I know it’s corny and trite, but I really do love the holidays. I know it’s even trite to ADMIT it’s trite, but I’m saying it anyway. I won’t bother blathering on why it is I like year-end holidays more than others, but suffice it to say that the standard family/gift-giving/food/happiness reasons apply.
But what’s specifically defines my Christmas experience? I’m glad you asked.
Kolache definitely has something to do with it.
A Quick History Lesson (If TLDR, feel free to skip to the baking below. Lazy.)
I’m descended from a mishmash of eastern european stock, specifically Hungarian and Czech from my grandmother and grandfather, respectively. We’re not a super cultural family (meaning, we don’t partake in every single cultural tradition we descend from), but there are a few bits and pieces we keep that have been passed down. As my grandmother got older, it started occurring to me that I should be spending more time getting to know her better and get what family advice and knowledge from her I could. That can be tough when you’re living hundreds of miles away from each other, but all that really means is that Christmas becomes more important to you. So one Christmas when I was still in college, I got my Grandma to give me her recipes for kifli and kolache, eastern-european cookies and pastries that had become a holiday tradition and dessert staple in our family. Honestly, it’s just not Christmas without some Slovak-Hungarian desserts going on.
I did a little Googling into kifli and kolache and found that kifli are basically dead-on with the ones I grew up with: small crescent-shaped cookies, in my case filled with either sweet nuts or poppy seeds. Kolache, on the other hand, I’ve found vary drastically from what I’m familiar with. When I think of a kolache, I think of a loaf of sweet bread with a delicious fat swirl of either sweet nuts or poppy seeds inside, but the ones I’ve found look more like a pizza or bun with fruit dumped on top (naturally, I feel that my Grandmother’s version is better. Not that I’m biased). There’s apparently a big Czech/kolache center in Texas; sounds like I need to do some traveling for science (or vicarious traveling…maybe I can find a Texan-baker willing to do some research…? >.>).
It actually took me awhile to warm up to these desserts since neither of them ever had chocolate in them when I was growing up. But once my taste buds adjusted, it’s gotten really difficult to stop scarfing these down when I’m at Grandma’s. Even if you’re a die-hard chocolate person, I’d stress the importance of trying these out if you ever have the chance.
Back To Baking…
So, with the holidays upon us and my cravings for Grandma’scooking at an all time high, I thought I should break out the bread pan and give making kolache another shot. The last (and only) time I baked a kolache I didn’t have a proper mixer, so the dough was a bit heterogeneous, and I ended up rolling it flat with a beer bottle as I had no rolling pin. Hopefully this time with an actual mixer and a rolling pin, I can’t do any worse.
Slacker Tip: You can TOTALLY roll out dough with a beer bottle if you don’t have a rolling pin. This works, it’s just a bit of a pain. A lot of a pain. >.>
Grandma G’s Kolache Recipe
Yields 5 ~3/4 lb loaves.
- 6 cups flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 lb butter (1 cup)
- 6 egg yolks (save whites for glazing)
- 1 cup milk
- 2 packets yeast mixed with 1/3 cup warm milk
- Filling (poppy seed, fruit preserves, or Nutella are some tasty suggestions)
- Melt butter in a pan, then add milk to cool it off
- Mix flour, sugar, and salt in a separate bowl.
- Add butter/milk mixture, egg yolks, and yeast to the flour mixture.
- Knead until blended.
- Let sit overnight in the refrigerator covered by a towel.
- Cut into 5 pieces and roll out each to a square-like shape.
- Fill with whatever kind of filling you like, in my case, poppy seed filling. Be careful not to over-fill or the filling will squish out when rolled.
- Roll dough into a log, spiraling the filling inside.
- Tuck in/fold down ends.
- Cover with egg whites.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes, until brown.