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How to Make Kolaches

Why this recipe works Brought to Texas by Czech immigrants, these palm-size sweet (and sometimes savory) pastries are a sibling to the Danish and are heaped with either a cheese or a fruit filling. The amount of pride Texans from all over the state have for these treats rivals that of New Yorkers for their bagels, and multiple towns claim the title “kolache capital” and hold kolache festivals. The dough for these much-beloved buns is enriched with eggs and butter (or sometimes shortening), very much like a brioche dough. We cobbled together a working recipe after tasting and trying multiple regional versions, but the base was a little tough and dry, so we upped the fat—by a lot. In addition to the egg, we added two egg yolks. And we nearly doubled the flavorful butter. The fat tenderized the dough and added moisture and richness. Many recipes call for mixing the dough gently, theoretically to keep the buns tender, but we found that lengthy kneading yielded a more supple dough that held air well, giving our kolaches a lighter crumb. For a cheese filling, we found a combination of tangy cream cheese and milkier, slightly salty ricotta was a perfect base, while a little sugar and lemon zest balanced the flavor; 1 tablespoon of flour bound this mix nicely. The finishing touch to these sweet treats is a simple streusel topping that we made by quickly rubbing together flour, sugar, and butter with our fingers. A greased and floured measuring cup makes even indentations for the filling in the formed pastries.

  • makes 16 kolaches
  • rising time 3 to 4 hours
  • baking time 25 minutes
  • total time 4½ to 5½ hours, plus 20 minutes cooling time
  • key equipment stand mixer, 2 rimmed baking sheets, pastry brush

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dough

  • 3½ cups (17½ ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 2¼ teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) whole milk, room temperature
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • ⅓ cup (2⅓ ounces) sugar
  • 1 large egg plus 2 large yolks, room temperature

filling

  • 6 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 6 ounces (¾ cup) whole-milk or part-skim ricotta cheese

streusel

  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces and chilled
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water and pinch salt

1). For the dough Whisk flour, yeast, and salt together in bowl of stand mixer. Whisk milk, melted butter, sugar, and egg and yolks in 4-cup liquid measuring cup until sugar has dissolved. Using dough hook on low speed, slowly add milk mixture to flour mixture and mix until cohesive dough starts to form and no dry flour remains, about 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Increase speed to medium-low and knead until dough is smooth and elastic and clears sides of bowl but sticks to bottom, about 10 minutes.

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2). Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and knead by hand to form smooth, round ball, about 30 seconds. Place dough seam side down in lightly greased large bowl or container, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise until increased in size by about half, 1½ to 2 hours. (Unrisen dough can be refrigerated for at least 8 hours or up to 16 hours; let sit at room temperature for 1 hour before shaping.)

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3). For the filling Using clean, dry mixer bowl and paddle, mix cream cheese, sugar, flour, and lemon zest on low speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add ricotta and mix until just combined, about 30 seconds. Transfer mixture to bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.

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4). For the streusel Combine flour, sugar, and butter in bowl and rub between your fingers until mixture resembles wet sand. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

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5). Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Press down on dough to deflate. Transfer dough to clean counter and stretch into even 16-inch log. Cut log into 16 equal pieces (about 2¼ ounces each) and cover loosely with greased plastic. Working with 1 piece of dough at a time (keep remaining pieces covered), form into rough ball by stretching dough around your thumbs and pinching edges together so that top is smooth. Place ball seam side down on clean counter and, using your cupped hand, drag in small circles until dough feels taut and round.

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6). Arrange dough balls seam side down on prepared sheets, spaced about 1½ inches apart. Cover loosely with greased plastic and let rise until increased in size by about half, 1½ to 2 hours.

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7). Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour bottom of round ⅓-cup dry measuring cup (or 2¼-inch-diameter drinking glass). Press cup firmly into center of each dough round until cup touches sheet to make indentation for filling. (Reflour cup as needed to prevent sticking.)

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8). Divide filling evenly among kolaches (about 1½ tablespoons each) and smooth with back of spoon. Gently brush edges with egg mixture and sprinkle with streusel. (Do not sprinkle streusel over filling.) Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Transfer kolaches to wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Serve warm.

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variation fruit-filled kolaches

Omit cream cheese filling. Combine 10 ounces frozen pineapple, blueberries, or cherries; 5 tablespoons sugar; and 4 teaspoons cornstarch in bowl. Microwave, covered, until bubbling and thickened, about 6 minutes, stirring once halfway through microwaving. Mash with potato masher. Let cool completely and fill kolaches as directed in step 8.

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