Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Czech-what, Kolache-who?

Ever eaten a kolache? A lot of people here in Texas do. I had never heard of them until I moved here years ago. It was then I ran into some dear old ladies who loved to make them. Some are fruit or jam filled and others have sausage. Kolaches have a long history. Texans love a good kolache. In some places they are a little hard to find.

Kolache (also spelled kolace, kolach, or kolacky, from the Czech and Slovak plural koláče) are a type of pastry consisting of fillings ranging from fruits to cheeses inside a bread roll. Originally only a sweet dessert from Central Europe, they have become popular in parts of the United States. Several cities, including Prague, Oklahoma and Caldwell, Texas, hold annual Kolache Festival celebrations, while Montgomery, Minnesota claims to be the "Kolacky capital of the world" and holds an annual festival known as "Kolacky Days". Verdigre, Nebraska stakes the same claim, with a similarly named festival. Prague, Nebraska is commonly known as the home of the world's largest kolache. Fayetteville TX claims the title of "Kolache Capital of Texas". Crosby TX also has a yearly Czech festival. St. Ludmila's Catholic Church in Cedar Rapids, IA hosts it annual Kolache Festival the first full weekend in June every year and makes over 600 dozen kolaches to sell at this annual event.

It was the sweet chosen to represent the Czech Republic in the Café Europe initiative of the Austrian presidency of the European Union, on Europe Day 2006.

In Texas and Oklahoma, several restaurants and bakeries specialize in kolache; popular areas in central Texas include the communities of West, Weimar, and Schulenburg, as well as the Nebraska town of Wilber, which have large Czech populations . These restaurants and bakeries now sell varieties for all meals of the day and include versions such as Philly cheesesteak, ranchero, and chocolate cream cheese. The Bluebonnet City of Ennis has celebrated the Polka Festival (see National Polka Festival link below) since 1966, with a weekend of parade, street dancing and dinner/dances at the fraternal Czech halls. Kolaches are sold on the street and in the local Czech bakery. The official "Czech Capital of the United States," Wilber Nebraska holds the annual Wilber Czech days, during which several thousand kolaches are sold by various town groups and businesses.

A related dish is a klobasnek, which often uses similar bread but is filled with a piece of sausage. We call them kolaches anyway! They may also contain ham and cheese, sausage, jalapeño slices, and more resemble a "pig in a blanket" than the original pastry. There is also a sweet and flakey filled pastry with Polish origins called the Kolachky.

Jimmy and I love the sausage ones. Unfortunately it is a little hard to find good ones. Many places sell them but they usually have something like "Little Smokies" dinner weiners. Some places don't even use the smokie style. Some use sausage which most Texans love to grill or cook. Texans love to battle over who has the best Texas sausage. But finding sausage with more of a German spice to it can be difficult.

When we recently went to buy groceries we found "German" sausage in among all the brands of sausage including Jimmy Dean, Hillshire Farms and various Texas and local ones. We decided to try the "German" style one evening for supper. It was then we thought this would be more like a real kolache. Then we had the "brilliant idea". Let's make some!

Take two people who have never made any bread before and find a recipe for kolaches. Who's bright idea was this? Let's see, got the ingredients, read the recipe. Then what? Do you think this has risen? Has it doubled in size? Ok, now how do we get the sausage in? How much dough do we use? Who knew yeast could be so finicky? Sticky, gooey...hum. Is this really worth all the trouble?

Our first attempt was not too bad. Some were too big-all bread, little sausage. Some were a little over done from cooking too long. But taste-wise they were not too bad. Jimmy wanted the bread to be sweeter so the next batch we added a little more sugar. This time it seemed to take forever to rise. Maybe the yeast didn't like the extra sugar. Hey, nobody said it would be easy. I wish I could have the the faces of the guys when Jimmy told them what we did. I know the comments went something like "No way" or "You did what?". I have not had a chance to taste last night's batch. Fear, maybe? I think I will just wait till Jimmy gets home. After all Rome was not build in a day, right? Making good kolaches takes time too. Well, now I have to get the mess cleaned up. Flour fight anyone?


Anonymous said...

What time is dinner?

Dr.John said...

Those sound great.
I love to cook things we never cooked before.
Today we made banana bread from a recipe off the internet.It turned out great.
Nothing ventured-nothing gained.

pineapple said...

now I want kolaches. thanks.

cube said...

I'll be right over ;-) I'd never heard the word 'kolaches', but most cultures have an equivalent sweet or savory meat pie. It's all good.

maria said...

Very interesting post.

In Latvia, they have "peroges". Some are filled with bacon and onions, and they are so tasty.