This recipe for koláče is from Ann Beran, Rita Varilek, and Brenda Underberg who demonstrate the art of baking these Czech sweet rolls at Czech Days in Tabor, S.D. This celebration is held in June every year to keep alive the heritage of the early Czechs who founded this little South Dakota town in 1869. Czech Days are so well attended, AAA lists it as one of the Top 20 June attractions in the nation.
Czech kolace, also spelled kolache and kolachy are yeast-risen rounds of dough topped with fruit filling and, sometimes, a crumb or streusel topping. These are not to be confused with Polish kolaczki, which are not yeast-risen. Kolache are more similar to Polish drozdzówki.
The word koláče comes from the singular koláč or koláček, which is just a generic word for "cake." But it also comes from kolo, which means "circle" or "wheel," the shape of these cakes that were an early wedding dessert. In some parts of the United States today, particularly in Texas, kolace have become savory affairs stuffed with ham and cheese, and other fillings.
This recipe calls for instant potato flakes, which hardly seems traditional, but many early recipes call for mashed potatoes in the dough, so this is just a modern concession, as is the use of a blender to speed things up.
You can fill these pastries with homemade fillings of your choice or with poppy seed filling.
- Sweet Dough:
- 2 packages (4 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 3/4 cup warm water
- 2 cups warm milk
- 3/4 cup instant potato flakes
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup oil
- 4 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
- Oil (to brush on dough balls)
- Poppy Seed Filling:
- 1 cup poppy seeds (ground)
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3 tablespoons corn syrup (white)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour (all-purpose)
- 1 pinch salt
- Streusel Topping:
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- Optional: 1/2 cup finely chopped coconut
- 1/4 cup (2 ounces) butter
Make the Dough
In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water, blending with a fork. Set aside.
In a blender or food processor, place 2 cups warm milk, potato flakes, 1 tablespoon salt, 3/4 cup sugar, eggs, and oil. Blend until well mixed.
Place 4 cups flour into a large bowl or stand mixer bowl fitted with a paddle attachment. Add mixture from blender and mix. Add yeast and up to 1 additional cup of flour if the dough is too sticky. Mix until the dough is smooth. It will be sticky. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise until doubled.
Make the Poppy Seed Filling
While the dough is rising, make the poppy seed filling by combining ground poppy seeds, 1 1/2 cups milk, vanilla, corn syrup, 1/2 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons flour, and a pinch of salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over low heat.
Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Cool completely before using. Can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Make the Streusel Topping
In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and optional coconut until well mixed.
Cut in 1/4 cup butter until coarse crumbs result. Set aside.
Form the Kolachy
Using a medium cookie scoop, portion out equal-sized pieces of dough, and roll into a ball. Place on parchment-lined baking pan, brush with oil and cover with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled.
Using the bottom of a floured glass or with your fingers, make an indentation in the tops of the kolace and dollop with poppy seed filling or your favorite. Sprinkle streusel on top and bake for 11 to 12 minutes.
Remove from oven and brush sides of kolace with a mixture of 3 tablespoons hot water mixed with 1 tablespoon sugar, or melted butter. These will freeze well but, because they don't contain preservatives, they will stale quickly at room temperature or when refrigerated. Try microwaving them briefly to warm them for a just-baked taste.