
10. Using a silicone brush, butter your cookie sheet or glass baking dish. You can certainly make more at one time on a baking sheet, but I’ll be so honest and say, I prefer my glass baking dishes for cookies, pastries and breads. There’s no science behind it and hard core bakers may shudder at my confession, but I stand by it. Everything just comes out softer. With this batch, I made 1/2 on my cookie sheet and 1/2 in a baking dish. We unimously voted for the baking dish version.
11. If you want the traditional rectangle shaped kolaches, your balls have to placed very closely together on your baking sheet. You want them to rise up, not expand out.
12. Brush the tops with butter, and gently cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel.
13. Return to oven until doubled in size. Oven off, but light on.
14. While they rise, prepare your fruit filling or cream cheese filling. Mix all of your crumble topping ingredients in a separate bowl until crumbly.
14. Using your fingers, make an indentation in the middle of each dough ball just big enough hold a couple of tablespoons of filling. Gently drop in your filling, and sprinkle with topping.
15. Cover one last time with a tea towel or plastic wrap and return to warm oven and let rise again.
16. Once they have returned to big and fluffy, remove from the oven. Preheat your oven to 375.
17. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until they’re fluffy and lightly browned. Watch them closely, though….I’ve had some batches finish quickly and some took a few more minutes.
18. My kids circled me like vultures as they finally came out of the oven for good. And we sampled all of ours immediately. Vanilla Pear, Jalapeno Apple and Cream Cheese. Our next batch will definitely include my personal favorite…Poppy Seed!