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Kolache - Czech Pastries

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Funny enough, we couldn't find kolache, one of traditional Czech pastries, in any Prague bakeries that were on our way. Maybe we just didn't know the right place... or maybe they became one of those things people make at home. Anyway, I decided to bake them on return from our trip, armed by a recipe shared by Stania (our guide, remember?). Stania's husband is a great home chef (what a nice hobby for a man!), and the recipe she gave us is probably what she saw her husband cooking. I changed the recipe a bit, but the result was a tasty, delicate and heart-warming creation.

What you need:
F o r  t h e  D o u g h:
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup butter, melted + more for greasing and brushing
1/3 cup + 1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup + 1/4 cup warm milk
2 tsp dry yeast
3.5 cups flour, sifted + more for dusting

F o r  t h e  F i l l i n g s:
* 1 lb farmers cheese
   2 eggs
   1/4 cup sugar
* 1 cup poppy seeds
   1/4 cup sugar
   1 tsp flour
* 1 cup fresh strawberries, finely cut
   Sugar, 1 coffee sp per each kolach
Fillings recipes are below.

F o r  t h e  T o p p i n g
2 tbsp butter, softened
4-5 tbsp flour

Preparation time 3-3.5 hours.
Feeds up to 10 people depending on appetite and diet restrictions.

Mix yeast and 1 tsp sugar in 1/4 milk, let it foam in a warm place.
In a pot (the best choice would be enameled pot) combine milk, butter, eggs, salt, sugar, and yeast (when it's foamy). The mixture must be lukewarm. If it's cooled down when you mixed it with cold eggs, then warm it up on low heat constantly stirring.  Add 2 cups of flour, mix with a wooden spoon, add another cup of flour, mix well again until smooth. After that transfer the dough to the table/board generously dusted with 1/2 cup flour. Dip your hands in flour and knead the dough slightly turning, bending and pressing for about 10-15 minutes. If the dough begins to stick to the surface, add more flour. You might use 4 cups of flour, it depends on the size of the eggs.

Knead the dough to form a ball that doesn't stick to your hands, put it back into the pot, dust with flour, cover, and let rise in a warm place until it at least doubles in size. It will take about 1 hour or more depending on the temperature in your room.
Prepare the fillings. It can be farmer's cheese, poppy seeds, apricots, prunes, fresh fruit or berries, different combination of fruit and nuts. Kolache can be made with or without a butter topping. I did both, and I liked those with the topping better - it adds more delicacy to the pastries. I used three fillings.

Farmer's Cheese Filling:
1 lb dry farmer's cheese
2 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1 pinch of salt (if the cheese is not salted)
Mix ingredients well with a wooden spoon, make sure there are no lumps.

Poppy Seeds Filling:
1 cup poppy seeds
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp flour
Boil poppy seeds in 1 cup of water for 20 minutes, cover, let stand a little. Drain well, mix with sugar and flour.

Strawberry Filling:
1 cup finely cut fresh strawberries
Kolache are filled with fresh strawberries, then left to rise. Important: the filling is sprinkled with sugar (1 coffee sp per each kolach) right before baking.

2 tbsp softened butter
4-5 tbsp flour
Rub with your fingers until all is mixed into crumbles.

Cut dough in pieces (about 1 tbsp each), and roll them into balls, with your hands dusted in flour. Arrange balls on the surface leaving enough space for them to rise(2-3" spacings), cover with plastic wrap to avoid drying of the surface. When they rise again and are soft to the touch, begin making kolache.

Using your fingers, make an indentation in the middle of each ball: tear and slightly press until you have thicker sides and flat bottom. To make a sharp bottom line, use a wooden spoon end.

Brush the sides with melted butter, fill with the filling (about 1 heaped tsp of a filling per each), carefully transfer to a greased baking tray, loosely cover with plastic wrap, and let your kolache rise a little (about 15 minutes) in a warm place.

Sprinkle with the topping before baking if you choose so. Fruit filling must be sprinkled with sugar right before baking, to minimize bleeding of juices onto the baking sheet. Also, it is good to sprinkle the bottom of kolache with flour before putting fruit into it, it will thicken the filling and either lessen or prevent bleeding at all.

