This July, the Bread Baking Babes are making Kolache. Kolache are sweet Czech pastries. They’re made from an enriched brioche like yeasted dough with fillings of poppy seed, farmer’s cheese, or fruit like apricot and prunes. There’s usually a crumb topping too. Modern day fillings include cream cheese, fruit like pineapple, apple and blueberry.
Kolache came to the US with Czech immigrants in the mid-1800s. Texas now make a savoury variation of Kolache with sausage meat, cheese and jalapenos. Though called savoury Kolache, these are actually not Kolache but Klobasneki. Also, Kolache are round in shape while the savoury Klobasneki tend to be square shaped.
Judy picked Kolache to share a bit of her family heritage with us. Her family were originally Czech immigrants who started out in Illinois, moved to Ohio, Nebraska, and Iowa, and eventually settled in California. Judy grew up with family friends who were originally from the Chicago area. Occasionally, ‘Grandma’ would come to visit from Chicago. She was very old-school, knew no English baked without measuring and made sublime dumplings and Kolache.
Traditionally Kolache were served at Czech village feasts as a treat or other important events including weddings. They are typically small, about 8cm in diameter though they can range in size from cookie to sweet roll. They’re perfect for breakfast, brunch teatime or just as a filling snack.
Judy suggested using farmer’s cheese for filling these pastries . A slightly less sweet and creamy farmer’s cheese filling appealed to me. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure what farmer’s cheese was. Searching the net suggested that paneer, a fresh milk cheese was pretty close to farmer’s cheese. The fresh paneer filling is easy to make. Just run all the ingredients (except the raisins) in the blender till smooth and creamy. Stir in the raisins. The lime/ lemon juice gives the filling a freshness and a slight tang.
I also made a couple of mango and blackberry jam filled Kolache. They were nice but the paneer filled ones were my favourite. I would suggest making fresh fruit compote over using bottled jam for a superior tasting pastry. If you’re like me and don’t particularly like very sweet stuff, here’s a suggestion. Make the fresh paneer/ cottage cheese/ farmer’s cheese version and then top them with fresh soft and juicy fruit that pair well with fresh and creamy cheese. These could include banana, mango, pineapple, kiwi or berries.
Judy adapted the Kolache recipe from here, and I’ve personalized some more. I used Tangzhong to make my Kolache dough in addition to the ingredients given below. Though not traditional, it makes delightfully soft Kolache. If using Tangzhong, use half the amount given in this recipe. Also use less of the milk to adjust, while making the dough.
The recipe below makes 16 Kolache, each about 3.25 inches in diameter. You can halve the recipe to make a smaller batch of 8. Kolache are best eaten fresh, warm from the oven. Leftovers can be refrigerated I an airtight container for a couple of days. Warm them up slightly before serving.
For the Dough:
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp instant yeast
- 1 cup milk
- Tangzhong optional; see the text above
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 125 gm unsalted butter melted
For the Fresh Paneer/ Cottage Cheese Filling:
- 200 gm fresh paneer crumbled
- 3 tbsp cream 25% fat
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- A pinch salt
- 1 1/2 tbsp corn starch
- 1 tsp lime/ lemon juice
- 1 tsp lime/ lemon zest
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 tbsp raisins
For the Streusel:
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 15 gm unsalted butter chilled and cut into small pieces
Make the Dough:
- This can be done, but a kneading machine makes short work of the dough making. Proof the yeast in about 1/2 cup of milk and a tsp of the sugar. I always proof even instant yeast just to make sure the yeast is still active.
- Whisk together the flour, and in the bowl of stand mixer or processor. In another bowl, whisk together the remaining milk, melted butter, sugar and egg. , egg, and egg yolks in a 4-cup measuring cup until sugar has dissolved.
- Add the Tangzhong (if using), and the yeast mixture and start kneading. Now add the milk-egg-butter mixture and knead till a cohesive dough forms. After kneading the dough should be smooth and elastic. If necessary, add more flour, teaspoon at a time, to achieve this consistency.
- Shape the dough into a ball, and place in a well-oiled bowl, turning to coat it uniformly. Cover loosely and let it rise till almost double, about 1 1/2 hours or so.
Make the Fresh Paneer/ Cottage Cheese Filling:
- Put all the ingredients, except the raisins, in a blender jar. Blend till smooth. If the mixture seems very thick and lumpy, add a tablespoon of milk and blend again. Remember, you need just enough lime/ lemon juice to give the filling a freshness and a slight tang. Stir in the raisins.
- Make the Streusel Topping:
- Combine the flour, sugar, and butter in bowl. Rub the mixture with fingers till it resembles wet sand. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Shape & Make the Kolache:
- Lightly grease or line baking trays with parchment. Gently knead the dough to deflate it. Divide it into 16 equal portions. Lightly flour your countertop and shape each portion into a taut, smooth round ball. Place the seam side down on the prepped baking sheets. Cover loosely and let them rise till somewhat puffy, about 1 to 1/2 hours.
- Grease and flour bottom of a round 1/8 or 1/4 size dry measuring cup. You can also similar sized spoon or small aluminium or steel mould. Press the cup firmly into the middle of each dough ball until the cup touches the sheet. Remove the cup and each ball should have a deep indentation. Flour the outer bottom of the cup repeatedly to prevent sticking.
- Brush the tops of the dough (not the indentations) with egg wash (or a mixture of milk/ cream with corn starch. Sprinkle the streusel over this but not in the indentations. Fill the indentations with filling (about 1 1/2 tbsp each).
- Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180C (350F) for about 25 minutes till they turn a golden brown. Switch and rotate the baking sheets halfway through baking. Cool the Kolache on wire racks for about 20 minutes. Serve warm.
The Bread Baking Babes are –