This sourdough adaptation is delicious.
I love kolaches. Anytime we drive by The Czech Stop in West, Texas on a road trip to Austin or San Antonio, we must stop to get them. We buy a box to snack on in the car and one to eat later. On the return trip home, we have to stop and get more.
After a recent girl’s trip to San Antonio, I wondered if I could make these myself. Afterall, they’re an enriched sweet dough filled with fruit. Was it possible to make it using the sourdough starter I created at the beginning of the pandemic?
My friend, who has Czech relations living in Nebraska, cautioned me that making kolaches is a complicated affair. She said her family works all day, assembly-line style, to produce them for their family reunions.
Although that sounded daunting, I decided to forge ahead anyway. I wanted kolaches!
What is an enriched bread?
Most breads are made up of four ingredients: flour, water, salt and yeast. What kind of bread you make depends upon the amount of flour or water you use. This determines what bakers call the hydration rate. Most breads are between 50% and 60% hydration. Sourdough bread is higher than 70%.
An enriched bread is usually about 50% hydration, but in addition to the four usual ingredients, it replaces the water with milk, and adds fat (butter, lard or shortening), and sugar. The more sugar you use, the sweeter the dough. And kolaches are very sweet.
When I adapted a traditional kolache dough recipe, I reduced the amount of milk and flour to compensate for the flour and water already in the starter.
Dough for Kolaches
This recipe will make 24 traditional sized kolaches (3-inch), or 12 to 15 large ones (4 ½-inch diameter.) I prefer the smaller size, but the ones we buy at The Czech Stop are larger.
If you need more for a family gathering, you can easily double this recipe.
Do this to your sourdough starter before making the kolache dough.
I keep my starter in the refrigerator, so I allow it to warm to room temperature. The starter must be well-fed, so I like to complete a discard and feed in the morning. I remove half of the mixture (the discard) and feed the remaining starter 75 grams each of distilled water and flour.
After an hour or two, I remove 25 grams of the fed starter and add it to 100 grams of distilled water and 100 grams of all-purpose flour. I let this poolish mixture ferment for 6 to 8 hours before making the dough. You will have some left over, which is great for making cinnamon rolls.
⅓ c. (75 g.) fresh sourdough starter (from the poolish mixture)
3 Tbsp. (36 g.) granulated sugar
¾ c. (190 g.) 2% milk
3 c. (426 g.) all-purpose flour
2 egg yolks (reserve the whites)
½ tsp. (3 g.) Kosher salt
2 Tbsp. (28 g.) unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ c. of your favorite jams, jellies or pie fillings
Whisk together the dry ingredients (sugar, flour, and salt) in a large bowl. Mash the softened butter into the dry ingredients with a fork.
Warm the milk in the microwave for 10 to 15 seconds. Use a cooking thermometer (like this one, not an affiliate link) to make sure the temperature is between 110°F and 115°F. If the milk is too hot, it will cook the egg yolks and kill the yeast, so a thermometer is very useful.
Separate the egg yolks from the whites. Cover the whites with plastic wrap and keep in your refrigerator for later. Use a fork to whisk the egg yolks. Add them to the warm milk along with the sourdough starter. Stir until well combined.
Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until no dry pockets remain. Let the mixture rest for an hour. This allows the flour to absorb the milk and makes it easier to knead.
Knead the kolache dough.
After it has rested for an hour, sprinkle a bit of flour on the counter and turn the dough out onto it. Dust your hands with flour to reduce sticking. To knead the dough, fold it in half and push down with the heel of your hand. Rotate the ball of dough and repeat the process.
Keep kneading the dough until it is smooth. It takes about six to eight minutes. When you pinch off a piece of dough, you should be able to stretch it out between your fingers. The dough will be elastic, and the center will become translucent and not easily rip or tear.
Clean and grease your bowl. Place the ball of dough in it and cover with plastic wrap. Because this recipe uses sourdough starter, the rise will take between 8 and 10 hours. Using sourdough starter is all about timing.
Hint: Make the dough in the evening, so it can rise overnight.
A Typical Timetable
10:00 AM — Discard half of your starter and feed the remaining.
12:00 PM —Make the poolish mixture.
6:00 PM — Take 10 minutes to mix the dough and let rest for an hour.
7:00 PM —Knead the dough for 6-8 minutes. Allow it to rise overnight.
Make the individual kolaches.
After eight to ten hours of rise time, you’re ready to make the dough into individual kolaches. You will need a 2 ½-inch biscuit cutter. If you don’t have one, you can use the mouth of a juice glass that has a similar size.
Step 1 — remove the plastic wrap from your bowl and turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Using your fingers, stretch the dough into a rectangle that is about ½-inch thick. I prefer to stretch it, rather than roll it to preserve as much of the puffiness from the rise as possible.
Step 2 — Using the biscuit cutter or juice glass, cut out as many round shapes as possible. Piece together the dough scraps and cut out rounds, or simply divide them into 30 to 35 gram balls. Shape them into ½-inch thick discs the same size as the ones you cut earlier. Place each piece on parchment-lined baking sheets.
Step 3 — Cover the baking sheets with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to rise until doubled in size. This second rise will take 1 to 2 hours. After they’ve doubled in size, preheat your oven to 325°F.
Fill and bake your kolaches.
Traditional fillings are poppyseed, cottage cheese, and apricot, but I use prepared pie fillings and jams to fill my kolaches. If you are ambitious, you can fill them with a jam or jelly you have made. My apple pie filling is delicious in kolaches.
To fill the kolaches, press the bottom of the juice glass firmly into the center of each risen ball of dough to create an indentation. Each one will now have a deep hollow surrounded by puffy sides of dough. Place up to 1 Tbsp. of your favorite filling into each depression. To minimize overflow, I fill with 2 tsp.
Use a fork to beat the egg whites you saved in your refrigerator to break them up. Brush the egg over the exposed dough. Bake for 20 minutes, until the dough is a light golden brown. You can eat them warm from the oven, or let them cool and store them in an airtight container.
Wow your family and friends.
The extra time that it takes to use sourdough starter instead of store-bought yeast gives this recipe extra flavor. Long yeast fermentation will do that in any bread dough recipe. That’s why I love using sourdough. And if you’ve never had kolaches before, you’re in for a treat.
If you have kids or grandkids, they will have fun helping you cut and fill the dough. Start a new tradition and get your family in on the action. It’s fun to cook together, and satisfying to try something new.