Every now and again we stumble across a recipe that feels in some way familiar, even though we’ve never made or even eaten it before. These kolache (singular: kolach) are just such a recipe. This mildly sweet pastry hails originally from Central Europe, and is most commonly associated with the Czech Republic. The dough is reminiscent of the Polish mock cake we make for Christmas and Easter each year, and lo and behold, if you look on a world map you see that Poland and the Czech Republic share a border. It’s also a pastry that has taken on a distinctly American twist in regional pockets; anywhere that Central European immigrants settled down in robust communities.
But nowhere might the American kolache heritage be strongest than in parts of … Texas. That’s right. The land known for its smokin’ barbecue and TexMex cuisine is also the U.S. epicenter for Czech kolache. From the pages of Texas Highways to Texas Monthly, kolache are a celebrated treat. They can be filled with cheese, or fruit, or sausage, or pretty much anything you like. The icing isn’t traditional, but we like them that way. And isn’t that the beauty of recipes? Taking something and making it your own?
- For the pastry
- 1 cup warm milk (2%), divided
- 2 1/4 tsp yeast (1 packet)
- 6 tbsp sugar, divided
- 1/2 cup salted butter
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 large eggs
- 2 3/4 cups (344 g) Artisan Gluten-Free Flour Blend
- 1 tsp xanthan gum
- For the cheese filling
- 6 oz cream cheese
- 1/4 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 tsp GF pure vanilla extract
- Zest of 1 small lemon
- 1/8 tsp salt
- For the egg wash
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp water
- For the icing
- 2/3 cup confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
- 3 tbsp heavy cream
- Add the milk to a medium saucepan and heat until it reaches about 115 deg F.
- Pour off 1/4 cup milk into a separate bowl, add the yeast and 1 tbsp sugar. Set aside and allow the yeast to activate.
- In the saucepan with the remaining milk, add the remaining sugar (5 tbsp), butter, and salt. Stir over low heat until the sugar is fully dissolved and the butter is melted. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
- Whisk in the eggs and the yeast mixture.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and xanthan gum, then stir into the liquids in the saucepan.
- Grease a medium-size bowl with cooking spray or similar (e.g., olive oil, butter).
- Add the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, set in the refrigerator and let rise 12–16 hours.
- Divide the dough into 12 even portions. With oiled hands, roll into smooth, round balls and place evenly spaced on an ungreased baking sheet. Let rise in a warm location for about 60 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 deg F and make the filling.
- Cream together the cheeses and sugar until very smooth.
- Stir in the egg yolks, vanilla, lemon zest, and salt until combined.
- Whisk together the egg and water.
- Use your finger to make an indent in the center of each risen dough ball that is about 1 1/2 inches wide x 1 inch deep.
- Brush the surface of the dough with egg wash.
- Fill each kolach with 1 tbsp of filling (a cookie scoop works great for this job).
- Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, until golden brown.
- Remove from the oven, transfer to a wire rack, and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the icing by mixing together the confectioner’s sugar and heavy cream until smooth.
- After the pastries have cooled for 10 minutes, drizzle with the icing.
I am dairy and soy allergic, as well as gluten. What can I sub for the ricotta? Thanks!
Since you can’t have dairy, you should sub the cheese filling for fruit jam (see note at the end of the recipe). That’s what I plan to do. Thanks Pete and Kelly for another great recipe!
Oh boy! I’m all in for that one! Hope for another snowy weekend so I can bake up a batch of these. I wonder how well they freeze. That’s a lot of kolache for one little me.
These remind me of thumbprint cookies! I never thought to add something like sausage to a pastry.
Peter Bronski says
Interesting observation! At least in shape, they DO resemble giant thumbprint cookies (a recipe for which is in our cookbook Gluten-Free Family Favorites).
Dorothy W. Jackson says
Please answer my question so I might venture to try this recipe. Thank you.
Peter Bronski says
Hi J’Marinde. The recipe already notes a dairy-free option. If you look at the note at the bottom of the recipe (below the steps/procedure) you’ll see a suggestion to substitute fruit jam for the cheese filling, which is what we did for some of the photographed kolache. Enjoy!
Jennifer Krahulik says
Kolaches traditionally have many different fillings. In the Czech world we use Cherry pie filling, poppy seed, apricot, cream cheese filling. . ect
Thank you! And thanks for this WONDERFUL recipe!
My grandmother Vlasta Brtva made these for us as children and my mom and aunt also made them. I have so many memories of eating these in my grandma’s kitchen and cooking them with my mom or eating them at my aunts house. They were filled with either prunes or apricot and were best eaten warm out of the oven but very good cold as well. My grandmother’s parents came to the States from Czechoslovakia and worked in the coal mines in Illinois for years. They were vibrant and lovely people. Thanks so much for sharing this and giving me a chance to revisit those memories.
As a slav I feel the need to point out that koláč is more or less a general term for pastry, and applies to many a number of different things in that category.
The look of these reminds me of danishes, tho I’m sure the dough is very different.