Everyone has those food items that stick with them as they grow up. A soup or casserole your mom made that you miss as you go through college. Then there are the recipes and foods that have a deeper history. For me, that is my great-grandmother’s kolaches. She would spend a full day making these for the family and we loved them. Our favorites were those filled with poppy seed and others topped with a sweetened cream cheese. This recipe, and the technique that went along with it, was passed to my mother. She too would spend a full day making kolaches. The smell of yeast would wander through the house and that was the sign that something awesome was a few hours away. My mom would send my dad to work with bags filled with different flavors and he would return telling her how quickly they disappeared. These small pastries were a staple of my childhood. And sure, there are some store bought options out there that come close to being a temporary replacement but they all vary just a little bit.
My mother was kind enough to pass the family kolache recipe to my wife and I after we got married. My wife made the savory versions (klobasneks) once before and they turned out great, but recently we decided to try our hand at the sweet version that I grew up with. Of course, we made some savory ones as a snack and for the science of it. If you’re going to perfect something, you have to practice. We ended up with a product we were happy with but that we know can be improved and perfected so we took copious notes and will make another attempt soon. We are also going through different flavors that could be combined to make the kolaches our own and we have a number of ideas of things that are readily available in Portland so we will give those a shot as well. As we make the tweaks to get the dough as close to what my great-grandmother would make, we know that we will be able to pass that along to our own children and keep this tiny bit of my Czech heritage alive.
I posted a few photos of the end result and received a large number of requests for the recipe. Seeing as this recipe was passed down to my mother first I asked how she felt about the recipe being shared. Right now, she would prefer that the recipe stay in the family and I am going to respect that. However, she had no qualms with me posting a few similar recipes that I found online and sharing a few ideas on techniques.
The first recipe is for klobasneks, the savory, meat and cheese version of a kolache. While the history of it (and the kolach in general) is a little off in the link, the recipe is a great start for making klobasneks. One note I will make here is that the dough and the sausage are the stars here and special care should be paid to both. For sausage we try our best to find a German or Czech style link. We then boil it and when cooked, give it a sear on all sides before letting it cool. We then cut it into the proper size before forming the klobasneks. The dough part is just as important. With all of the recipes I am going to post, patience (and butter) are the key. The more patience you have for the rise of the dough and the less you work the dough when preparing it, the better the final product. When you think the dough is ready, wait a little longer. A little more time and you may get a little jump in the rise, resulting in an even better result.
Next up is a very detailed history and recipe for sweet kolaches. The technique in this one is a little too precise and methodical for me and what you will find is that as you start to make kolaches, being precise is overkill. I do like that they include some filling recipes as well and the general concept of the kolache is still intact. For a more free form version there is this recipe. It is not perfect but it gives a lot more leeway to do what you wish with the kolache recipe.
I think these three recipes are a great way to get started trying to make your own Czech pastries at home. I hope you enjoy these sweet treats that remind me of my chilhood!