In a new F&W Cooks video, Andrea Slonecker recalls growing up in Nebraska and eating kolaches, Czech pastries that are similar to danishes, at weddings, bake sales, and polka dances. Now, she’s sharing a step-by-step guide so you can enjoy them as well. From her kitchen in Portland, Oregon, she demonstrates how to make the dough, fillings, and tasty streusel topping, plus offers some key tips for freezing the kolaches (so you can hoard some for later). Read on for her guide.
Get the Recipe: Cherry and Cream Cheese Kolaches
Start with the Dough
Andrea starts by blooming the yeast with a mixture of flour, sugar, and warm milk. She prefers scooping flour into the measuring cup as opposed to dunking the cup in the container of flour, since you get more flour that way and it’s a more consistent measuring technique. She then whisks one cup together with 1/3 cup of sugar and the yeast in a bowl—if you buy packets, you'll want one, and if you buy it in bulk, you’ll want 2 1/4 teaspoons.
Warm up the milk on the stove—you want it to reach between 110-115°F—and whisk it into the yeast mixture. Set aside for about five minutes, until small bubbles start to form.
Andrea also uses the same pot she used to warm up the milk to melt butter, which she slowly whisks in with the egg yolks and salt in a separate bowl. Add the butter and egg mixture to the yeast mixture and incorporate. Then, add in about one cup of flour at a time to form a firm dough. She notes the dough is similar to brioche, eggy, tender, and soft.
Once the dough is too stiff to stir, knead it on a floured surface. (You don’t want to add too much flour, as you want the dough to be soft and moist, not dry and hard.) Knead for about three or four minutes—the dough should stick to your hands a little and be somewhat greasy, but not sticky. Put it in a large bowl and cover it with a towel or plastic wrap. Set it aside in a warm place until it doubles in size, about an hour to an hour and a half. In the video, Andrea places the dough in a warm toaster oven with foil over it to proof.
Meanwhile, Prepare the Cream Cheese Filling
Andrea adds one egg yolk, the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and lemon zest to a stand mixer. Using a paddle attachment, she beats it on medium until the mixture is nicely whipped and incorporated. After taking a quick break to scrape the sides, she mixes it for another 30 seconds. Then, the filling is all set to use once it’s time to fill the kolaches.
Make the Streusel Topping
Whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar first, and then, drizzle in the melted butter and combine. Once the butter has solidified, the streusel will form crumbly pieces.
Roll the Dough into Balls
After the dough has gotten nice and poofy, punch it down and divide into 12 pieces. Andrea uses a scale to divide it evenly (about 2 1/3 ounces of dough per ball). Then, she folds over the ends of each piece and rolls them against the counter to form smooth balls. The dough feels a little greasy, she notes, and is soft and pillowy. Once you’re done, transfer them to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, cover them with a damp towel, and let them rise for 30 to 45 minutes.
Form the Kolaches
Next, Andrea takes each dough ball and makes wells in the center with her fingers to hold the kolache fillings. Brush them with egg wash (one egg yolk mixed with one tablespoon of milk) and make sure to get the edges. You want to cover them liberally, but not so much that they’re sopping.
You Don’t Have to Make the Cherry Filling…
While Andrea pairs a quick cherry jam with the lemony cream cheese filling in her recipe, she opts to skip it in the video since it’s not cherry season. Instead, she says you can feel free to use jams you have on hand in your fridge. She grabs blueberry, apple butter, apricot (a classic, she notes, and her favorite), strawberry, and quince marmalade, too.
…and You Can Also Skip the Cream Cheese
If you don’t like cream cheese or don’t want the filling in every single kolache, you can use a little more jam to fill the centers, instead. If you do go with the cream cheese filling, add one tablespoon to each well and spread it around—then, make a smaller well within the filling to accommodate a dollop of jam.
Sprinkle and Bake
Break up the hardened streusel topping with a fork into tiny pebbles, and sprinkle it over the tops of the kolaches, making sure to use every last bit. Then, they’re ready to bake in a 375°F oven for about 20-25 minutes. Andrea’s are ready right at the 20 minute mark, puffy and golden brown with flaky dough that easily pulls apart.
Freeze for Later
If you want, you can separate the kolaches once they’ve cooled and wrap them individually in plastic wrap to store in the freezer. That way, you can reheat them whenever you get the craving.
Get the Recipe: Cherry and Cream Cheese Kolaches