Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Czech Please!

The first Czech immigrants arrived in Texas in 1850 seeking land and camaraderie along side the German immigrant populations. In fact, according to the 1920 census of foreign born population, Mexican immigrants comprised the largest percentage at 69.2%, Germans at 8.6%, and Czechs third at 3.6%. Even today, Texas is home to the largest population of Czech descendants in the US. The Czech influence can still be felt today with Czech speaking radio broadcasts, the eternal popularity of polkas and accordions (which spurred the creation of conjunto music in south Texas that crossed into northern Mexico creating the norteno sound), and kolaches! 

Kolaches (ko-lah-chees) are a sweet yeast bread with fillings of poppy seed, apricot, cottage cheese, or prune being the most traditional. However, crafty Czexans have created new sweet flavors like raspberry, blueberry, pineapple, and strawberry, as well as savory versions like jalapeno sausage and cheese, barbecue beef, and even sauerkraut! So what's my favorite flavor? Cream cheese with crumb topping! Yum! This recipe (adapted from Texas Monthly/April 2014 from Sweet on Texas) makes very delicious kolaches! You will need to allow about 3 hours to complete, but it is well worth the effort! So plan a leisurely afternoon in the kitchen and perhaps a little polka!

Cream Cheese Kolaches

Makes about 27

For the Dough
1 1/2 teaspoons + 1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110-115 degrees F)
1 cup whole milk
1 cup shortening
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
4 1/4 cup bread flour
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the Cream Cheese Filling
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

For the Crumb Topping
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the Dough
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, yeast, and warm water. Set aside until the yeast starts to bubble, about 5 minutes.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk until it just begins to simmer. Stir in the shortening and stir until just melted. Remove from the heat and let cool 5 minutes. Add the salt, egg yolk, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar and whisk well.

Add the milk/egg mixture to the yeast mixture and stir to combine. With the dough hook, on low speed, add one cup at a time of the flour until incorporated. Turn the mixer speed to medium and mix until a soft, moist, glossy dough forms (about the time it begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl).

Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in size, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. After the dough has risen, punch it down to remove any air in the dough. 

Lightly flour a work surface. Using a spoon, remove small portions of the dough and drop them onto the flour surface, rolling them into egg-size pieces with the palms of your hands. Place them on a parchment or silpat-lined baking pan in rows about 1" apart, about 16 per pan. Brush the dough balls with the melted butter. Cover with a tea towel and place them back in a warm, draft-free area to rise another 20 minutes.

For the Cream Cheese Filling
Beat sugar and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Mix in the remaining ingredients. Set aside at room temperature.

For the Crumb Topping
Combine the flour, sugar, and butter in a food processor and pulse until crumbly. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Finishing the Kolaches
Make a deep, round impression (I use the back of a tablespoon and swirl it around) in the center of each ball of dough and fill it with a tablespoon of the filling. (Don't press through the bottom of the dough or filling will ooze out!)

Let the kolaches rise again, uncovered, for another 45 minutes to 1 hour. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Sprinkle the kolaches with the desired amount of crumb topping. Bake until lightly browned, 20-30 minutes.

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