Saturday, March 31, 2012

Kolaches: Czech Pastries of the Great Plains

Trying another recipe today

Last Christmas, one of my Facebook friends from Nebraska posted that someone had brought her a plate of kolaches, and she had already eaten one with blueberry filling, which was so good that she wanted to post about it. I thought I knew that kolaches were round, baked yeast rolls with a fruit filling in the center, but I searched for some recipes to confirm what I thought, and sure enough, I was right.

Tradiční české koláčky: Kolackys as made
in the Czech Republic. Image from Wikimedia.

About a month ago, I tried a kolache recipe that came from the website of a butter company. It called for 2-1/4 cups of butter in total, so I cut that back quite a bit, but otherwise, I followed the recipe fairly closely. Dennis became a huge fan of kolaches, as soon as he tried one.

Today I'm making kolaches for the second time, and I'm using a recipe for a folded kolache. It has a spicy dough that's made with a more reasonable ratio of shortening (oil) to flour. I have the dough resting in the refrigerator right now, and late tonight or early tomorrow morning, I will assemble and bake the kolaches.

This recipe is from the Smithsonian Folklife Cookbook by Katherine S. Kirlin and Thomas M. Kirlin, published in 1991 by the Smithsonian Institution Press in Washington and London. I got my copy at a local thrift shop. The recipe is credited to Genevieve Trinka of Lidgerwood, North Dakota.


Combine in a small bowl and set aside to soften:
3 tablespoons dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 teaspoon sugar.

Combine in a large mixing bowl:
2 cups warm milk (scalded and slightly cooled if raw)
3/4 cup sugar (I used half Splenda)
2 teaspoons salt (I cut this back to 1 teaspoon)
1/2 cup oil
1/2 teaspoon mace
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (I had no mace so I used 1 teaspoon nutmeg)
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 eggs, well-beaten

2 cups flour
The yeast mixture that you set aside, above

Beat well, and add a little at a time:
5 cups flour  (I used white whole wheat flour.)

This makes a very soft dough. Grease a large bowl, scoop the dough into it, cover, and place in the refrigerator overnight. I've had to stir it down twice now because it had risen over the top of the bowl, but surely the yeast process will slow down now that the dough is chilled completely.


Here's what I'll be doing later.

The next day (or after the dough has chilled 8 or more hours,) get your filling and glaze ready. I'm going to use canned blueberry pie filling because I have some on hand, but many recipe websites have directions for making homemade fruit fillings. (For example, here are recipes for nine different kolache fillings.)

According to the Smithsonian cookbook and according to what I've read around the internet, prune, apricot, and poppy seed fillings are traditional. My mother would probably have called these fruit pockets and filled them with spicy applesauce. She loved applesauce as an old-timey fruit filling.

A folded kolatsche from Austria. Image from Wikimedia.
My kolaches will be folded something like this, but
I don't think the filling will be completely covered.


Here is the recipe for egg glaze that the recipe book gives. I have not decided if I'll use this glaze, or just drizzle a little powdered-sugar glaze on them after they've baked. Or maybe I'll brush the hot kolaches with a little melted butter and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
2 tablespoons butter, softened.

To assemble the kolaches, place some of the dough on a well-floured surface and pat it out to about 1/2 inch thick. Then cut it into 2 inch squares. Take a square, flatten it a little more, and place 1 teaspoon fruit filling in the center of it. Join diagonal corners of the square and squeeze the dough together a little to fasten at the center of the kolache. (Repeat for the other two corners.)

Brush tops of the kolaches with the egg glaze. Place on a well-greased cookie sheet. Let them rise. Bake at 350° until lightly-browned.

These are kolache recipes I'm going to try in the future:

Kolaches from a Texas bakery. Flikr photo.


Robert said...

Thank you for the recipe. I might actually try to make these. Kolaches are extremely popular in Central Texas, where a large Czech/"Bohemian German" population settled in the mid-19th century. We are particularly fond of the ones we get in West, but the ones we get in Lagrange are also very good.

Genevieve said...

A couple of thoughts, now that I am in the process of putting them together and baking them. They should be folded like the ones in the photo, not just corners joined! This makes them more stable for brushing on the thick topping, and if you can stretch the tip of that last corner all the way to the underside, they stay folded much better.

Greta Koehl said...

Thank you for posting these! I come from the part of Texas settled by "Bohemians" and instantly became addicted on my first taste. In Baylor county the ladies made them with cream cheese filling which is how I make mine. I found what I knew to be close to the recipe they used in - The Joy of Cooking! It also has the lemon peel (that's how I recognized the recipe), but it does not have mace or nutmeg, though that sounds yummy, too. The ladies at the church I go to here in Virginia make the folded ones - those are also really good. Oh, wow, now I'm going to have kolaches on the mind....

Greta Koehl said...

Oh, yeah, I forgot to add: when we (=I) make these at Christmas, my husband says that we are practicing the fine art of "kolache-doh." Definitely a major thing in our family.

Genevieve said...

Thanks for stopping by, Greta. I think cream cheese filling sounds wonderful. I think I may have a copy of The Joy of Cooking. To be honest, I think I put it in my stuff for an upcoming garage sale. I will have to dig it out and look at it!

After making these folded kolaches, I decided that when I make this recipe again, I'm going to make them round with the filling in the center. Those are so much easier to do. Maybe I'll make them round, apply the glaze, let them rise, and then dent the centers and add the filling.

I think this glaze is interesting, and I may use it on some other sweet breads in the future.

Tracy Tucker said...

I put myself through college making kolaches to sell at farmers' markets in Nebraska and Kansas. I tried to find the recipe I use -- it was the 2nd place winner at one of the Texas kolache festivals -- but it seems not to be online anymore. Sweetened cream cheese filling is the best, but my family also loves them filled with peanut butter filling! When I took them to the market, I typically had apple, black/raspberry, blueberry, strawbery, cherry, peach, apricot, prune, cream cheese, prune, and lemon. Usually sold 300-400 an hour. I'm not Czech, so I had no idea that people went so crazy for these things!!!

Genevieve said...

Tracy, now I know I MUST try the cream cheese filling. :) Such an interesting idea to take them to a farmer's market. I'm going to keep in mind that they sell well. Thanks for your comment!

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