Monday, April 14, 2014

Cream Cheese Kolache

 Cream cheese what? No worries, about a week ago, I had no idea what a kolache (or "kolacky") was either. My music history class is doing presentations on composers from the Romantic Era, and my group was assigned Dvořák. When we determined what each group member was going to do, one of my designated tasks was bringing in a Czech dessert to symbolize Dvořák's homeland. (This really didn't do us any good grade-wise, but totally earned us endless love and admiration from the rest of the class.) 

When I researched Czech sweets, "kolache" came up over and over again. They are essentially small rolls with centers that have been hollowed out and stuffed with some kind of sweet filling (although they can also be made larger and cut into slices). I went with a cream cheese filling that's almost like cheesecake, and its richness complemented the fairly simple roll well. 
 These are pretty dense, and from what I read, they should be this way; you're not going for a brioche texture. That said, they're crazy addictive, especially warm out of the oven, and they are just sweet enough to feel indulgent yet totally appropriate for breakfast. We served them during first period, and they were much appreciated by our classroom full of sleep-deprived teenagers.

Cream Cheese Kolache
(adapted from The History Kitchen)

1 package active dry yeast (¼-ounce/2¼ teaspoons)
1 cup warm milk (105 to 115°F)
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
6 tbsp granulated sugar 
1 tsp salt
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
About 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour 
Egg Wash
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp cream, milk, or water
Cream Cheese Filling
16 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar or more to taste
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

In a small bowl or measuring cup, dissolve the yeast in ¼ cup milk.
In a large bowl, combine the yeast mixture with the remaining milk, butter, eggs, sugar, salt, and nutmeg. Blend in 1½ cups flour. 
Gradually add enough of the remaining flour to make a workable dough (it will still be fairly sticky).
On a lightly floured surface or in a mixer with a dough hook, knead the dough until smooth and springy, about 5 minutes.
Place in an oiled bowl and turn to coat.
Cover with a kitchen towel or loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in warm, draft-free place until nearly doubled in bulk, 2 to 3 hours, or in the refrigerator overnight.
Punch down the dough, knead briefly, cover, and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until nearly doubled in bulk, about 1¼ hours.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease the sheet. Punch down the dough, knead briefly, divide in half, form into balls, and let stand for 10 minutes.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough ½ inch thick. Cut into 2½-inch rounds (or the size of your choice). Reroll and cut out the scraps.
Place on parchment paper-lined or greased baking sheets about 1 inch apart, cover with a towel or plastic wrap greased with cooking spray, and let rise at room temperature until nearly doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, make the cream cheese topping: in a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Blend in the yolks, flour, and vanilla.
Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375°F (350°F for a convection oven). Using your thumb or the back of a spoon, press 1 large, deep indentation into the center of each round, leaving a ½-inch wide-rim (I used a shot glass to do this). Brush the edges with the egg wash.
Spoon about 1 tablespoon topping into each indentation.
Bake until golden brown or the center of the dough registers about 180°F on an instant-read thermometer, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.
Kolache are best eaten on the same day they are made, but can be covered with plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days or in freezer for up to 3 months.

  • -makes about 36 - 2.5" kolache
  • *Note: The history of this pastry is actually interesting and fairly complicated; check out the recipe's source for a detailed account.    :)

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