Kolaches serve up a taste of Texas sweetness — by way of Central Europe. The pastries, which followed Czech immigrants to the southwestern state, combine rich, puffy dough and fruit, poppy seeds or other sweet fillings. If you’re making them at home, leave plenty of time to allow the yeast dough to rise several times.
Kolache dough starts by combining yeast with warm water or milk, then mixing in sugar and a portion of the flour you’ll be using. Once this first blend doubles after about an hour, you can add melted butter, eggs, the rest of the flour and a bit of salt. The dough, after a vigorous kneading session, gets left to double in size again. The final stage involves dividing the dough into smaller pieces, forming them into balls or discs a few inches in diameter and leaving the individual kolaches to rise a final time.
You can concoct sweet kolache fillings from fruit spreads, dried fruits, nuts, cheese, seeds or a combination of any of these. Use store-bought jam or conserve for the easiest fruit filling option. Alternatively, heat fresh or soaked, dried fruit in a saucepan with sugar and complementary spices until the mixture softens and reaches a spreadable but still-chunky consistency. Dried fruit may need additional pureeing to reach this stage. A cheese filling comes together with softened cream cheese or cottage cheese, lemon zest, sugar, an egg yolk, vanilla and a small amount of flour to stiffen the mixture. A classic Czech filling, poppy seed is made by simmering the ground seeds with milk, a bit of cornstarch and almond extract.
If you’ve formed your sweet dough into disks, use a spoon to flatten the center, then spread your filling into the indentation. This will give you a flatter kolache, somewhat like a small Danish. A round ball, which results in a more bun-like kolache, should be pierced gently with your finger, after which you can spoon in the filling. In either case, about 1 tablespoon of filling is enough for each kolache.
Some fruit or cheese kolaches are traditionally sprinkled with a streusel-like topping, called posypka, before baking. This topping is made by cutting butter into a sugar-flour-cinnamon blend until the mixture turns crumb-like. You may also opt to use powdered sugar or melted butter after the kolaches are baked, either over the posypka topping or instead of it. Bake the kolaches in an oven set to medium heat for 15 to 30 minutes, or until the pastry turns golden.
Some kolache fans dispute whether savory versions of the Czech-Texas tradition should be considered part of the kolache family. Lisa Fain, author of “The Homesick Texan Cookbook,” notes that while some people refer to “sausage kolaches,” for example, their proper name is “klobasnek.” Whatever their name, the method for making the savory treats is much the same as for sweet kolaches, including using a sweet yeast dough. Once they’ve been flattened into disks, the dough pieces are topped with cheese and chopped sausage on one half, then folded over so that the filling is totally enclosed. Other combinations, such as ham and cheese, can also fill these savory kolaches.
References and ResourcesSerious Eats: Kolaches
Saveur: Strawberry Kolaches
Recipe Tips: Kolache Defined
Gourmet: Czech, Please
New York Times: The Kolache -- Czech, Texan or All-American? (All Three)
Epicurious: Sausage Kolache