Peach Kolaches

I can’t believe it’s been two months since I published anything! I have had a completely crazy fall – I taught 5 cooking classes for the high school students in our religious school and had other baking at the Shul (another word for a synagogue, or a Jewish “church”) kitchens almost every week. We serve lunch after our Saturday services every week, and occasionally do other meals. Our cook handles most of the meal, but I am often asked to help make “fancy” desserts for specific events or to help fill in when it’s a busy week.

Peach Kolaches

On October 30, we had a musical Friday night service with the theme “Deep In The Heart of Texas” which was followed by a Texas-themed dinner. As with all of our themed Friday night dinners, I designed a dessert menu to compliment the theme. It’s a fun challenge for me to come up with the dessert items.  For Texas night, I decided to make Texas sheet cake, pecan pie bars, grapefruit cookies (a riff on my favorite orange cookie recipe), and kolaches.

Texas Dessert Platter

Texas Dessert Platter

Kolaches are a Czech pastry, and are very common in areas settled by Czech immigrants. One of these areas is Texas, especially in the counties around Austin and up towards the DFW metroplex. I don’t recall having kolaches before moving to Fort Worth, but after moving here I remember being told to stop at the Czech Stop in West, TX, when driving to or from Austin for kolaches. And I was not disappointed! Kolaches are made from a rich yeasted dough that has a filling in the center, usually fruit, cheese, poppyseed, or nut.

Brushing the kolache dough balls with melted butter after their second rise

Like many recipes for these themed nights, I had never made kolaches before. For me, half the fun is trying something new and challenging myself. I looked online for kolache recipes, and found a blog post with kolache fillings. There wasn’t a dough recipe on that site, but she had a couple of links to different recipes in the comments. I looked at them, but went with the one from one of the bakeries in West, figuring the quality would be good.

Putting indents for the filling into the kolache dough

Using fingers to widen the indent in the kolache dough

I didn’t adapt the recipe much, but I did talk to a local kolache bakery (I had a craving for a muffin that morning, and decided to ask a couple of questions of the owner while we were talking) and found out the dough and kolaches can be frozen. Which was wonderful news, as it would allow me to separate the steps over a couple of days.

Peach filling for the kolaches

There are a couple important things to know before you start. The first is, make sure the filling is ready to go before the kolaches will be ready to be filled. It’s hard to predict how long it will take to cook the filling, so either make it first or be prepared to refrigerate or freeze the dough until the filling is ready. The second is, don’t substitute jam, actually make an authentic filling. Jam is thinner than the fruit fillings and will run out. If you are in a pinch, a fruit butter would likely work, since it’s thicker than jam.

Putting the peach filling in the kolache

Putting peach filling into the kolache dough

The third thing is good news – the dough is pretty forgiving. I worried I had over-proofed the dough on the first rise – I left it in the pretty warm kitchen while I went to dinner, and I was gone for over 2 hours before I got back to it (it had started to ooze over the top of the bowl), but it worked fine in the end. So don’t be intimidated!

A light sprinkle of the topping over the kolaches after their third rise, just before baking

The fruit filling is essentially lekvar (which is also how you make traditional fruit fillings for hamentaschen) – you rehydrate dried fruit, cook until soft, drain off the water, and puree with sugar until smooth and sweet enough. In this case, I decided to use peach, since Texas is known for its peaches. You can substitute apricots instead, if you want variation, or look at the link above for more ideas.

Sampling the finished kolache

I was amazed at how good these came out. They look very similar to what you see in kolache bakeries, and they taste just as good too! I was a bit apprehensive, but my many tasters all agreed the taste and the dough were spot on.

Peach Kolaches

Yield: 60-80 small kolaches

Peach Kolaches

Filling recipe adapted from the Svacina Project blog and dough recipe from West, TX’s Little Czech Bakery published in Denise Gee's Sweet on Texas

    Peach Filling:
  • 16 ounces dried peaches
  • About 1/2 cup sugar, to desired sweetness
    Dough:
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, plus 1/2 cup
  • 2-1/4-ounce packages or 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water (110° to 115°F)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup shortening or margarine
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 6-1/4 cups bread flour, sifted
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
    Crumb topping: (optional)
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Make filling:
  • Put dried peaches in a medium sized pot, and cover with water. Let sit for at least an hour or overnight in the refrigerator. Put the pot on the stove, bringing the water to a boil. You want to cook at a boil until the fruit is very tender, adding water as needed so the fruit doesn't scorch. You will need to keep an eye on it and stir off and on, to make sure the fruit isn't sticking.
  • When the fruit is very soft, remove from heat and drain it. Reserve the juice for making a syrup or another use. Put the peaches in a food processor, add the sugar, and pulse until they have a fairly smooth consistency. Taste periodically to test the consistency and sweetness, and add more sugar if desired.
  • Make dough:
  • Combine the yeast, 1 tablespoon sugar, and 1/2 cup warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer, and let stand until frothy, about 5 minutes.
  • In the microwave, or on the stove, heat the milk until warm but not hot (about 98° to 105°F, if you want to measure it, although it is not necessary). Add the shortening or margarine just until it's melted, then cool slightly.
  • Add the milk and margarine mixture, the egg yolks, salt, and remaining sugar to the yeast mixture in the bowl. Stir lightly to combine. Add one cup of the bread flour and stir again; the flour helps it to combine. Place the bowl on the mixer with dough hooks, and begin to mix it. Add the flour a cup at a time, letting the flour work in before more is added. Keep mixing it until the dough is glossy and smooth and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
  • Remove from the mixer, cover the bowl with a towel, and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free area for about an hour. The dough should be doubled in size.
  • After it has doubled, punch the dough down to remove the air. Scrape it out of the bowl and on to a lightly floured work surface. Remove small portions of dough, about the size of a ping-pong ball, and roll each ball smooth. The easiest way to portion the balls is to roll the dough into a 1" diameter snake, then use a knife or bench scraper to cut pieces off.
  • Place pieces on a parchment covered baking sheet, leaving about 1-1/2" between the pieces. At this time the dough can be frozen for later; just wrap the baking sheet in plastic and freeze, or put the sheet in the freezer until the dough is firm, then move the balls to a bag for storage.
  • For fresh dough, brush the dough balls with the melted butter, cover with a towel, and put in a warm place to rise for about 20 minutes.
  • For frozen dough, remove from freezer and arrange on parchment covered baking sheet (if they weren't stored on one). If frozen on a sheet, loosen the plastic wrap but leave it covering the balls for the rise. If not on a sheet, cover the frozen dough with a towel. Leave in a warm place until the balls defrost (no longer cold to the touch) and rise (visibly look larger, are springy to the touch). At this time brush the dough balls with the melted butter.
  • After the dough balls have risen, make a deep, round impression in the middle of the dough and fill with 1-2 teaspoons filling. The easiest way to do this is start with the back of a small scoop or measuring spoon, then use a couple of fingers to deepen and widen it (you can touch the bottom but don't push through the dough), before putting the filling it. You want to have enough filling that it mounds up slightly, but doesn't look like it's at risk of running over at any minute.
  • Leave the kolaches out to rise a third time, for about an hour.
  • If desired, make the crumb topping by combining all ingredients and mixing until uniform, either by hand or in a food processor.
  • Preheat oven to 375°F. Sprinkle desired amount of topping over kolaches before baking; you can see in the photos I prefer just a small amount. Bake until golden, about 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Like many yeast breads, these are best on the day they're made. If they won't be eaten within two days, I would recommend freezing the finished kolaches for best taste, then just thaw and enjoy.
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