Kolacky is an old family favorite

I have hundreds of cookbooks, but none so valuable as the worn, thread-bound ledger that belonged to my grandma. The yellowed pages, dotted with brown spots of who knows what, are frayed around the edges. Each page holds a recipe handwritten by my dad’s mother.

One of those recipes is for her daughter, Elinor’s, Bohemian Kolacky. My Aunt Elinor made the best kolacky I’ve ever tasted. Soft pillows of sweet, rich yeast dough, each plump with filling made of fruit, poppy seeds or cottage cheese.

When I was a child growing up in St. Paul, Minnesota, I looked forward to family car trips to Chicago to visit all the relatives. One thing I would always anticipate was Aunt Elinor’s kolacky. Since I lived so far away, I never did see her make the sweet rolls. I simply enjoyed the finished product.

How fortunate I felt when I discovered her recipe in my grandma’s personal cookbook.

The dough is prepared just as any other yeast dough. The old family recipe calls for lard. I use butter instead.

Once the dough has had time to double in size, it gets rolled out and cut into rounds. A shot glass works perfectly for punching a shallow well in each round, just the right size to hold a generous amount of filling.

Apricot and poppy seed fillings are my favorite. I find the Solo brand of poppy seed filling to be very good. I make my own apricot and prune fillings. Aunt Elinor used to make a delicious cottage cheese filling. I don’t have her recipe for that one.

Streusel topping made of sugar, flour and butter adds a nice little crunch and a little more sweetness.

As I made the kolacky, my mind was filled with memories. Happy times, with family gathered around Aunt Elinor’s dining room table, all debating about which filled kolacky to take from the platter. Laughter, stories, that certain smell her house always held, the high-back dining room chairs that seemed so heavy to me when I was young — it felt as though I was right there again.

And, I wondered if my dad’s mother knew how much her handwritten recipes would mean to me, the little girl who was in kindergarten when her grandma died. Did she realize how much it would mean to me to have pages filled with her handwriting?

I begin to think about all my recipes stored in folders on my computer. Not exactly the same kind of recipe format to pass down through the generations as my grandma’s ledger with pages of handwritten recipes.

But, my grandchildren are growing up with technology. Maybe they’ll appreciate opening up a folder on their computer filled with an organized collection of my recipes and think how lucky they are to have such easy access to some of the recipes they remember me preparing. And they might even back them up for safe keeping.

I may need to go buy a ledger.

Bohemian Kolacky

  • 1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1 cup lukewarm milk (105 degrees F. to 115 degrees F.)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • Fillings of choice, such as poppy seed, apricot, plum
  • 1 egg, beaten, for brushing on kolacky

Streusel Topping

  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened

In a 4-cup glass measure or bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in warm milk. Set aside. While yeast mixture is resting, cream butter and 1/4 cup sugar. Add 2 eggs and salt and beat well. Add yeast mixture, which should have bubbled and grown, and mix well. Add 2 cups flour and beat with a wooden spoon until incorporated. Gradually add flour until dough begins to leave sides of bowl and come together, following the spoon.

Transfer dough to work surface covered with some flour. Turn bowl upside down over the dough. Grease another large glass bowl with shortening, using your fingers to spread the shortening to cover the entire inside of the bowl. Grease two large baking sheets or line them with parchment paper.

Remove bowl from covering the dough. Knead dough for 5 to 8 minutes, adding a little flour to the work surface as necessary to prevent sticking.

Place dough in the greased bowl. Turn over so greased side is up. Cover bowl with clean kitchen towel and allow dough to rise for 1 to 2 hours, until doubled.

Divide dough in half. Roll out one half of dough on floured work surface to about 1/4-inch thick. Use a 3-inch round cookie cutter or glass to cut 12 rounds of dough. Place rounds on prepared baking sheet, about 1-inch apart. Repeat procedure with remaining half of dough. Cover baking sheets with dough rounds with kitchen towels and allow to rest in a warm place for about 30 minutes. With the bottom of a shot glass dipped in flour, make a depression in the center of each dough circle. Fill the depression with 1 tablespoon of any type of filling. Brush the tops of the kolacky with beaten egg, and let them rise in a warm place until they have puffed a bit, about 10 to 15 minutes.

While kolacky are rising, measure streusel topping ingredients in a small bowl and rub together with fingers until mixture turns to crumbs. Sprinkle streusel over the filling of each kolacky. Bake in preheated 400-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Makes 24 kolacky.

Apricot or Prune Filling

Put 1 cup dried apricots or pitted prunes into a saucepan with enough cold water to cover them.
Bring to a boil and simmer until the fruit is very soft (at
least 15 minutes). Drain off all the liquid in the pan. Transfer plumped fruit to work bowl of food processor. Add
1/3 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon of butter, a little grated
lemon zest. Process until quite smooth.  Stir in
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Transfer fruit filling to a bowl and
let the mixture cool before you use it to fill the kolacky.

