Authentic “West” Texas Kolaches
My first experience of kolaches came on a family car trip where we pulled over for gas in this little town north of Waco. Inside was a small case of pastries and a family of extremely blond people speaking a foreign language that was not Spanish. Hmm… Come to find out that the pastries and the people were Czech and after czeching out the eatables we were converted.
Turns out they were called Kolaches. And Kolaches, if made correctly, offer the perfect ratio of yeasty buttery dough to jammy filling – good for getting the back seat of the car sticky (sorry Mama) but worth it especially if you’re not the one cleaning up the car. So what’s the background here? Keep reading.
But first a spelling lesson. ‘Kolache’ is plural for ‘kolach’ which means wheel in Czech. It’s a general reference to the round shape of the roll which is hollowed out with your fingers and filled with cream cheese and jam. And oh yeah, it’s pronounced ‘ko – lah – chee.’ And according to some purists if you fill them with sausage and roll them up they should be called ‘klobasniki.’ which is not an authentic kolache but tastes real good and which are hanging out in the back of the photo above, although not in rolled form. And even though ‘kolach’ means wheel they are frequently square but no matter the shape they taste great.
If you find yourself in Austin you can get them at Lone Star Kolaches but if you are on the road and in West, Tx (not west Texas the geographical area but ‘West’ the city) you can get them at the Village Bakery.
But on to the prep which starts with the dough. There are three rises to this recipe which is less daunting than it sounds. Just multitask while the rises are rising and you’ll be fine.
While you’re following the directions below just remember when you’re kneading not to add too much flour. This should be a soft dough. Kneading it in a bowl is a great way to achieve a smooth glossy dough ball without over flouring. Just hold the side of the bowl with one hand and knead away with the other. Saves a lot of mess.
The first rise is the milk/yeast/one cup of flour portion.
Second rise comes after you work in the remaining flour and knead it till smooth.
Third rise (and last one thank goodness!) you will punch down the dough and form into small dough balls & flatten out to about 3 inches and let rise for about half an hour. Then you’ll hollow them out gently with your fingers until you have enough space for the filling. Try to go as close to the edge as you can. Brush gently with the remaining melted butter.
Fill with the cream cheese, jam and top with a slice of whatever fruit matches the jam. And a note about the cream cheese. I use less sugar than most other recipes because I find that the tang of the cream cheese is a better foil for the jam than sweet jam on top of too sweet cream cheese.
After they’re filled they’ll look like this:
These savory inauthentic kolaches are great with a little grated cheese on top and I added the sage leaf because I had it on hand and it tasted good in a crispy baked state.
Now they’re done. Beautiful, tasty and wholly worth the effort.
- Servings 18 kolaches
- For the dough:
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 1 cup warm milk
- ¼ cup sugar
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs
- ¾ cup melted butter
- 1 teaspoon salt
- optional ½ teaspoon of fresh grated nutmeg
- For the sweet filling:
- Jam of your choice
- 1 tsp. lemon or orange zest
- For savory filling:
- ½ lb. breakfast type or polish type loose or cut up link sausage cooked lightly & drained of fat
- For the cream cheese
- 1 8 oz. package of full fat cream cheese
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- In a large bowl, combine yeast, warm milk, sugar, and a cup of the flour. Cover and let rise until doubled in size.
- Beat the eggs, ½ cup of melted butter, and salt. Add egg mixture to yeast mixture and blend.
- Stir in about 2 more cups of flour, ½ cup at a time. The dough should be very soft. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes. I do it right in the bowl with one hand so as not to need to add too much flour. When it starts to pull away from the sides it's ready to rest. Cover and let rise for an hour.
- After the dough has risen, punch it down and pull off egg-sized pieces. In your hands, roll pieces into balls and then flatten to about 3 inches in diameter. Brush with the remaining melted butter. Place flattened pieces on a greased cookie sheet, cover and let rise again for another half-hour.
- Next hollow out gently with your fingers a round space in the center and fill with a teaspoon of the cream cheese mixture and top with jam & fresh fruit if you have it. If you are preparing the sausage version you can leave out the cream cheese.
- Bake in oven at 375° F for 12 to 15 minutes.