Cherry and Cream Cheese Kolaches
I grew up in a small town surrounded by even smaller towns with names like Prague and Bruno in what is known as Nebraska's "Bohemian Alps." As a child, I remember Czech families making kolaches, fruit-filled pastries similar to danishes, with an eggy dough and crumbly streusel topping called posypka. They were common for breakfast and dessert and a thing of cultural pride at social gatherings like weddings, Friday-night fish fries, and polka dances.While ubiquitous throughout the Czech Republic even today, kolaches are rarely seen in the U.S. outside of the Great Plains, where many Czech immigrants settled in the late 1800s. Since moving to Oregon, I had all but forgotten about them until a recent road trip from Austin to Dallas, when I learned that the rural region in between the two cities is also home to many Czech descendants. The town of West, Texas, in particular, is known for its numerous kolache bakeries.My travel companion and I pulled off the freeway at West to pick up a kolache for the road. The first bite led to a nostalgia-induced tasting frenzy in which we ended up stopping at four bakeries to compare the shapes, dough textures, and to try all the most common flavors—apricot, cherry, blueberry, poppy seed, and cream cheese. When I returned home, I was hell-bent on perfecting a recipe of my own, inspired by recollections of my childhood in Nebraska and the Texas versions I tasted, too.Since baking several batches, I’ve come to realize that it’s important to make sure the dough is moist to the point of almost being sticky, but not quite. Also, if like me, you love a deeply browned pastry crust, you’ll have to set aside that bias in favor of a lighter golden brown exterior here, which keeps the kolaches tender and prevents them from becoming too dry. For the filling, a quick jam of summer’s fresh sweet cherries is dolloped over lemon-scented cream cheese—my favorite combination.
Zucchini Muffins with Coconut-Cashew Streusel
Zucchini muffins get a tropical makeover thanks to an easy stir-together coconut-cashew streusel topping punched up with a lime-and–coconut milk glaze. Grated zucchini keeps the muffins extra-moist and tender, while cardamom adds a nice citrusy, floral note. If your muffin pans tend to stick, line the cups with paper liners or invest in a Williams Sonoma Goldtouch muffin pan.
Orange Soufflé Coffee Cake
I'm a butter person; a world without butter would be a very dreary place. But my family loves coffee cake for breakfast, and one day it hit me that the butter and sour cream cake I routinely baked for them was a remarkably rich way to start the day. So I decided to come up with a cake that was both light and satisfying.I began with oranges and then added eggs. Instead of butter I used grapeseed oil, which I love for its neutral flavor. You could also use a fruity olive oil, which will give you a cake with a vaguely Spanish accent. I think of this as orange juice and eggs rolled into a single dish and puffed up with hot air. I think it’s a perfect way to start the day.What I like most is its sheer simplicity; this cake is about as basic—and easy— as they come. But one word of warning: don't open the oven too early. This cake will fall if provoked.
Lemony Crêpe Casserole
Reminiscent of a classic bread pudding, this sweet-tart crêpe casserole has a beautiful lacy top and tender-but-sliceable center.