Authentic Czech kolaches recipe—made with apricot, cream cheese, or prune filling. Small batch, makes 12 small kolaches.
I just found out that my parents used to host Thanksgiving breakfast and Thanksgiving dinner. I know I was around for all of it, but I don’t have any memories of just how many kolaches I could shove in my mouth as a kid.
The primary reason they served two meals on Thanksgiving day is because my grandparents and great aunt would arrive early to help with all of the prep work. Since my great aunt owned a restaurant (I know I’ve talked about this before), they were happy to give her a much-needed break. There’s something sweet and meaningful about feeding someone who normally spends their day cooking and feeding so many people.
Since my grandparents are Czech, I’ve always grown up around authentic Czech kolaches. If you’ve never had a kolache (pronounced KOE-lah-cha…don’t say ‘koe-lah-CHEE around me, please), it’s similar to a soft, egg-y, buttery brioche roll with a fruit filling on top. The most common flavors are: prune, poppy seed, cream cheese, and apricot. I’ve also seen blueberry, cherry, and lemon.
I’m willing to talk about savory kolaches with eggs, bacon and sausage, but honestly, I didn’t grow up on those. Someone can correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the savory versions exist only in kolache shops. In all of my research for Czech recipes, I have never found a recipe written by someone’s grandmother for sausage or egg-stuffed kolaches. But I could be wrong. My family is from Moravia in the Czech Republic; maybe other Czechs have savory ones? Let me know if I’m wrong.
Anyway, I scaled this recipe down from one that my grandmother clipped out of an old newspaper. I’m assuming she used this recipe because it was a smaller batch than most kolache recipes.
The truth is, my grandmother was the original one to scale down desserts. I inherited a mini 6″ pie dish from her. She would frequently halve cake recipes to bake in smaller pans. She liked to make a half-batch of cake in an 8×8 pan instead of a 9×13 pan.
I’m not sure if it was because she was just cooking for herself and my grandfather, or if it was one of those leftover Depression-era traits, where an entire cake seemed so wasteful, but you should know that Dessert for Two comes from a very honest place. It’s in my blood to make tiny desserts.
I wasn’t privy to my grandmother’s small-batch desserts when I was younger, but I’m very aware of it now. Every day that I wake up and have the unbelievable privilege of scaling down desserts as my actual job, I think about her. It all just makes sense to me, why I’m here doing what I’m doing, you know? It’s a good feeling.
Anyway, DOUGH. Let’s talk about kolaches. The best description of the dough is like challah…but richer! Kolache dough has loads of butter, eggs and milk. It’s pretty frickin’ glorious stuff.
When you’re kneading the dough (just 10 minutes, I promise), the dough is supple and fun to work with.
Honestly, I made this entire recipe in 90 minutes. I used the ‘proof’ setting on my oven, and both rises happened in roughly 30 minutes.
Which brings me to a very important point: a lot of people think Czech kolaches needs at least 3 rises to be ‘authentic.’ This recipe has 3 rises, technically, since I activate the yeast with a portion of the flour. I’ve come across recipes with 5 rises, and well, that sounds great, but this recipe is pretty dang authentic. So, save yourself the time.
I like to make a pan of these and alternate flavors (4 of each: cream cheese, prune, and apricot), but feel free to triple one filling recipe to make an entire pan of one flavor.
To make the prune filling, I cooked dried prunes and honey until they were soft and mashable. For the apricot, I used a jar of very thick preserves. You don’t want to use jelly or thin jam for kolaches because they tend to boil in the oven. Cooked dried fruit or very thick preserves are the best things to use.
My favorite kolache is prune (but poppy seed is a close second). If you’re a kolache virgin, you’re going to want to start with the cream cheese–trust me on this.
I posted a photo of these babies on instagram, and immediately, someone asked about the posipka (a very fine crumbly little mixture of flour, butter and sugar that’s sprinkled on top of kolaches before baking). Admittedly, I love posipka, but I left it off for the sake of simplicity. I didn’t want to dirty another bowl. But to the person who called me out on posipka, you’re an amazing human, and you really know your kolaches! Bravo!
Ok, I’m sharing my recipe for Czech kolaches below. The recipe makes 12 small kolaches in a regular 9″ pie plate. The recipe is very easily halved, if 12 kolaches is just too much for you–I totally get it. If you cut the recipe in half, bake the rolls in a 6″ pie dish instead.
Happy baking! Errrr, I should probably say Šťastné pečení!
- 2/3 cup milk (2% or higher is best)
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2 large egg yolk
- 1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon fine salt
For the filling:
- 6 prunes
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 4 scoops very thick apricot preserves
- 3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoons powdered sugar
For the egg wash:
- 1 beaten egg
- splash of heavy cream (or milk)
- First: make the 3 different fillings. If you want all of the kolaches to have the same flavor, triple one of the filling recipes.
- For the prune filling: combine the prunes in a small saucepan with the honey, and add enough water to barely cover the prunes. Boil, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Mash them with a fork as they cook. They're done when most of the water is evaporated and it's thicker than jam. Set aside to cool.
- For the apricot filling: no work necessary! Just have the apricot preserves ready in a small bowl.
- For the cream cheese filling: stir together the room temp cream cheese with the powdered sugar until smooth. Set aside.
- Next, make the kolaches: 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, sugar and 2/3 cup of the flour. Mix together well and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size.
- In another bowl, add the melted butter. Let cool briefly before stirring in the egg yolk. Add this to the yeast mixture and mix well. Add the remaining flour, salt, and mix very well well.
- Next, knead the dough for 10 minutes: The best way to knead is to smear the dough away from you with the heel of your hand, and then fold the dough back onto itself from the side with your other hand. Lightly flour the board and your hands as you go. At the end of 10 minutes, the dough will be soft, supple, and not sticky at all.
- Grease a bowl with cooking spray and add the dough. Cover and let it rise in a warm place until it doubles in size (you can do this in the oven using the 'proof' setting). (At the end of this rise, you could cover it and put it in the fridge to use the following day. It will deflate, but it's okay).
- Next, you want to evenly divide the dough into 12 equal portions. I do this by weighing the dough, and dividing it by 12. Roll each dough ball into a perfect circle (see photo).
- Line a 9" pie plate with parchment paper, and arrange the dough balls in it. At this point, I press gently on the dough to make a slightly oblong shape instead of a perfect circle (see photo).
- Let the dough rise until doubled (you can do this in the oven using the 'proof' setting).
- Preheat the oven to 375.
- Once the dough balls have doubled in size, use your fingers to make indentations for the fillings. Go deeper than the indentations seen in the photos (the dough continued to rise while I was taking photos, making the indentations fill in slightly).
- Next, stir together the egg and splash of heavy cream to use as the egg wash for the rolls.
- Divide the jam fillings between the kolaches, and then brush with the egg wash gently (try not to get egg wash on the fillings).
- Bake the kolaches for 18-21 minutes, until nicely golden brown. Use a toothpick inserted into the center kolache to ensure the rolls are done. (In the testing process for this recipe, I accidentally under-baked a batch and the kolaches sunk in the middle, so make sure the inner kolaches are fully baked before removing from the oven).
- Let cool slightly, and then tear apart and serve.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 2431 Total Fat: 120g Saturated Fat: 69g Cholesterol: 652mg Sodium: 1370mg Carbohydrates: 288g Sugar: 76g Protein: 54g