This is my dear sweet Grandpa Bruno. He was a master baker and poured his heart into every single item he made, no matter if it was at work or home. He hosted Sunday dinner at his home every week and everyone was invited. Seriously, everyone. I brought so many friends into that home and he treated every one as a bonus grandchild.
He passed away in 2010 but his passion for food and family lives on in his kids and grandkids (and great grandkids). I've attempted to recreate many of the foods he introduced us to but none are as close to my heart as kolaches. These were the food that I would sneak and hide from the rest of my family to make sure I got the last one. Nothing says "Grandpa" to me as much as a cream cheese kolache.
What is a kolache? It's very similar to a danish but it's an Eastern European version. I honestly can't tell you the difference other than I grew up eating kolaches since Grandpa was straight from Poland.
These are amazing right out of the oven (okay, let them cool a bit or you won't have much feeling left in your mouth) or for a few days after if kept in the fridge. I prefer them warmed up a bit but my kids gobble them up at room temp or cold. I've heard you can freeze them for later but there are never enough around here to do that ;)
I adapted this recipe from Tori Avey making one small change so they are just as Grandpa made them for so many years. Instead of cutting the dough into rounds I cut the dough into squares, spoon on the topping, then fold in each corner to the center. This creates a smaller square and the filling peeks out the corners. Tori Avey also has recipes for several different traditional fillings but since the cream cheese was always my favorite it's the only one I make around here.
Don't be intimidated by the length of time needed for this recipe. Like most yeast dough recipes it's a lot of passive time for the dough to rise. The long rises are what help make the dough so incredibly light and airy. Don't rush the rises. I like to start the dough right after breakfast and by the time all the rises have taken place I can usually be baking these during naps so we can eat the fresh ones for snack that afternoon! I bet you could also do most of the rising in the evening and then place them all ready to be baked in the fridge overnight so you can have fresh baked kolache in the morning. I haven't tried it that way but now I think I need to experiment!
If you try these make sure you let me know how they turn out!
Cream Cheese Kolaches
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup warm milk (105 to 115°F for dry yeast)
½ cup unsalted butter, softened, or ¼ cup butter and ¼ cup shortening
2 large eggs
6 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp table salt
About 4 cups unbleached all-purpose
Cream Cheese Filling Ingredients
16 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
Posipka Topping (crumb topping)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 to 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, melted
1. In a small measuring cup dissolve yeast in the warm milk.
2. In a stand mixer or large bowl combine the yeast mixture with eggs, butter, sugar, and salt. Blend in 1 1/2 cups of the flour.
3. Gradually add in enough flour to create a workable dough. I've used as much as 4 1/2 cups - the dough should be easy to hand knead without sticking to your hands.
4. Knead with the dough hook or with your hands for about 5 minutes until smooth and springy.
5. Place in an oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft free place to rise for 2-3 hours or until doubled in size.
6. Punch down the dough, knead a few times, recover and let rise again until doubled in bulk - about 1 1/2 hours.
7. Line a baking pan with a baking mat, parchment paper, or grease the sheet. Punch the dough down and let sit about 10 more minutes.
8. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/2 inch thick rectangle. It should be about 24x18 inches.
9. With a pizza cutter or knife cut the rectangle into 24 squares. Since your rectangle is about 24"x18" you can cut it into 4"x4" squares. They don't need to be perfect!
10. Let the squares rise for another 45min-1hr at room temperature. Prep the filling and posipka during this time - instructions below.
11. Preheat oven to 375* (350* for convection). Spoon about 1-2 tablespoons of filling into each square and fold over opposing corners to meet in the middle. This will create a smaller square. Place the pastries on the baking mat.
12. Brush each kolache with the egg wash and sprinkle with the posipka.
13. Bake until golden brown and the filling reaches 180*, about 12-15minutes.
14. Let cool long enough so you don't burn your tongue then dig in! Or enjoy them for up to two days later. Apparently you can freeze them for up to three months but I've never made it that long!
1. Beat the cream cheese until smooth.
2. Add in egg yolks, flour, and vanilla.
1. In a medium bowl combine sugar, flour, and cinnamon.
2. Pour in the melted butter and use a fork or your fingers to combine to create small crumbs.
Prepare kolaches as directed and cool completely. Freeze on pans then transfer to freezer bags or in foil pans and cover tightly. Thaw on cookie sheets or in fridge overnight. You can also pop them in a toaster oven or regular oven for a few minutes at 350* to warm. Enjoy!