Next Up: Kolache

Here’s another project I’ve been fearing, but can hold out no longer. My twin sister called me up this morning to ask when I’m finally going to bite the bullet and make some good ol’ Chicago kolache. If you don’t know what kolache are, you may recognize them from some of their other spellings: kolaczki, kolacky, kolá?e or kolace. Still nothing? Then you don’t live among many Central Europeans (i.e. Poles, Czechs and Slovaks).

Where I grew up, in the Western suburbs of Chicago, they were all over the place, especially in the near-city suburbs of Berwyn and Cicero. Though these days those Bohemian redoubts have given way to the next great wave of immigrants to the city: Latinos (mainly Mexicans), when I was a kid they were solidly Czech and Slovak. If you fell asleep at the wheel driving down Cermak Road after a big, starchy dinner of knedliky at Klas Restaurant, your car would plow into one of two things: a savings and loan or a bakery. If the coin toss went the right way you’d still be on the hook for serious damages, but your front seat would be filled with the best jam-filled pastries you ever had.

The reason I get nervous about making kolache is because there are so many different kinds of them: cookie-like, Danish-like, jelly roll-like, even pizza-like. Whatever I put up I’m gonna get an earful from somebody, which may mean I’ll need to do at least a couple of different kinds. Chicago may be just one spot on the map, but they make kolache there about ten different ways. Somebody is gonna bust my chops no matter what I do.

11 thoughts on “Next Up: Kolache”

  1. Oooh! Do a poppy seed filled variety! Those are tied with apple for the best!

    The ones we’re familiar with are more roll-like, they bake them in huge trays where they rise up until they crowd next to one another like cinnamon rolls, then they’re filled and baked. There’s a large Czech decent population in Caldwell, TX near where I went to school and they have a kolace festival every September. It usually rains every year. But even in the rain, the kolace and klobasniki go really fast. Getting there at 10 is usually too late for klobasniki and the more popular fillings of kolace.

    1. Hey Rebecca! Yes I think I have to do something in poppyseed and something in prune. Those are not only fillings I have yet to post on the blog, they’re classics for these sorts of pastries. And I’ve heard of those Texas kolache, but never tasted any!

      1. I’m from Texas as well and they only kind I’ve ever seen here is the ‘roll’ variety. They are very yummy and so soft. I love the fruit versions but the sausage are great too. It’ll be fun to see the other types you post.

          1. The only kind of kolache I’ve ever had is a sausage filled one. I agree with Twyla’s description, very soft and roll like.

  2. “pastry” doesn’t strike me as a particularly central european surname, joe 😉

  3. I’ve made my grandfathers Kolache recipe for 40 years-he was from a village near Prague. When I was laid off from the aerospace industry in L.A. I baked them and sold them, met every Czech in LA!
    Cottage cheese/egg and applesauce and of course poppyseed were always the favorites. If you make them “right” they are very labor intensive. A pinch of mace in the dough a must and let them raise 3 times. Lovely-waiting for yours.

    1. I’ll be curious to know what you think of mine, Kathy. I know some folks from home will be watching me carefully too! 😉

      Thanks for the note,

      – Joe

  4. I am from San Antonio and my grandmother who is of Czech decent made the BEST kolaches ever. She usually stuck to apricot. We have found several wonderful kolaches stops along our various road trips in Texas as well – The Czech Stop in West, Texas and The Kolache Capital Bake Shop in Caldwell, Texas. Some great poppyseed, apple, apricot and cream cheese kolaches can be found at both locations! I have never had a sausage one, but I will now be on the lookout the next time I am back in Texas.

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