One of my most vivid memories is of Cuba, Kansas on a hot summer night jumping around, catching fireflies. Strange that a town less than half a square mile in its entirety, can manage to have such a big and important place in my heart. My Dad’s parents would spend their summers out in Cuba and Dad would bring all us kids out for some family time. I think Grandma liked their winters in California a million times better than she enjoyed summers out in Kansas, but you would never hear her complain. Grandpa was a Cuba man; he loved the slowness of the town. He always wore blue and white striped overalls and had such a strong presence about him, except when Grandma would give him the stink eye. I got my linebacker shoulders from Grandpa and my stink eye skills from Grandma.
Every trip we always ended up doing 3 things. Hunting for lightning bugs, fighting off the chigger bugs and eating kolaches (pronounced ko-LAH-chee). Man, Cuba women sure did know how to make kolaches, I think it’s the strong Czech influence that just oozes the streets of Cuba. Kolaches remind me of a danish, visually. But don’t let their appearance fool you & don’t you dare ever say the D word out loud, those ladies will bury you alive in their stink eyes.
Kolaches are sweet pillows from heaven that just beg to be served with a hot cup of coffee. My favorite is lemon or cream cheese but I hear that the traditional poppy, apricot or blueberry are delish.
Now, I’m going to warn you. Just like the waldorf salad surprise of 1993…there are some folks that fill their kolaches with meat. You can usually tell the difference, but I’m just throwing that out there, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I’m spending my 4th of July holiday morning making kolaches for all the celebrating today. I’ve never made them before and I’m hopeful that my Czech genes will guide me & even doubly hopeful that the fam loves them as much as I do. Cross your fingers for me? Maybe these Czech roots will prove to be more than my linebacker shoulders, my bumpy nose and my mad stink eye skills.
1 cup whole milk
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg – plus 2 large yolks
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/4teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 ½ teaspoons salt
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
6 ounces whole-milk or part-skim ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces and chilled
1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk
- FOR THE DOUGH: Whisk milk, melted butter, and egg and yolks together in 2-cup liquid measuring. Whisk flour, sugar, yeast, and salt together in bowl of stand mixer. Fit stand mixer with dough hook, add milk mixture to flour mixture, and knead on low speed until no dry flour remains, about 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium and knead until dough clears sides of bowl but still sticks to bottom, 8 to 12 minutes.
- Transfer dough to greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap and let dough rise until doubled.
- FOR THE CHEESE FILLING: Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat cream cheese, sugar, flour, and lemon zest on low speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add ricotta and beat until just combined, about 30 seconds. Transfer to bowl, cover with plastic, and refrigerate until ready to use.
- FOR THE STREUSEL: Combine flour, sugar, and butter in bowl and rub between fingers until mixture resembles wet sand. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until ready to use.
- BACK TO THE DOUGH: Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Punch down dough and place on lightly floured counter. Divide into quarters and cut each quarter into 4 equal pieces. Form each piece into rough ball by pulling dough edges underneath so top is smooth. On unfloured counter, cup each ball in your palm and roll into smooth, tight ball. Arrange 8 balls on each prepared sheet and cover loosely with plastic – let dough rise until doubled.
- IT’S GO TIME: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour bottom of 1/3-cup measure Make deep indentation in center of each dough ball by slowly pressing until cup touches sheet.
- Gently brush kolaches all over with egg-milk mixture. Divide filling evenly among kolaches and smooth with back of spoon. Sprinkle streusel over kolaches, avoiding filling. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking.
Let kolaches cool on pans for 20 minutes.Who am I kidding…I can’t wait 20 minutes, let’s be real here people.