The town of Verdigre, Nebraska hosts Kolach Days every year in June.
Before I met Rich, I’d never heard of a kolach — let alone tasted one — but after stopping by the town bakery one Saturday morning years ago …well, that turned me into a kolach enthusiast. This is definitely a pastry deserving of a town festival!
So what exactly is a kolach? Fruit filled pastry goodness!
I have a genetic predisposition for baking breads & sweet rolls, so this weekend I used an old recipe attributed to Ella Dobrovolny, in the book Homestead Fever, by Marie Kramer, to make kolaches.
Here’s the recipe with a couple of my own modifications:
Mix together 1/2 cup warm water, 1 tsp sugar, and 2 pkg yeast, then set aside to rise.
In a large bowl beat together 2 cups powdered milk (dry), 1-1/2 cups hot water, 1-1/2 tsp salt, 3 eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, and 6 tbsp melted butter. Then add to that the yeast mixture and mix well. Add 5 cups of flour to begin with. Stir until blended, then add another cup of flour if needed to make a soft dough.
Turn out on a floured board and knead by hand for 10 minutes (this is absolutely the best part of bread baking!). Put dough back in bowl and cover with a towel and let rise for 1 hour. Punch down and let rise for another 45 minutes.
While the dough is rising, make the filling. The traditional fillings for kolaches are prunes or apricots, but in this batch I used several different fillings — apple, apricot, cherry, and cream cheese — based on what I had on hand in the pantry.
- For the apple: 2 fresh apples, peeling, then slicing the fruit, before adding 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 cup sugar.
- For the each of apricot & cherry: 1 package of dried fruit, covered it with water, then microwaved for a couple of minutes to warm. Let the fruit reconstitute. After about 1/2 an hour, drain off the juice, chop the fruit into small pieces, then add 1/4 cup sugar.
- For the cream cheese: Blend together 4 ounces of cream cheese, the juice from 1/2 lemon, and 2 tbsp sugar.
When the dough has risen for a second time, flour a cutting board and divide the dough into quarters, then each quarter of dough can be divided into 12 smaller balls to make a total of 48 kolaches. Take a ball of dough, and press into a square shape, put a heaping tablespoon of the fruit filling in the middle (don’t be stingy!). Bring the four points of the square to the center, and twist them together. Place the pastry on a parchment lined cookie sheet ( the fruit juices will leak out — so unless you really enjoy scrubbing cookie sheets, don’t skip the parchment!) Repeat this process until all the dough is made into kolaches. Use melted butter on the sides of the kolaches where they touch each other.
Let the pastries rise for another 1-1/2 hours (this is baking, people…patience is the primary virtue!), then bake them one pan at a time in a 360° oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, then brush tops with butter, and glaze made of powdered sugar, vanilla, and water.
These are absolutely delicious fresh out of the oven, but they do keep for a few days (microwave for 10 seconds to restore that “just baked” flavor and texture). I freeze the leftovers so we can enjoy them for weeks to come. Naturally, they’re best served with strong black coffee.