It’s picnic and wedding season…a fitting time to pass along the recipe for the traditional Czech pastry/cake known as koláče (ko-LAH-ch)!
The kolač (singular for koláče) originated as a semisweet wedding celebration dessert in Central Europe centuries ago. Today, they can be found any time of day at markets and bakeries throughout the Czech Republic (and the region). The name evolved from the Czech “kola” meaning “wheels” or “round”. Made from sweet dough stuffed and/or decorated with all sorts of yummy things like fruit jams, raisins, poppy seeds, nuts or sweet cheese, there are endless combinations of this traditional (formerly) Czechoslovakian treat.
Koláče can be open-face or enclosed. Though you can find the former neatly wrapped in plastic and ready to take away from any market in Prague (or the country for that matter), if you’re making them fresh and want to picnic your pastries for a later snack, we’d recommend the enclosed version. Take it from the clever Czech wives who thought to fold over the pastries and keep the fillings intact instead of all over their man’s lunch bucket!
Many Czech families have their own secret koláč recipes which have been passed down from generation to generation, grandmothers to mothers to daughters. Because you’re considered family, we’re sharing ours with you!
So on a day when the weather’s not too scorching for the oven, have a go at these baked little wonders. With the never-ending possibilities, something tells us this won’t be your last batch!
Koláče: Czech Pastry/Cake Recipe
Ingredients (makes 12-18)
For the sweet dough:
- 1 package (2¼ tsp) dry yeast or 1 cube (.6-ounce/18g) fresh yeast
- 1 cup (2 dcl) warm milk
- 5 tbsp sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 2 cups (500g) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup (120g) unsalted butter, softened
For the filling
- 16 oz (500g) cottage cheese
- 2 eggs
- Sugar (to taste)
- Raisins (ideally soaked in rum)
For the topping
- 1 cup plum jam
- Streusel (if desired) – combine 7oz (200g) of each: sugar, butter and flour, add a sprinkling of vanilla or cinnamon (optional)
- Prepare the dough: in a bowl, combine milk, sugar, salt and yeast and whisk well. Add eggs and gradually stir in the flour. Knead the dough with a mixer or with hands on a lightly floured surface until smooth and springy. Place in greased bowl, cover with kitchen towel and let rise (1-2 hours).
- Preheat oven to 400 F (200C).
- Prepare the filling: stir cottage cheese, eggs and raisins and sweeten with sugar to taste.
- Take a large spoonful of the dough and roll out ¼-1/2 inch thick on floured pastry board. Cut into 2 ½ inch squares. Fill each with the cottage cheese mixture and wrap (overlap opposite corners and pinch together). Top with a dollop of plum jam and sprinkle with streusel (if desired). Place on greased cookie sheet.
- Bake 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to wire rack and let cool.