16 thoughts on “Kolacky is an old family favorite

  1. My husband often tells a kolacky story very similar to your early memories. He however has never found a recipe to match, have printed your recipe off (and placed a copy in my own computer recipe file – with your name and source info) I hope this is one he will be making soon. In our home da man is da baker. Thanks so for sharing the memories and the recipe.

  2. Thank you for writting the article. I love these things. One very fond memory I have of my grandmother is her showing me how to make these shortly before she passed away.

    I have to take issue with your spelling though.

    Kolàče pronounced coal-la-chay (sort of) which is plural.
    Kolàč pronounced coal-lawch is the singular. I apologize for the horrible phonetics.

    I cringe when Norwegians or English call the Kolachy or Kolachies.

    If you would like another recipe I would gladly provide my grandmother’s recipe.

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  5. I also remember going to my grandmothers home and watching my grandma, aunts and my mom all rolling the dough into perfect balls and they would use their index fingers to spread open the centers. I always loved the prune filling with sprinkles of coconut on top. What a wonderful memory I have always cherished.

    • That’s funny, Carolyn. Caviar wouldn’t get stuck in your teeth like poppy seeds, either. But, I do love those tiny little seeds.

  6. I love baking especially recipes with yeast.

    As much as I love sweet things I was wondering if I could put a savory filling/topping (such as Ham and cheese)……

    • Yes, Evelyn, these rolls can be topped with savory foods. A few years ago I stopped at the Little Czech Bakery in West, Texas. They had such a variety of kolacky, sweet and savory. I remember eating one filled with sausage and sauerkraut. You can see pictures on my blog post from that visit: http://sdoeden.areavoices.com/2008/02/28/coffee-lovers-indulge/. Maybe I’ll have to try experimenting with some savory fillings. Ham and cheese would be delicious.

  7. I just read your article in the Forum and had a huge smile when I saw your pronunciation of Kolachy –although my Grandma spelled it Kolachies — they were pronounced the same. :) The reason that I quickly checked out your blog though was because I was hoping to find the recipe for the Cottage Cheese filling — as a child, it was my least favorite — now I have searched and yearned for that taste for over 40 years. Thank you for a wonderful warm, comfort food memory on this February morning.

    • I’ve never made the cottage cheese filling, myself, Kathy. But, I do remember my aunt serving the cheese-filled kolacky. This is a recipe from an old Czech cookbook I have.
      Cream 1 tablespoon butter with 1 pound dry cottage cheese. (I never see dry cottage cheese in the stores these days. I’d probably use ricotta cheese.) Add 2 egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla or lemon flavoring. Mix well. Add 1/4 cup raisins, if you like.
      If you try this filling, Kathy, let us know if it’s a keeper!

      • my Grandma used to make her own Cottage cheese for this recipe — they always had raisins — and I used to see dry cottage cheese in the store and think about how this is how it “should” be used. The Cottage cheese now is so creamy — my mom suggested at one time — using cheesecloth to let that moisture separate. It had to be a small curd cottage cheese and this recipe sounds very much like what Grandma made — her recipes were all — oral and by feel. It was amazing! Wish I could try this now.

        • I have a cottage cheese recipe that is really good and not very hard to make. It too uses dry cottage cheese but I used small curd cottage cheese and cheese cloth and squeezed out the liquid. Draining overnight didn’t get all the moisture out. Recipe can be cut in half as well.

          Sweet Cheese Filling

          Prep Time: 10 minutes
          Total Time: 10 minutesYield: Enough filling for 2 Strudels
          •2 pounds dry cottage cheese, also known as farmer’s cheese, sieved or blended until smooth
          •8 ounces sour cream
          •5 egg yolks
          •1 cup sugar
          •2 teaspoons salt or to taste
          •1/2 pound (2 sticks butter), melted
          1.Mix all ingredients until thoroughly combined.
          If you prefer smooth cheese filling blend in a food processor.

          • Val, your Sweet Cheese filling sounds wonderful. I’m definitely going to try this filling for my Easter Kolacky. Thank you for sharing!

  8. Your kolaches (sp?) look fantastic and your recipe looks like a keeper (and I second your recommendation of Solo brand poppyseed and apricot filling). Thank you for passing this along! Depending on where you are located, and whether this is feasible, try checking out kosher grocery stores for farmers’ cheese (it’s the go-to ingredient for cheese filled blintzes). And for those of you who are feeling a little adventurous, and feel compelled to try making their own poppyseed filling, the King Arthur Flour company catalog actually sells a poppyseed grinder imported from the Czech Republic (I bought one for my sister many years ago, and was the happy recipient in return of many poppyseed filled pastries).

    • A poppyseed grinder can hold so many memories. I have the one that my Hungarian grandma used and I think of her each time use the little grinder. Your sister will have a family tradition to pass down through generations. What a wonderful gift you gave her, dtropp.
      I will certainly look for farmers’ cheese in my local stores. Otherwise, I’ll stop at the St. Louis Park Byerly’s store the next time I go to the Twin Cities. That store has a very large selection of kosher groceries. Thanks for the tip!

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