I was casting about for what I would post this month for my SLD, and the topic ended up finding me in the most natural and planetary of ways. There were so many signs in fact, that I had to list the indicators just to look at because everything seemed so connected and clear. (Cycle, Spring, oval, egg, Easter eggs, Easter…)
I decided to try making the kolache. The kolache are a Czech pastry, but it is so much more. I know what these are because both of my parents are from Texas and we would visit sometimes when I was growing up. There is a solid old Czech community near my dad’s hometown, and he impressed on me the importance and specialness of getting the good kolaches in the tiny town of Snook when passing through. (Mom, Dad, kolaches, fruit, wildflowers, jewel tone colors…) It happened that my mom just went on a little road trip to see the wildflowers, and she sent a few pics. And, I just happened to work a catering job at Lincoln Center for the new play “Ann”, abut Ann Richards, the former governor of Texas. To add to the Texan reminders, large swaths of Brooklyn were just looking towards or went to Austin for the South by Southwest music festival. (Ann Richards gig, SXSW, Texas, New York, Brooklyn, Greenpoint, Poland, Eastern Europe, Czech Republic…)
I figured that the Tall Pole might have some awareness of this pastry, because many eastern European traditions carry a level of crossover, like poppy seeds. (Traditions, poppy seeds…) The Pole was not really sure, but was not opposed to my investigation, sweet-toothed as he is. I turned to the Eastern European Food section of About.com, an excellent resource, and found the related Polish kolaczki, which was interesting. But this was not the type I was going for, which led me to the obvious next stop: awesome food blog Homesick Texan written by Lisa Fain (who also has a great cookbook). Of course she did a post on kolaches. And weirdly enough she had posted in March of 2007, leading me to wonder about kolaches and springtime. (…food blogs, springtime, traditions, New York…) Her post is wonderful, and I can only add a slightly different angle, and also a bit more sugar, as the kolaches I remember are a bit sweeter than her recipe. I also left off the sprinkled topping. (Hers is adapted from Texas Monthly and the Houston Chronicle, mine is adapted from hers.)
1 packet active dry yeast
1 cup warm milk
1.2 cup sugar
3 cups AP flour
2 large eggs
3/4 cups melted butter
1 tsp salt
fillings at your discretion
Photo from mom.
Prepare your starter. Combine sugar, yeast, 1 cup of flour (whisk) and then milk
Cover and let it double in size and get foamy.
Mix together melted butter, salt and eggs
The starter has become foamy! Mix the butter/egg mixture into this.
Then mix in flour, a 1/2 cup at a time.
Knead ten minutes. So fun. Place in an oiled bowl, cover and let rise one hour.
Look at that! I’m always impressed by yeast.
Pull off pieces and roll into egg-sized balls…
Flatten into disks and brush with melted butter. Cover and let rise another half hour.
Prepare your fillings. I chose mine based on tradition and color variety. There are several Polish pastries I’ve seen in Greenpoint that utilize this chocolaty looking (not chocolate) paste. With some investigation and many questions directed at the Tall Pole (who probably never imagined he would field so many) I found that this ingredient in Polish is called masa makowa, or poppy seed butter, and usually contains almonds and sugar. One can make this easily, but to save time, and invest in some authenticity, I braved the crazy Easter line of the Polish deli to grab some. It’s quite good. I also got some crumbly farmer’s cheese
The fillings: strawberry, sour cherry, orange ginger, farmer’s cheese (with maple syrup drizzle, my one liberty), and poppy seed paste. Obviously you could (should?) make these too, but for maximum variety I used high quality, few ingredient jams. In the future I think I would just make my favorite or be more experimental, but I wanted to tap into tradition, not expand on it just yet.
Make a decent indentation with your fingers and spoon in the filling.
Bake at 375 for 13 minutes. Brush them with melted butter (why not?) when they come out. Let them cool a bit and savor this new rite of spring.