I been makin’ kolatch-kee for forty five years…was the mad refrain of a retired ninety-something baker who lived next door to a high school buddy of mine. Back then, as a cocky teenager hanging around in Riverside, Illinois, I thought it was pathetic. Nowadays I can imagine many far less pleasant things to have spinning around in my senile old brain. As a middle-aged man who appreciates a good kolache, I look back on that guy as sorta lucky. I don’t know what he would have thought of these. My guess is he’d have taken one look, waved his hand dismissively and walked the other way. That’s what makes guys like that great.
Begin by combining the wet ingredients including the melted butter in a bowl.
Combine the dry ingredients and whisk them together.
Combine the two mixtures in the bowl of a mixer and stir on low until everything is moistened.
With everything wet, switch to the dough hook and knead on medium for 5-7 minutes.
You want a dough that’s elastic, somewhat sticky, and adheres to the bottom of the bowl as the dough hook goes around (something like brioche dough). If it’s very wet and sticky, add more flour an 1/8 cup or so at a time.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover it with plastic and let it rise until almost doubled, about an hour. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 375.
Weigh out the dough to 1 to 1.5-ounce pieces…
…roll them into balls and let them rest about 20 minutes.
Collect your fillings. Now, using the tips of your fingers, make a depression in the center of the dough ball.
Fill that depression with about a tablespoon of a filling of your choice: poppyseed, prune, cottage cheese, or a jam of some sort (see fillings menu under the Pastry Components section to the left). You can also use some cooked fruit if you wish, just be sure that you take precautions to keep the filling from weeping moisture into the dough. Stir a little extra sugar into it, a couple teaspoons of cornstarch, or both.
Let them sit about 15 minutes to get a bit puffier. At that point brush on a little beaten egg and sprinkle on some streusel. No need to be be neat about it.
Bake for about twenty minutes until golden. Serve warm if possible.
VARIATION 1: For roll-style kolache, divide the risen dough into two pieces. Roll each into a rectangle, apply a filling of your choice and roll the rectangle up jelly-roll style. Slice the roll with a piece of dental floss as you would cinnamon rolls, and lay them out on parchment-lined sheet pans to proof. Apply streusel or a simple icing after baking.
VARIATION 2: For sausage kolache, wrap a dough ball around a small cocktail weenie, Vienna sausage or other small encased meat. Proof and bake as directed.
VARIATION 3: For giant kolache, make bigger balls and press out into larger disks. You can make these as big as tarts or pizzas of you wish, slice as such, and eat.