Sunday, November 13, 2011

Czech Kolaches with Poppy Seed and Apricot Filling

My grandfathers parents, were both from Czechoslovakia, the now Czech Republic. They brought with them a love a theater, activism, music, good food and drink... a true Bohemian as my grandfather liked to call himself. My grandfather loved a good sweet, especially Vanocka, which is a Christmas bread with almonds and raisins and kolaches or kolaces as they are also known. My favorite was the Kolache. My grandfather would buy them every almost every Sunday from the  bakery in our town. I would always eat as many as I could or until my mother would scold me.

For me, the best part of eating a kolache was getting to the filling. The dough is a mere basket for the delicious fillings. I made both apricot and poppy seed filling and was so pleased with the results of both. The fillings stand up on their own, to spread on fresh bread, a croissant or as a layer for a cake. 

I have a cookbook from 1952, titled, Czechoslovak Pastries which was put out by the Charlotte Masaryk Society.  It contains various Czech recipes that were "shortened" to take place of the long and tedious working methods. I find this little book a gem as it has my grandmothers handwriting all over it, including dates of when she last made it and changes to the recipes. How good does it feel to use the same cookbook my grandmother used back in the seventies! 

I followed the recipe exactly, as I was working with a yeasted dough that I had never made before. Working with a yeast dough is still a foreign area for me so I tip-toed through this recipe with trepidation.  At one point it just asks you to press your dough into rolling here. I mean, come on, I was dying to bust out the rolling pin, but I didn't. I believe the cooking times were off by about 10-15 minutes. I adjusted the timing for the recipe and the oven temp.... just a touch. As the first too batches were too brown and over-cooked. When they came out of the oven, I did the same thing as I did when I was little, I tore off the dough from around the edges just to get to the filling. Yum! These are not very sweet, I am sure you could make a sweeter dough, but serving them warm with powdered sugar and butter does the trick.

Kolache Recipe
4 cups flour
1/2 cup sweet butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1.5 teaspoon vanilla or lemon rind
1 package dry yeast, raised - you can do this by following the instructions on the package. 1/4 water about 112 degrees and dissolve the packet. When foam has doubled in size, you can add it to your dough.
Apricot Filling

Bring milk to a boil, add butter, sugar, salt. Mix and let cool for 5 minutes. Temper your eggs, stir in eggs, raised yeast and vanilla. Make sure your dough mixture is not too hot, you do not want to kill the yeast. Sift your flour on a board, adding the wet mixture, a little at a time. Knead into a smooth dough that does not stick to the board. Let rise in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a damp towel, until double in size. Tear off even, egg sized pieces. Press each piece into a square 3x3. Place on parchment lined oven trays. Take about 1 TBS of your filling of choice and place in the middle. Draw the corners up firmly together over the filling. It is a bit like dumpling pinching. Let rise again. Oven to 350 degrees. Brush with beaten egg and 1 TBS milk before going into oven. There is an optional crumb mixture which I did not make, but I will include here for those of you who wish to add this on to the kolaches before they go into the oven. Bake for around 15-20 minutes, until just brown. (I admit, mine were too brown as the original recipe called for thirty minutes at 400)

Crumb Mixture - 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 sugar, 2 TBS butter, 1/2 teaspoon mace. Chopped nuts if desired. Sprinkle on the kolaches before they go into the oven. 

Poppy Seed Filling
1 cup poppy seeds GROUND - I found that 1 cup gives me about 1.5 ground.
3/4 cup milk
3 TBS sugar
3 TBS honey
1 tsp. allspice
Cook poppy seeds with milk and sugar on low and slow for five minutes. Stirring constantly until thick. Add honey and allspice. Take off heat. 

Apricot Filling
1 lb. dried apricots
1 cup of water
1/2 cup sugar, or more.... depending on your sweet tooth

Cook apricots, liquid and sugar, low and slow until the fruit has broken down and you have a relatively, smooth and thick mixture.  Add more liquid and sugar if necessary.

kolache kisses....have a beautiful week and celebrate the little things! xoxo - megan

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Orange Polenta Tea Biscuits with Orange Candy Glaze

orange polenta tea cookies. best served same day, no waiting around. serve with tea, and if you've got it, some mascarpone cheese. 

not a sweet cookie, a bit of crunch from the polenta, hence the biscuit name.

not a stand out biscuit, just simple, somewhat courageous.

breakfast with the ladies?  serve these. (with mascarpone cheese on the side please)

they would even be good, really good, alongside a big bowl of spicy chili.

miss my husband, he is off in Peru. he would eat these, possibly all of them, if he was around.

today we set our clocks back, in hopes of raising our spirits and shedding a bit more sun into our daylight hours. i miss the warm sun, hence these little shiny cookies. everything was yellow, bright and cheery. little orange and yellow disks of deliciousness. 

if and when I make these again, I will use a finer ground corn meal, eat them with mascarpone cheese or a bowl full of chili, or maybe both. 

i thought I was making a stand alone little cookie. but.... these do need something to pair with them. i tasted them hot out of the oven and was a bit sad as i had imagined something else. polenta had too much crunch, finer ground corn meal will suit your teeth better. the large grain almost ruins the biscuit.

rule #1. have no expectations about your own cooking and then you will never be let down.

the glaze came out of necessity, something to brighten up the flavor of the cookie. it worked.

whoops... I wasn' t paying any attention. I was busy skyping my husband on the other side of the world, and then I smelled something burning!

Orange Polenta Tea Biscuits with Candy Orange Glazeadapted from a 2110 Food and Wine Recipe
1 and 1/2 cups corn meal, grind your polenta down if you are lucky enough to have a VitaMix or other powerful blender. Too coarse of a meal, will be hard to chew.
1 and 1/2 sticks of unsalted organic butter
2/3 cups flour
3/4 cup organic unbleached sugar
2 TBS orange zest
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs

For Glaze
Juice of 1 large orange
2/3 cup sugar

1) Place ground polenta/ corn meal, butter, sugar, flour, orange zest and salt in a food processor. Process until you have a nice crumbly meal. Add eggs and pulse until your dough just comes together. Scrape out dough and put into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for one hour.
2) Oven to 375 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Place teaspoonful sized balls of dough onto sheet leaving 2 inches between. Place into oven for about 10 minutes, check at 9. These can burn quite quickly. Remove when edges are golden brown.
3) Juice one orange, if it is a small orange, juice two. Place sugar into heavy bottomed pan, and strain the orange juice into it. Cook sugar and juice until sugar reaches about 235 degrees. This will give you a thicker glaze that has not quite moved into soft crack of the candy stage.
4) Glaze your cookies using a silicon pastry brush. Hopefully you have one that you dedicate to just savory so that your glaze won't end up tasting like garlic!
5) Let cookies sit with the glaze on for several hours. You can not stack or store these with the glaze. Cookies could be made a week ahead of time as long as they were stored in an airtight package. (Tupperware, etc.)
5) Save any leftover glaze and use it as a sweetener to your tea. It is quite delicious.

 orange candy kisses, an extra hour of sleep, and a hot cup of tea! xoxo megan

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Laughing Jack