Kolaches: Czech Sweet Pastries

Kolaches are a Czech sweet pastry, usually filled with jam, poppy seeds or a cheese filling and topped with a sweet crumble. Their name comes from the old Slavonic word, kolo, meaning circle or wheel. The pastry is made from a sweet, fluffy dough, similar to brioche. A deep indentation is made in the center of each kolache, then they are filled and sprinkled with a sweet crumb topping.

Both fillings below are enough to fill all the pastries. You can use just one type of filling, or halve the recipe and mix and match. I decided not only to use both fillings and apricot jam, but to fill some kolaches with two fillings.

For the poppy seed filling, the poppy seeds should be finely ground. In the Czech Republic, they have a specific poppy seed grinder, but you can use an electric blade coffee grinder or a spice grinder. For the cheese filling, you can use cottage cheese, farmers cheese, or ricotta, whatever you prefer.

If you fill them with jam, plum and apricot are the most traditional, but you can use your favorite fruit jam.

plate of kolaches
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Ingredients:

Yields 18 small kolaches.

MetricCups
200ml whole milk (40-46°C / 105-115°F)
7g active dry yeast (one packet)

1 large egg
70g granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt

500g plain flour
Zest of 1 lemon

85g unsalted butter

Apricot or plum jam

1 large egg for the egg wash
2/3 cup plus 1 1/2 Tablespoons whole milk
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 large egg
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt

4 cups all-purpose flour
Zest of 1 lemon

1/3 cup unsalted butter

Apricot or plum jam

1 large egg for the egg wash

Cheese Filling:

MetricCups
250g cottage cheese
1 egg yolk
60g powdered sugar
40g raisins (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup cottage cheese
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup raisins (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Poppy Seed Filling:

MetricCups
180g poppy seeds
240ml whole milk
80g powdered sugar
40g honey
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/4 cups poppy seeds
1 cup whole milk
2/3 cup powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons honey
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Crumb Topping:

MetricCups
30g plain flour
30g granulated sugar
15g cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon cold unsalted butter

For the Kolache Dough

Bloom the yeast:

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix the yeast and warm milk together and set aside while weighing the other ingredients. The yeast should start to foam after a few minutes, otherwise the yeast might be dead.

Mix the wet ingredients:

Add the sugar, egg and salt to the milk and yeast. Set the mixer on medium for a few seconds to combine.

Add in the flour:

Pour in the flour and lemon zest, and slowly work the mixer up to medium speed. Knead until everything combines, forming a dough.

Slowly add the butter:

With the mixer still running at medium speed, slowly add the butter, one bit at a time. 

Knead the dough:

Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, approximately 6 minutes.

Let the dough rise:

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel and set in a warm place for 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.

While the dough is rising, prepare the fillings.

kolache dough
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For the Cheese Filling

In a medium bowl, combine the cottage cheese, egg yolk, powdered sugar, vanilla and raisins (if using). Set the bowl in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble the kolaches.

For the Poppy Seed Filling

Grind the poppy seeds:

In the Czech Republic, they have grinders specifically for poppy seeds. You can use a spice grinder or an electric blade coffee grinder. The poppy seeds should be finely ground, but not turn into a paste.

Cook the poppy seed filling:

Combine the ground poppy seeds, milk, powdered sugar and honey in a small saucepan set over medium-low heat. Bring to a boil and continue to cook until it has thickened, about 5 minutes. Then, take the filling off the heat and stir in the ground cloves.

For the crumb topping

In a small bowl whisk together the flour and sugar. Then, use your fingertips to cut the butter into the four mixture until it looks like coarse meal. You don’t wan’t a cohesive dough.

To Assemble the Kolaches

Preheat the oven:

Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F).

Divide the dough:

When the dough has doubled in size, divide it into 18 equal pieces (about 50g each). Shape each piece into a ball and place on a parchment lined baking tray to rest for 10 minutes.

divide the kolache dough
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Shape the dough:

Dip a glass in flour so it won’t stick to the dough, the use the glass to make a depression in the center of each ball of dough. Press firmly, the bottom should be thin and almost transparent.

shape the kolaches
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shape the kolaches
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Brush with egg wash:

Beat an egg in a small bowl and use a pastry brush to coat the rim of each kolache.

Fill the kolaches:

Fill each kolache with your filling of choice: cheese, poppy seed, or jam. For some, I chose to fill them half and half with two fillings.

Top with the crumb mixture:

Sprinkle a bit of the crumb mixture on each kolache.

fill the kolaches
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Bake the kolaches:

Bake the kolaches until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Let them cool on a wire rack and serve warm or at room temperature. The kolaches taste best the same day.

baked kolaches on a sheet pan
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