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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
- 16 ounces dried peaches
- About 1/2 cup sugar, to desired sweetness
- 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
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter