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 squares....no 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.
4 cups flour
1/2 cup sweet butter
1/4 cup sugar
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.
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.
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