Sweet Czech Kolaches

Kolaches - DessertForTwo.com

Welcome to the first recipe ever to contain yeast on Dessert For Two!  I used to be afraid of yeast.  And then, I read the ingredients on a loaf of store-bought bread and quickly decided to make my peace with it.

The way I learned to trust yeast and treat it well is through the book Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.  The method is easy, convenient, and it really works.  We always have fresh bread on hand.

Once yeast and I became BFFs, I knew I wanted to make my childhood favorite breakfast food:  kolaches.  Say it with me:  ko-la-CHEY.  I know some people say ko-la-CHEE, but my family is Czech, so I’ll tell you with authority that it’s CHEY.

Kolaches are Czech pastries that can be described as soft dough with a cream cheese, jam, dried fruit, poppy seed, or even sausage and cheese filling.  The tender yeast-y dough lends itself to almost any type of filling.  I combined my 2 favorite fillings for this recipe:  apricot jam and sweetened cream cheese.  I love prune kolaches, but I had a feeling that a recipe with ‘prune’ in the title would send y’all running.  Also, next time you’re in the baking aisle, see if you can find a can of poppy seed filling:  it’s scrumptious.  Don’t be afraid to add a mini (cooked) sausage link and sharp cheddar (even in this savory version, do not eliminate the sugar from the dough recipe—the yeast need it).

This recipe requires 3 rises.  If you find it difficult to accomplish this in a normal day, just refrigerate the dough after the second rise.  Kolaches made with un-refrigerated dough are fluffier, but taste is not sacrificed with this time-saving technique.  I usually make the dough on Saturday afternoon and refrigerate it overnight for Sunday morning breakfast.  It will deflate, but do not worry.

The most important thing with this recipe is to ensure you have a warm spot for your dough to rise.  I put my dough in a recently turned-off oven or in front of the fire place.  I’m telling you:  this dough is lazy at room temperature.  For the quickest rise, snuggle your yeast in a warm environment.

The second most important thing is kneading. This dough is fun to knead.  Yes, really!  It’s supple and begs to be rolled around.  It hardly ever sticks, though you should still flour your counter.  The best way to knead is to gather the dough into a ball, push it away from you with the heel of your hand, and then fold it over.  Repeat this for 10 minutes.  The end result is a soft dough that just fits in your hands.  Remember, we’re only making a half-dozen kolaches, so you won’t have lots of dough.  See my photos below for proper kneading technique:

Proper Dough Kneading Technique - DessertForTwo.com

I love kolaches for breakfast because while they’re sweet, they’re not loaded with sugar like a cinnamon roll or sticky bun.  If you use an all-natural jam filling without the cream cheese, it’s a low-sugar sweet treat.  Kolaches aren’t traditionally stuffed with jam and cream cheese—that’s just my delicious variation.

Kolaches - DessertForTwo.com

Making kolaches reminds me of college, because I went to Baylor in Waco, Texas.  Waco is a short drive away from West, Texas, which has many kolache stops.  The best kolaches are at Czech Stop, right off the freeway, but any Czech restaurant in town has delicious ones.  We used to drive 15 minutes north to West, pick up a box and bring them back to fuel our study sessions.  Frequently, my parents would pick up kolaches on their drive into Waco to visit me.  My Dad always goes for the savory kolaches with sausage and cheese, while my Mom and I love the apricot and prune.  Everyone loves the sweet cream cheese ones.

I should also tell you that my Aunt (the one I talk about so much here), used to make a quick version of kolaches with refrigerated biscuit dough.  She would cut the biscuit in half to fit in a muffin cup, then top with jam and bake.  Biscuit dough is not exactly the same texture as true kolache dough (biscuit dough is greasy and heavy), but when a kolache craving strikes, I’ve been known to use the same method.

Kolaches - DessertForTwo.com

Kolaches seem appropriate for Easter to me because it was my grandmother and Aunt’s favorite holiday, and has become mine.  I bake to remember them.
If you’ve ever wondered why Texas has quite a few Czech towns, I can explain:  when Czechs immigrated on ships (just like my great grandparents did), the boats came up through the Gulf of Mexico.  Many Czechs found the growing climate suitable to crops they were already used to growing (like cotton), and so they settled here.  My family grew cotton in central Texas.

I hope y’all have a wonderful Easter holiday!  Bake something special with yeast to commemorate this special day.

Sweet Czech Kolaches
 
Makes 6 kolaches
Ingredients
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • ⅓ cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, divided use
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided use
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 6 teaspoons apricot jam
Instructions
  1. Warm the milk in a microwave-safe bowl for about 30 seconds until lukewarm. The target temperature is 110 degrees. Once it’s at precisely 110, add the yeast, 1 tablespoon of the sugar and ⅓ cup of the flour. Mix together well and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size.
  2. In another bowl, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter. Ensure it’s not too hot and then stir in the egg yolk. Add this to the risen dough and mix well. Add the remaining ⅔ cup of flour and mix well.
  3. Knead the dough according to the instructions above for 10 minutes. Smear it away from you with the heel of your hand, then fold it back onto itself. Lightly flour the board and your hands as you go. At the end of 10 minutes, the dough will be supple.
  4. Grease a bowl with cooking spray and add the dough. Cover and let it rise in a warm place until it doubles in size. At the end of this rise, you may cover it and put it in the fridge to use the following day. It will deflate, but it’s okay.
  5. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and have ready. Divide the dough into 6 balls and roll them into round balls. Flatten them slightly to have a square shape.
  6. Place the dough balls about 1″ apart on a greased cookie sheet and let rise in a warm place while you make the filling.
  7. Preheat the oven to 350.
  8. Combine the remaining tablespoon of sugar with the softened cream cheese. Beat together well.
  9. Using your knuckles, gently make an indentation in each dough ball to hold the filling. Brush each kolache with the remaining melted butter. Place a heaping scoop of cream cheese filling in each indentation, and top with the jam.
  10. Bake for 14-16 minutes until the sides are lightly brown. Let cool on the baking sheet for 1 minute, then serve warm.

