Kolache with Grandma

This Christmas I decided to integration a few French traditions into my family’s holiday. As I researched recipes on le revellion de noel, such as fougasse, my hubby inquired as to my always turning to my French side while ignoring the Czech/Irish side.

I was immediately reminded of Kolaches. Kolache is a traditional Czech bread roll filled with sweet jam or poppyseed filling. Every event with my mother’s side of the family included Grandmother’s Kolaches. Filled with poppy seeds or apricots, their sweet dough always fills my mind with memories.

I asked my mother for the recipe and she told me any sweet dough would do, but gave me one to try. Then she gave me the filling recipe. Unfortunately I became distracted while boiling the apricots and burnt them to a crisp. So instead I made filled the first attempt at kolaches with jam.

I asked my Grandmother for the recipe, but she only could find the filling recipe not the dough, and repeated what my mother had said about any sweet dough working.

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Then while on vacation I had the wonderful opportunity to bake with my Aunt and Grandmother! Here is the recipe we used.

Kolache with poppy seed and dried plum filling
To avoid our mistake soak poppy seeds overnight or at least before starting this recipe.

4-5 Cups white flour
1 Cup mashed potatoes
1/2 Cup scalded milk
1/2 Cup warm water – 100˚
1/2 Cup softened butter
1/2 Cup sugar (we used honey)
2 lightly beaten eggs
2 packages yeast (5 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon salt
optional: 1/2 teaspoon lemon or orange zest or 2 drops essential oil or a 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg or other spice of your choice

  1. Scald your milk – heat to 185˚ then allow to cool to 125˚
  2. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water (100˚ to “proof” or 120˚ if you are not proofing your yeast and instead mixing everything in at once).
  3. Stir in milk that has cooled to 125˚ or less, sugar or honey, eggs, salt, butter, and potatoes. It will be lumpy at this point. If you are adding the optional flavor, add it here.
  4. Add in 2 cups of the flour and beat until smooth – I love using a wooden spoon for this, I know some people enjoy using their dough hook on their upright mixer.
  5. Mix in enough flour to make the dough easy to handle. We only used 4 total cups of flour. The dough was much wetter and stickier than I am used to working with, and we only mixed it until it was all incorporated. We did not knead the dough even though the recipe we were using said to knead for 5 minutes.
  6. Grease (we used butter) all surfaces of your bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until double – to speed rising we placed our dough onto a second bowl of warm water and covered with a towel.

While your dough is rising, make your filling.

1 Cup poppy seeds – soaked
1 round Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 Cup milk
1 Cup raisons or dried plums (aka prunes) – chopped
1/2 Cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon or vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
alterations: use dried apricots (1.5 cups) instead of raisons or plums and omit poppy seeds and use water instead of milk.

Here’s what we should have done.

  1. Soak poppyseeds in enough water to cover overnight or at least a few hours.
  2. Drain poppyseeds.
  3. In a small saucepan heat milk, lemon or vanilla, sugar, and butter to a slow boil.
  4. Remove from heat and add the rest of your ingredients.
  5. Allow to cool.
  6. Finished product should be thick and hold its shape when scooped by rounded teaspoon full.

Here is what actually happened.

  1. After we realized that we should have soaked the poppy seeds we put them in water, boiled them, removed them from the heat and let them soak for maybe an hour. Like you would do with dried beans. The alternative would have been to grind the seeds in a spice grinder but we thought the texture of whole poppy seeds was preferable.
  2. We then drained the poppy seeds and added the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Grandma said the 1/2 cup of milk originally written on her recipe card was way too much liquid so we cut it down to 1/4 cup. She also noted that we could use evaporated milk, cream, sweetened condensed milk, or regular milk. We used sweetened condensed and omitted the sugar.
  4. We used vanilla.
  5. We chopped prunes to include since Grandma said they added better flavor than the raisons.
  6. We also added a dash of salt and pepper to enhance the flavors.
  7. Realizing we were supposed to boil the liquids first we put the pot on the stove and heated it slowly while constantly stirring until it started to bubble. It was already very thick.
  8. We lowered the temperature and cooked for a few more minutes while stirring constantly.
  9. Then we removed the pot from the heat and allowed to cool.

It was starting to smell like Kolaches and the dough was ready to be formed.

  1. Add enough flour to your counter to prevent sticking.
  2. Form dough into balls. We ended up with about 40. We did not keep our size even – I’m guessing 48 would have been a good even size.
  3. Flatten each ball into a 3” circle.
  4. Add a generous teaspoon of the filling into the center of the circle.
  5. Draw two opposite sides up to meet in the middle.
  6. Draw up your third side.
  7. Pull your fourth side up for that it overlaps the others. This adds a lovely finished shape. You also want to see a little filling here and there between the folds.
  8. Place in a butter-greased pan with a bit of butter between each roll.
  9. Allow to rise. We put it in a warm oven with some water for moisture to speed the rising process.
  10. Bake at 375˚ for 20 minutes.

I’ve gotten confirmation that they turned out just how we all remembered them. There is somewhere the typical potato sweet roll recipe Grandma likes to use, but we found one in a cook book and added the potato. Grandma says the potato helps the roll not be dry.

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