A sweet Czech treat

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Kolaches have come a long way from their East European roots

These kolaches are filled with a blueberries, creamy cheese, peaches and even sausage topped with a sliced jalapeno.
If you’re looking for a sweet bread to add to your Easter brunch, consider the kolache. Kolaches are sweet buns that have been adopted by Texas, thanks to the Czech immigrants who settled there. The pronunciation of kolache, if one isn’t near a native Czech speaker, can be found as either ko-LAH-chee or ko-LAH-key.

Either way, kolaches are light, slightly sweet, glossy from a prebake egg wash and filled with a thick fruit compote, creamy cheese or poppy seed filling. Texans have also filled the buns with sausages.

I’m not a food purist. I have thoroughly enjoyed a Vietnamese bahn mi sandwich made with Mexican carnitas. In that vein, if Texans want to make a Czech kolache filled with meat instead of a sweet filling, then why not?

For this recipe, I’ve made the meat filling from a coarse pork sausage flavored with sage. If you’d like a little heat, you can top the sausage with a slice of pickled or plain jalapeno. Again, not very Czech but very delicious.

For the best flavor, make your own fruit fillings, though a fruit preserve of the highest quality would work in a pinch.

The smooth cream cheese filling is delicious flavored simply with pure vanilla extract but you could add some grated lemon or orange zest. Consider doubling up on the flavors, hiding a little of any of the fruit mixtures under the cream cheese or putting a dollop on top of it.

For the lightest kolaches, the dough needs to be soft but not so sticky that you can’t work with it. You can shape it either by forming it into flattened balls or by rolling and cutting it in circles.

When the shaped rolls have risen, use fingers dipped in flour to press a wide depression in the center, leaving a smooth outer ring. Fill only to the top edge of the kolache so the filling doesn’t overflow during baking.

The kolaches are best eaten the day they are made, but you can do some of the work ahead of time. The fillings can be made the day before, but let them come to room temperature before filling the kolaches.

The dough can be made the day before. Let the dough rise overnight in the refrigerator in an airtight container large enough to hold the doubled dough. The chilled dough is easy to shape but plan on the dough taking much longer to rise.

Kolaches are best eaten the day they are baked.

Kolaches

Makes about 32, more if you make smaller ones

  • 1/4 c warm water
  • A pinch of sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 4+ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (about the one lemon’s worth)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into Tablespoon slices
  • 1 cup milk, barely warmed
  • 3 plus 1 large eggs

Put the water and sugar in a small bowl. Sprinkle the yeast evenly on top. Set aside to begin to bubble while you get on with the recipe.

Put three cups of the flour into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle. Add the sugar, salt, lemon zest and mace. Give it a stir to disperse the flavorings evenly in the flour. Add the butter pieces. Mix on low until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Add three of the eggs to the milk and mix with a fork to break up the eggs. Pour over the dry ingredients. Add the yeast mixture. Increase speed to medium and beat until smooth.

With wet fingers, clean the dough off of the paddle. Switch to the dough hook. Add dough by half cups until it makes a soft but barely sticky dough. The ball of dough should start to clean the sides of the bowl but will still stick to the bottom.

Cover and let rise until doubled. (This is a good time to make the fillings.)

Shape the dough. For flatter kolaches, divide the dough in half. On a floured surface, roll the dough about 3/4-inch thick. Cut into circles with a 3-inch round cutter, dipping it in flour between cuts, and making the cuts as close together as you can. Stack the leftover bits of dough and reroll them to cut more kolaches.

For rounder kolaches, divide the dough into quarters and cut each quarter into four pieces. Roll the pieces into balls.

Place pieces 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet for rounded rolls or a little closer for rolls that touch for softer sides.

Cover and let rise until doubled. When the dough has risen, make the egg wash by whisking the fourth egg with a teaspoon of water.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Press the center of the rolls with your fingertips, making a flat center with a half-inch border. Brush the outside of the kolaches with the egg wash. Fill the centers just to the top so the filling will stay in the depression and not overflow.

Bake about 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Kolaches are best eaten the day they are baked.

Fillings

Sausage

  • 1 pound coarsely ground breakfast sausage
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
  • (Sliced pickled or not jalapeños)

Put the sausage and onions in a skillet. Season with pepper. (Wait to salt until after the sausage cooks unless you know it isn’t very salty.) Turn heat to medium low and cook, stirring often, until the meat has begun to brown and the onions are soft. Add the sage and cook another minute. Taste and add salt and pepper, to taste. Let cool before filling kolaches.

Cheese

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, slightly warmed
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • (1 teaspoon grated zest of lemon or orange)
  • Combine all ingredients, beating until smooth.
  • Apricot or Prune
  • 1 cup chopped dried apricots or prunes
  • (1/2 teaspoon ground coriander)
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Honey or sugar, to taste

Combine the fruit, optional coriander, juice and water; bring to a simmer. Let cook, stirring often, until the fruit are very soft and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Mash. Sweeten to taste. Let cool to room temperature before using.

Blueberry

  • 1 pint blueberries
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup water

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer and let cook until the berries are soft and the liquid has reduced. Let cool to room temperature before using.

Kolaches are light, slightly sweet, glossy from a prebake egg wash and filled with a thick fruit compote, creamy cheese or poppy seed filling.