 

 

Comments

  1. says

    Its so special that you bake these around easter for memory sakes. I think that is so important! I also learn’t so much about you in this post! I really like that! I think I may just make these. I love yeast!

  2. says

    Not gonna lie… I still get nervous when I see things made with yeast. This looks good enough to help me face my fear! My husband is part Czech so maybe I will surprise him with some of these. Thanks for helping me expand my horizons :)

  3. Diane says

    My husband and I moved to Hewitt about a year ago from Killeen to start a church here; I haven’t made it up to West yet, but I’ll have to fix that soon!! Looking forward to making a batch of these kolaches!!! They look fantastic!

  4. says

    Yeah girl, congrats on a first and roaringly successful round with yeast! You totally have me wanting to be Czech for a day. Can I join you if I pronounce it ko-la-CHEY?
    Thanks for sharing this special part of your heritage and a very Happy Easter to you!

  5. says

    I think I’m making a batch of these this evening! We just moved back to Colorado after living in Texas (where kolaches are king…or queen!) These look so very good. Thank you for sharing them with us!

  6. says

    I have never had a kolache – can you believe it? I’m not sure if they’re just not popular up here or if I haven’t been paying attention. Either way, I really need to get in the kitchen and try them – yours look so good!

  7. says

    There’s a bakery here (Birmingham – hope you enjoyed your visit here!) that makes Kolaches and my boyfriend is always raving about them. I’ve never had them because this bakery makes the most perfect donut holes, so why would I want anything else? ;) Anyway, he’s been asking and asking for me to try and replicate this pastry at home and now I’m excited because I can!! Thanks for the recipe!

  8. says

    I used to be afraid of yeast too! It always seemed way too temperamental and I never had the patience. But after making challah and my first actual loaf of bread, I sighed in relief, it wasn’t that hard. These looks sooooo good. That cheddar and sausage one is lingering in my brain. Also, us Polish people loooove that poppy seed filling in pastries as well.

  9. debzy says

    oh wow, thank you for figuring this out! I come from a long line of Czechs and now live 2000 miles away from them all! I don’t make these because the recipe makes too many and I don’t like to freeze them. This is perfect! I can’t wait to try them :) I’m going right out and get a can of poppy seed filling!

  10. Natalie says

    Kolaches remind me of Baylor, too. We are from CA and had never heard of Kolaches until my daughter attended Baylor and her friends took her to the Czech Stop. They became a favorite of hers and when would we visit her, we would stop by to pick some up. She has since graduated, but anytime she heads to Waco to visit friends, she stops by to get a few Kolaches. I will have to bake these for her when she is home. Thanks!

  11. says

    Christina, you’re speaking my language! I’ve heard a lot of regional pronunciations, from “KO-lahch” (the way my Grandma said it) to “ko-LOCH-kees” — but I think yours is spot on. Prune filling is my favorite, too, with a few shreds of coconut sprinkled over it. During “the trucking days” we used to drive by Czech Stop’s billboards (and I would swoon, beg, plead, but there’s only so much room for schedule diversions and parking, ha!) Thanks for your marvelous apricot & cream cheese variation and for “downsizing” a childhood favorite!

  12. says

    I love it when you teach me things! (NERD ALERT)

    These fluffy little pockets of love look amazing.

    Ps, is it weird to say that your skinny little hands remind me of mine? Too late, went there anyway.

  13. says

    I’m so impressed that you were able to scale down a recipe that includes yeast! I’m sure it’s not easy to figure out the right amount to use! These look so exotic and warm and delicious! This post makes me want to travel abroad and eat kolaches and wear sophisticated things! ;)

  14. says

    I love Kolaches! Now I can make my own and not plan travels to go through West?? Win!

    I just got the 5 minute book a few weeks ago. What’s the best one to try after the basic bread? Love that one whole bunches!

  15. says

    I am czech too! The only czech things I know how to make though are stuffed cabbage (I forget the czech word for it) and potica. I definitely need to try these. Also, I had no idea there were a lot of czech people in Texas. I was actually born there but my family lived there because of Kodak not because of any family ties there. How interesting!

  16. says

    I can’t believe with all the recipes on this site that this is the first yeast-based treat you’ve shared! Glad to know I wasn’t the only one who used to be intimidated by cooking with yeast. I can’t say I’ve ever had a kolache but the look delicious!

    Happy Easter, friend!

  17. says

    This morning, I went through this phase of “what am I going to have for breakfast”… I should’ve stopped by here first. My fault! This would’ve been a perfect breakfast.

    PS> Love the story behind this recipe. :)

  18. says

    You know what’s funny… I was in the Czech Republic in December and I told myself, “I’m going to eat nothing but kolaches! Yeeees!” And then I get there and can’t find any bakeries (which was weird) and after 4 days there, the only bakeries I found were in the train station. Out of excitement, I got myself 4 kolaches to eat on the way home. They were all awful.

    I would have done better going to Kolache Station on Parker Road. ;)

    Anyway, these look awesome! Great job and you definitely did the right thing with both types of filling / topping!

  19. Dee says

    Thank you for posting this! A friend’s granny from Fredericksburg promised to teach us how to make her Kolache but the timing never seemed to work for us to travel up from College Station on the day one neighbor’s cow had calved (for fresh cream) and the other neighbor to have just dredged a hog (for freah lard)! LOL Didn’t sound like something I would every do on my own anyway!

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