If you’ve lived in Texas (or are lucky enough to have a grandmother from Moravia) you may be familiar with the kolache (pronounced ko-LAH-chee), the Czech pastry made of yeasted dough and traditionally filled with fruit, poppy seeds, or sweet cheese. These delicious treats have a European heritage, but they have a very American following deep in the heart of Texas—and lately, kolaches have become trendy all over the U.S.A.
Kolaches, soft pastries of yeasted dough with a divot in the center, traditionally filled with sweetened cheese or fruit, are a humble link to the Old World. The most traditional flavors — such as poppy seed, apricot, prune, and a sweet-but-simple farmer's cheese — can be traced back to the pastry's Eastern European origin. And like many recipes from the olden days, bakers used what they had on hand on the farm at the time. The doughy pastry came to America with a wave of Czecho migration in the late 19th century and found a happy home in the rural communities of Texas in the heart of the state, sometimes called the Czech Belt, where the Czech bakers continued to use what was available to them in their new homeland.
Traditionally, in Czech families, kolaches were made at home. Each Czech family has their own twist on the recipe that likely evolved through the years based on the fluctuating availability of local produce or pantry staples due to that year’s harvest or the economy. However, kolaches have evolved beyond the classic and traditional to include a variety of modern fillings that include chocolate ganache, spinach and feta, and sausage, jalapeno, and cheese. (Kolache purists would never put meat in a kolache. To them, the name for the meat-filled version is klobasnek.)
I realize that baking with yeast is time-consuming and a challenge for some, but in my opinion, the payoff is worth it. This recipe was shared with me by my dear friend, Sandra, who resides in both Texas and Ohio. Her exposure to great Texas cuisine landed her this fabulous recipe, adapted from the Grady Spears cookbook, Cooking the Cowboy Way. Always my go-to for providing baked goods and other treats for my social gathering, Sandra’s recipes and travel adventures can be found at her sites https://makethedayyours.com/ and https://www.instagram.com/makethedayyours1/
Makes 2 dozen
1 cup warm milk, will be divided when used in recipe
¼ cup sugar
1 package active dry yeast
3 ½ cups flour
1 farm fresh egg, beaten
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together 1/3 cup warm milk, 1 teaspoon sugar and the yeast. Stir until yeast is dissolved. Let sit until mixture is bubbly, about 8-10 minutes. Place flour in mixing bowl and add yeast mixture and all ingredients except the vegetable oil. Mix well until dough forms.
Knead dough on a floured surface until smooth. Brush vegetable oil all over kneaded dough. Place oiled dough into basket lined with a dish towel and cover with the second dish towel. Place in a warm area and allow to rise until doubled in size, which usually takes about an hour. Roll out dough and cut into squares. Alternatively, you can break off pieces of dough and form square shaped rolls with your hands. Place shaped kolaches onto parchment lined baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between rolls on the baking sheets.
Cover rolls with dish towels and allow to rise again, until doubled in size again. This will take about a half an hour. Use your thumb or a small spoon to make an indentation in the top of each roll. Fill the indentation on each roll with 2 teaspoons of Bellisari’s Blue Cheese, Honey & Shallot Spread.
Bake in 350-degree oven for 18-20 minutes, until slightly golden. Adjust time slightly shorter for convection oven.