A sweet Czech treat

Kolaches have come a long way from their East European roots

These kolaches are filled with a blueberries, creamy cheese, peaches and even sausage topped with a sliced jalapeno.
If you’re looking for a sweet bread to add to your Easter brunch, consider the kolache. Kolaches are sweet buns that have been adopted by Texas, thanks to the Czech immigrants who settled there. The pronunciation of kolache, if one isn’t near a native Czech speaker, can be found as either ko-LAH-chee or ko-LAH-key.

Either way, kolaches are light, slightly sweet, glossy from a prebake egg wash and filled with a thick fruit compote, creamy cheese or poppy seed filling. Texans have also filled the buns with sausages.

I’m not a food purist. I have thoroughly enjoyed a Vietnamese bahn mi sandwich made with Mexican carnitas. In that vein, if Texans want to make a Czech kolache filled with meat instead of a sweet filling, then why not?

For this recipe, I’ve made the meat filling from a coarse pork sausage flavored with sage. If you’d like a little heat, you can top the sausage with a slice of pickled or plain jalapeno. Again, not very Czech but very delicious.

For the best flavor, make your own fruit fillings, though a fruit preserve of the highest quality would work in a pinch.

The smooth cream cheese filling is delicious flavored simply with pure vanilla extract but you could add some grated lemon or orange zest. Consider doubling up on the flavors, hiding a little of any of the fruit mixtures under the cream cheese or putting a dollop on top of it.

For the lightest kolaches, the dough needs to be soft but not so sticky that you can’t work with it. You can shape it either by forming it into flattened balls or by rolling and cutting it in circles.

When the shaped rolls have risen, use fingers dipped in flour to press a wide depression in the center, leaving a smooth outer ring. Fill only to the top edge of the kolache so the filling doesn’t overflow during baking.

The kolaches are best eaten the day they are made, but you can do some of the work ahead of time. The fillings can be made the day before, but let them come to room temperature before filling the kolaches.

The dough can be made the day before. Let the dough rise overnight in the refrigerator in an airtight container large enough to hold the doubled dough. The chilled dough is easy to shape but plan on the dough taking much longer to rise.

Kolaches are best eaten the day they are baked.

Kolaches

Makes about 32, more if you make smaller ones

  • 1/4 c warm water
  • A pinch of sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 4+ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (about the one lemon’s worth)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into Tablespoon slices
  • 1 cup milk, barely warmed
  • 3 plus 1 large eggs

Put the water and sugar in a small bowl. Sprinkle the yeast evenly on top. Set aside to begin to bubble while you get on with the recipe.

Put three cups of the flour into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle. Add the sugar, salt, lemon zest and mace. Give it a stir to disperse the flavorings evenly in the flour. Add the butter pieces. Mix on low until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Add three of the eggs to the milk and mix with a fork to break up the eggs. Pour over the dry ingredients. Add the yeast mixture. Increase speed to medium and beat until smooth.

With wet fingers, clean the dough off of the paddle. Switch to the dough hook. Add dough by half cups until it makes a soft but barely sticky dough. The ball of dough should start to clean the sides of the bowl but will still stick to the bottom.

Cover and let rise until doubled. (This is a good time to make the fillings.)

Shape the dough. For flatter kolaches, divide the dough in half. On a floured surface, roll the dough about 3/4-inch thick. Cut into circles with a 3-inch round cutter, dipping it in flour between cuts, and making the cuts as close together as you can. Stack the leftover bits of dough and reroll them to cut more kolaches.

For rounder kolaches, divide the dough into quarters and cut each quarter into four pieces. Roll the pieces into balls.

Place pieces 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet for rounded rolls or a little closer for rolls that touch for softer sides.

Cover and let rise until doubled. When the dough has risen, make the egg wash by whisking the fourth egg with a teaspoon of water.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Press the center of the rolls with your fingertips, making a flat center with a half-inch border. Brush the outside of the kolaches with the egg wash. Fill the centers just to the top so the filling will stay in the depression and not overflow.

Bake about 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Kolaches are best eaten the day they are baked.

Fillings

Sausage

  • 1 pound coarsely ground breakfast sausage
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
  • (Sliced pickled or not jalapeños)

Put the sausage and onions in a skillet. Season with pepper. (Wait to salt until after the sausage cooks unless you know it isn’t very salty.) Turn heat to medium low and cook, stirring often, until the meat has begun to brown and the onions are soft. Add the sage and cook another minute. Taste and add salt and pepper, to taste. Let cool before filling kolaches.

Cheese

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, slightly warmed
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • (1 teaspoon grated zest of lemon or orange)
  • Combine all ingredients, beating until smooth.
  • Apricot or Prune
  • 1 cup chopped dried apricots or prunes
  • (1/2 teaspoon ground coriander)
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Honey or sugar, to taste

Combine the fruit, optional coriander, juice and water; bring to a simmer. Let cook, stirring often, until the fruit are very soft and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Mash. Sweeten to taste. Let cool to room temperature before using.

Blueberry

  • 1 pint blueberries
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup water

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer and let cook until the berries are soft and the liquid has reduced. Let cool to room temperature before using.

Kolaches are light, slightly sweet, glossy from a prebake egg wash and filled with a thick fruit compote, creamy cheese or poppy seed filling.

By Kim Davaz

Kim Davaz always wants to know the story behind a recipe. She’s written about food for The Register-Guard since 1995. Follow her on Twitter @kimdavaz; contact her here.