A few years ago (3, in fact!) I took it upon myself to re-create my Grandma’s kolache recipe. For details you can read the post itself; get some edumacation!
But one thing conspicuously missing from that post was how the kolache itself actually turned out. The answer? Enhhhh…. >.>
So this week I made it a point to pull out Grandma’s recipe again and figure out what I’d done wrong so many years ago. Turns out I’m super glad I did. Because oh-baby, I did it right.
Since my first pretty mediocre attempt at Grandma’s recipe 3 years ago I’ve been wanting to make another attempt. I’ve actually made kolache since then, but the recipe was for povitica and courtesy of the Daring Bakers. Povitica bears a striking resemblance to what my Grandma has always called “kolache”, and since I found the recipe easier to deal with (and since at the time of execution a year later I was a much more experienced baker) it became my default kolache recipe.
Curious about the differences between kolache and povitica, I did a little poking around. I already knew that commonly kolache is known to be a sweet bread or pastry with fruit on top; I’d previously described it as “more like a pizza or bun with fruit dumped on top”. To be fair, there’s also plenty of examples where the fruit or poppy seed is folded up into the pastry rather than simply added on top.
Povitica, on the other hand, actually re-directs directly to “Nut roll” in Wikipedia, which I thought was interesting. The povitica entry very accurately describes (both with words and images) what I’ve been eating for years at Grandma’s house: a sweet yeasted dough rolled out thinly and rolled into a log with a sweet filling. Add to that the fact that the actual title of the recipe I copied from my Grandma says “Nut Roll”, and that I’ve also heard Grandma call it a “nut roll” leads me to believe there’s a bit of variation in definitions here. That or I’ve been lied to for 28 years. We’ll go with the former.
But let’s end the history lesson and talk about how I ROCKED this recipe this time around! Yes, let’s do that.
While I didn’t talk about it 3 years ago (except to vaguely say that the dough turned out a little “heterogeneous”), the basic issue with the dough was that it was brittle. At the time I didn’t know what I’d done wrong; I’d followed the directions to a T. A consultation with my Grandma at the time revealed what I’m sure now was the truth – I didn’t treat the yeast correctly. The dough was crumbly, stiff, and difficult to roll smoothly into a log.
At the time I made the povitica a year after that first attempt at kolache, the Daring Bakers had trained me well in the use of yeast; I’m now very comfortable using it in my baking (and I’m not even sure why it was scary in the first place!). To the best of my recollection, at the time of my first kolache experiment I didn’t take care to mix the yeast with warm milk. Instead I put it in milk out of the refrigerator; I had no idea that the warmth was key to triggering the yeast’s reaction.
This time around, though, I gave my yeast time tender love’n’care (is that gross?). It rose and rolled out beautifully, and I was incredibly pleased.
Since it’d been 3 years it took me several tries to get my rolling technique down. I had enough dough to make 3 rolls, so I had 3 tries to get it just right. The dough is supposed to be in a rectangle-like shape in order to facilitate the best long shape possible. For anyone interested in making kolache who is also a noob like me, I suggest this:
- Take your sphereoid of dough and roll it up and down into an oblong shape.
- Take your oblong-shape and roll it back and forth (left and right) into a rectangle-like shape.
From there there was a liberal application of poppy seeds (for dem swirls) and rolling into a log. Pretty easy, assuming I rolled out the dough correctly (2 our of 3 ain’t bad!). What came out at the end were 3 gloriously familiar kolache rolls. Still not perfect (OH NO I guess I have to make more to practice!!), but close enough to assure myself that (1) my baking skills have clearly improved and (2) I’ll be able to make kolache based on my Grandma’s genuine recipe now, which was pretty important to me.
So Grandma’s recipe take 2 – success! And worth every delicious bite.
Grandma G’s Kolache
This is a half recipe, makes 3 loaves.
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup melted unsalted butter
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 egg yolks (save the whites for glazing)
- 1 packet yeast
- 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp warm milk
- 2 cans poppy seed
- Mix 2 tbsp warm milk and yeast to start yeasty-process.
- Mix the flour, sugar and butter in a medium bowl (if you have a mixer with a dough hook, do it in your mixer bowl).
- Add the egg yolks, yeast mixture, and the rest of the warm milk. Mix, then knead (by hand or with dough hook). Dough should be sticky and elastic.
- Let rise until doubled in size, covered in plastic wrap, or leave the fridge overnight to do a slow rise. Make sure you cover with a towel so the dough doesn’t dry out.
- Separate into 3 equal sections. Roll out thinly into rectangular shapes; the width should equal the length of your bread pan.
- Spread 1/3 of a can of poppy seeds onto each rectangular shape. Be liberal with your application!
- Roll into a log along the short size (you should end with a short roll).
- Fold the ends under and place in a lined bread pan.
- Beat the egg whites and brush them onto the top of each loaf.
- Bake at 350F for 30 minutes.
- Let cool, slice, and CONSUME!