Sweet yeasted pastries with fruit filling and a sprinkle of streusel crumble – welcome to the wonderful world of traditional Czech kolaches! Delicious and easy to make, you’ll wonder why these delectable apricot kolaches never crossed your foodie radar before… substitute a variety of fillings for a versatile pastry that is always delicious!
I grew up eating yummy Czech kolache pastries… not, as you may think, because my family is Czech, but because I grew up in Texas. There might not seem to be any connection, and there shouldn’t be, really. There are Czech communities throughout the USA… all of them full of grandmas and their favorite kolache recipes. There are lots of Czech bakeries around the USA, too.
But for some unknown reason, over the many, many decades that Czech communities have opened Czech bakeries all over the Lone Star State, Texans have become crazy for kolaches! It’s not uncommon for folks to plan their car trips around the various little Texas towns that boast a Czech bakery. And with Czech bakeries come kolaches. My favorites have always been apricot kolaches.
I’ve even seen forums online where people ask about the best Czech bakeries for kolaches on a particular route to their destination in Texas. Tons of people will respond with their favorite bakery and what about that one makes it The.Absolute.Best. Heated arguments might even break out… but no matter, people all-over get passionate about their food cravings, don’t they?
Of course, Texas being Texas, no one pronounces kolache the Czech way, which would be ko-lach, with the ‘e’ on the end being silent. Texans say “ko-lach-ee” and as far as I know, we’re the only ones who do that. Then again, we’re talking about the state full of cities with Spanish names that are also pronounced with a decidedly Texan slant. Such as, Amarillo, a Spanish word (meaning ‘yellow”) correctly pronounced “Ah-ma-ree-yo, but in Texas it becomes (somehow) A-ma-rill-uh. So, yeah, kolachees it is – in Texas anyway!
We ate kolaches every time our family took a car trip that led us near a Czech bakery (of course, we also had our favorite). And whenever someone was coming our way, we endeavored to wrangle a box of kolaches from them. Over all, most everyone is happy for the excuse to stop and enjoy that kolache pastry yumminess.
The last time I was in Texas we weren’t going on a road trip, but my mom actually sent off for some kolaches… we received them in the mail, and they were good… but not as good as when you get them freshly baked. For some reason, which I can’t figure out, at that time it just wasn’t in my mind that I could make kolaches myself.
There is no Czech bakery where I’m living now, and one day, it (finally) dawned on me that I could bake up some kolaches.
Let’s Make Apricot Kolaches
Kolaches are yeasted sweet pastries, and one good thing about them is that they’re not too sweet. There is a bit of sugar in the pastry dough, but the real sweetness comes from the filling, which is traditionally either a sweetened cheese filling or a fruit jam-like filling. Although, I’ve heard of poppy seed, as well as ham and cheese or egg or sausage ones. But the truly traditional kolaches are fruit or sweet cheese filled.
I absolutely love apricot kolaches, so I decided to use the last of my treasured apricot jam (that I made last summer) for this batch.
The dough is often made and left overnight to proof, but it’s not absolutely necessary, and I’ve omitted that step, with excellent results.
So, easy-peasy, you mix up the yeasted dough and let it rise. Punch it down and form into small balls. These are set on a cookie sheet to rise again.
Then you make a deep well in the center of each ball. The dough is lightly brushed with an egg wash. Then, the well is filled with the filling of your choice.
Next, you make a sugar-butter-flour crumble, known in Czech as a posypka, and you sprinkle that over the tops of the kolaches.
You can make these apricot kolaches two ways. They can either be baked while touching each other, so they spread into each other while baking, like cinnamon rolls or dinner rolls… or, as I have done here, you can space them so that they are separate round pastries.
They’re fantastic either way – totally up to you whether you want the soft squared off edges or rounded edges for separate pieces. Some Czech cooks say that traditionally they do not touch. I went with the spaced ones, although whenever we bought them back in Texas, they had been baked while touching.
Then, into the oven for a short bake and voilà! You have delicious kolaches! So easy. So tasty.
And now you can wow your family and friends and talk about kolachees, just like a Texan.
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Czech Bakery-Style Apricot Kolaches
- 1 pkg active dry yeast
- ¼ cup lukewarm water
- 1 cup milk
- ¼ cup butter, melted
- 1 large egg
- 1 small egg (for egg wash)
- ½ cup + 1 TBSP sugar
- ¾ tsp salt
- 4 ¼ cup flour
- ¾ cup apricot fruit jam, or jam of your choice approximately 1 large teaspoon per kolache
Posypka Streusel Topping
- ¼ cup flour
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2 TBSP butter, cold
- In a large bowl, sprinkle yeast and 1 TBSP of the sugar over the lukewarm water and let proof for at least 5 minutes, until it foams.
- Add the milk, melted butter, the large egg, the rest of the sugar, and salt and mix thoroughly.
- Add the flour a cup or so at a time, until all is incorporated. The dough should be wet-ish and slightly sticky.
- Cover with a clean towel and let rest for 1-2 hours, until dough has doubled. (I usually turn on the oven for a few minutes and when it is warm, [not hot!] turn the oven back off and place the covered bowl in the oven to rise).
- Punch down dough and refrigerate for at least 4 hours
- Divide dough into 14 balls
- Place balls 3 across on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. The balls should be nowhere near each other so they don't touch during baking after rising again. Cover again and let rest for approx. 15 minutes* You may need to cook the kolaches in two batches or on two cookie sheets
- Make a deep well in the center of each ball with your fingers. The well should be very deep (almost touching bottom) so that it will hold the filling and keep the filling from spilling over.
Posypka Streusel Topping
- In a small bowl mix flour and sugar and cut in cold butter. Mix with your fingers to make an even crumble. Refrigerate until ready for use.
Assembling the Kolaches
- Place a heaping spoonful of preserves into each kolache well. (Avoid the temptation to overfill the wells as they will rise and the filling will spill out)
- Cover again and set aside while preheating the oven to 375°F
- When oven is hot, whisk the small egg with 1 TBSP of water and brush over the sides of kolaches. Sprinkle with the posypka topping.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes. Let cool before serving. Kolaches will last for a few days in a covered cotntainer in the fridge.