Gently remove plastic wrap, very carefully transfer the baking sheet into the pre-heated 390F oven. Do not open your oven until kolache are set and begin to brown. Bake until the sides and bottom become golden.

Transfer ready kolache to cooling racks. Let them cool until slightly warm, and happily consume them with milk, tea, or just as is.

It is certainly a sinful food, but so-o-o comforting. The winner with me is strawberry kolache, but farmers cheese and poppy are also good, just begging to jump into your mouth. I sinned a lot - ate three at a time in the evening. Oh-h...

While you bake - jumping, stomping, and clapping hands are considered an offence punishable by not allowing a single item of bakery to eat. :) Seriously - all these will ruin your efforts. Rising dough needs warmth and quiet.
Kolache is a plural form, singular is a kolach, if you noticed...
If any of kolache live until the next day (I doubt it...:), wrap them in a paper towel,  heat up in a microwave oven for a few seconds, and get a fabulous breakfast.

I hope I did it right, the Czech way... The critique and advice of native Czechs would be greatly appreciated. :)


Mark D. Budka said...

You realise that Kolache in the Czech Republic is a wedding cake and usually a special order item like vanocka. It is also a larger pastry. Look it up on Czech websites on bakery goods under Kolache, wedding cakes, holiday cakes
Mark D. Budka, Lincoln, Nebraska

Masha S. said...

Thanks for the comment, Mark. This is my mom's recipe, so I can't claim full knowledge, but the Czech version of Wikipedia shows both small and large pastries: http://cs.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kol%C3%A1%C4%8D

Could it be a regional difference within the Czech Republic? Or: perhaps it would be more proper to call these smaller pastries "koláčky"?

Nadia S. said...

Thanks for stopping by, Mark! It's interesting to know it's traditionally a wedding pastry. That's probably why we failed to find it in any bakery in Prague! LOL Our guide though mentioned Kolache as one of beloved pastries her hubby bakes at home on weekends.

Manassas said...

Hi, I'm making this recipe right now (dough is in the first rise). But I have a couple of questions as I was going through the process.

1. What's the point of the saucepan? Are you actually supposed to be doing the mixing over heat? If so, should it be low or medium, etc.? Or are they just recommending a saucepan because of the metal quality? That confused me.

2. During the kneeding/flour incorporating process, what is the end result you are trying to achieve? A smooth ball? Making sure you get all of the flour in with no stickiness? This also confused me as I wasn't sure what I was working towards: time, flour or consistency.


Nadia and Masha said...

Manassas, thanks for visiting!
Here is what I can clarify for you:
1.It could be a deep saucepan (or better a pot, maybe I used not the right term here :)All liquid ingredients must be warm, so if it's in a pot or a pan, you can easily warm it up. But you are past this stage now. It's better if the pot is enameled - hence no metal traces in your food.
2.Time is approximate - it depends on your experience and speed while kneading, flour is also somewhat approximate - it depends on the size of the eggs. So what you want to achieve here is a smooth ball of dough that doesn't stick to your hands.
I will probably go into more details in this post. I understand how confusing it might be if you don't work with yeast dough a lot.
Every time you make dough, one recipe might turn up different - this depends on ingredients and, believe it or not, on how you feel at the moment. If you are in low spirits - don't make dough this day, it will not turn out good.
Good luck!

Manassas said...

Thanks! That helps. I make Italian pastries called Sfinge and we start the dough in a pot on the stove over low heat just to warm the pot, so I used a similar process as I thought that was what you were going for there. It worked well.

I also make pasta dough, so I followed a similar path to get a nice smooth dough that didn't stick.

I've got my little balls rising now. I'm half way there!

Manassas said...

Update: I just tried one. They came out great. I didn't make any fillings, I just used jams and preserves. I have tried a couple of other recipes and didn't like the dough. I liked this recipe because there was sugar in the dough as well as the 3 dough risings.

Thanks so much for posting this recipe.

Nadia S. said...

I am happy it came out well. :)
Dough is one of my favorite things to do, I just don't do it often these days (trying to lose some weight :)
But this weekend I will post another recipe for the dough (for savory pirozki - small Russian pies). Please visit, maybe you'll like it, too!

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