Making Kolaczki

These cookie-like kolaczki — which in my understanding are a Polish version — are some of the easiest of the breed: essentially a cream cheese pie crust tube full of jam. Make yours by combining the butter and cream cheese in a large bowl or in the bowl of a mixer.

Beat on medium speed until they’re well combined and fluffy.

Add the flour and salt and stir everything together until a dough begins to form. Don’t stir much more than this lest you activate too much of the flour’s gluten.

Collect the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic and refrigerate it for at least an hour, up to 3 days. When you’re ready to make the cookies, take the dough ball out of the fridge and let it warm up on the counter for about half an hour. This will soften it a bit. Remove it to a board that’s been liberally dusted with powdered sugar.

Press down hard on the dough to get it spreading…

…and roll it out into a large sheet. The thickness will depend on how big you want your kolaczki. For small kolaczki, roll the dough extremely thin, less than 1/8 inch. For larger ones, you can roll the dough a little thicker, about 1/8 inch. Why is the dough thickness important? Because a thick piece of dough folded into in a small shape will open up in the oven.

Once the dough is rolled, cut it with a pizza cutter into squares between 2 and 3 inches across. If they’re not perfect that’s OK. A gang of Polish bakers isn’t going to storm your house and check. I don’t think.

Cut’em the other way…and you have your squares. Re-roll your scraps into the next sheet.

And shape. For a typical kolaczki, you want less than a teaspoon of filling. This is too much. For best results, use several different of fillings. Today I’m making apricot, raspberry (untraditional) and fig (eve less traditional).

Now fold in one side…

…then the other. You can stretch the corner and tuck it under for extra insurance against opening, but as I said, dough thickness is they key. This dough is actually a bit thick for the size.

If you prefer a square, fold the points in toward the center. You’ll need a very thin dough to pull off that shape, but it’s a nice variation.

Lay them out on a sheet pan. They won’t rise much so you can lay them close to one another. Let them sit for at least fifteen minutes to relax any activated gluten that may have developed. This will prevent shrinkage and even further decrease the risk of opening. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bake 10-20 minutes depending on size, until they’re golden brown. Cool them on a rack and serve. Or, roll them in powdered sugar and then serve, if you’re really hard-core.

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27 Responses to Making Kolaczki

  1. Ameya says:

    oh joe you’re making me miss my oven!!

  2. KosherCorvid says:

    Hmm. looks very similar to hamantaschen…maybe too-thick dough is the reason mine always turn into very flat jam-spilling devices in the oven? Or are they completely different recipes?

    • joepastry says:

      You’re right, K.C., there re some similarities there. Hamantaschen use a sort of hybrid short crust that contains egg and sugar, so it’s not a precise match, but quite close. They’re both jam-filled cookies, after all!

  3. Joe says:

    Like the way you describe using photos – so clear to understand!
    Any new recipes?

  4. Sheldon says:

    Also reminds me of rugelach:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rugelach

  5. Beth says:

    Ohhhhh, the resting! I never thought of that! My last batch went into the oven looking so precious and came out looking like kolaczki carnage.

    Resting. Brilliant. Thank you.

    • joepastry says:

      Roll the dough thinner, then rest and you shouldn’t have the same problems next time. Let me know!

      - Joe

  6. Chana says:

    Did you really do that without a ruler?

    The dough looks beautiful, it seems to have some puff to it, almost like laminted dough.

    • joepastry says:

      You know it does have some puff, doesn’t it? You wouldn’t think it would have much since the fat is worked in so thoroughly…but there it is. Interesting…

  7. Jill says:

    I’m from Chicago where they sell these in every grocery store and bakery and here in Michigan they are NOWHERE to be found. I can’t wait to make them for a little slice of “home”!

    • joepastry says:

      I have the same problem here in Kentucky, Jill! These people just don’t have a firm grasp of civilization. No kolache indeed!

      Let me know how they turn out!

      - Joe

  8. Megan says:

    Thank you so much for the pictures!!! Such a big help! I made these last year wanting to impress my polish family, since they always tell me I got my baking skills from my grandmother whos infact from poland. Stakes were high! They were delicious but mine opened and looked really bad. I felt like a disappointment! Haha. Thank you so much for the tips. I cant wait to do it right this time. Babcia…. I promise to make you pround!

    • joepastry says:

      Hey Megan! Thanks for the note. It’s always tough being less-than-perfect, especially when expectations are high! ;)

      Keep after it and I know you’ll make your grandma proud. Anyway, I’m sure they tasted fabulous. Let me know how the next batch turn out!

      - Joe

  9. Alex the Homesitter says:

    Joe, once you mentioned Ukrainian baking :) so kalachi (or kolaczki, as Polish or Checz people would call them) are typical for Ukraine and Russia, though there they would look like like sort of big croissants with jam inside, often the dusting sugar replaced with poppy seeds. When I say ‘big’ I mean that normally they are not bite-sized but sliced to be eaten with some butter (optional)

  10. Marysia says:

    Hey Joe, fantastic pictures and instructions -they are so clear and helpful. You describe and show everything, even the little steps. Thank you. I’m now a fan/reader.

    I just have a quick question, you mentioned not mixing the dough too much as to not active the gluten in the flour. What are the side effects of activating the gluten? I sounds like a bad thing but I have no idea why -I’m not well versed in baking yet.

    Thank you!

    • joepastry says:

      Thanks, Marysia!

      The reason you don’t want to activate much gluten is because it makes the dough elastic. That causes it to shrink in the oven. The upshot is that that the kolczki open up as they bake.

      Thanks for the question!

      - Joe

      • Marysia says:

        Thank you so much for your quick and astute response!

        I made these for Wigilia (Polish Christmas Eve) for my family and everyone loved them! Thanks to these instructions, none of the Kolaczki opened in the oven.
        Probably the hardest part of making them (for a none-baker like me) was cutting the dough into squares of the same size. Many ended up as rectangles and didn’t fold evenly, but hey, they still tasted great! Thanks again!

        -Marysia

  11. Rachel says:

    Yay! I just did a google search looking for a recipe for these babies and your site, one of my favorites, popped up! I will be giving this a whirl soon. Guess I should have looked here first! Do you happen to have a great lebkuchen recipe?

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  13. Monina S Naylor says:

    Hi Joe. I am so happy to have found you site. I have been using the dough from my rugalah recipe and it contains another ingredient which is Sourcream. Should I eliminate it or it doesn’t matter. Also, thanks for the tip of resting and making the dough thinner. I am so frustrated when my Kolaczki opens up.

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