Texas-style Kolache

I discovered kolache in Texas this spring, and cannot stop eating them, or talking about them. The traditional Czech pastry contains sweet fillings, but this Texan version is savoury – the most popular filling being sausage and cheese. Most Czechs would probably call these klobasnek, but whatever – in Texas, they’re kolache.

Kolache are not refined; this is comfort food at it’s very finest. Every time I make these I end up painfully bloated from overeating. The kids love them too – rarely do any survive until the next day.

I would describe Kolache as a cross between a sweet sausage roll and a self contained hotdog. The bun itself looks rather unassuming, but the delicious surprise inside makes these so special. The pleasure I get from eating them only slightly outweighs the pleasure I get from introducing people to them!

Conventional wisdom is that Kolache are greatly improved by making a sponge first, meaning that you feed the yeast for a period of time before making the dough. If you make sourdough, you will be familiar with the process, sometimes calls a pre-ferment.

Begin by combining milk, water, sugar, yeast and bread flour in a bowl. I like to do this in the mixing bowl of my stand mixer, because it’s quite a wet dough, so I like to knead it in my machine.

After giving the sponge a good mix, cover and leave the dough for about an hour, until it has doubled in size, and has the sponge-like texture.

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Melt the Crisco in the microwave, and allow it to cool a little before adding to the sponge – you don’t want to kill the yeast.

I have tried substituting butter, vegetable shortening and lard, but none of them seem to have the same magical power as Crisco. Luckily, you can get it online fairly easily these days; I recommend the butter flavoured variety.

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Separate 2 eggs, adding the yolks to the sponge, and saving the egg whites to glaze the kolache later. If you add a pinch of salt into the egg whites and give them a gentle whisk, it will help break down the proteins and make it easier to brush on later.

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Add the milk, salt, and bread flour, and mix until everything is well combined, then turn the dough out onto the bench for kneading. The dough will be very soft and sticky, but do not add any flour.

As long as you keep the dough moving and keep scraping it off the bench, it should start to come together nicely after about 5 minutes. If you have access to a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, you may find it easier and less messy!

Cover the dough and leave this to rest for another hour, until it has doubled in size again.

Whilst you are waiting for your dough to rise, prepare the fillings. My preference for sausage is Gilbert’s smoked viennas, but you can use any kind of pre-cooked sausage. For an authentic kolache, the sausage does need to be smoked though. It’s important to dry the the sausages well before you use them, as any extra moisture will increase the chances that your sausages escape during baking! Cut them in half, ready to be encased.

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I have experimented with several kinds of cheese, and whilst you get a very pleasing result with almost any cheese, my preference is for grated mature cheddar. From the look of those that I ate in Texas, most are wrapped in a soft cheese slice; with all the cheese singles that I have tried in the UK, I find the mouthfeel to be too cloying.

I sometimes like to add finely chopped jalapeños too. Just go easy on these, and make sure that you have some way of identifying which is which, as you don’t want to give one to the kids by accident!

Pull off a piece of dough, a little larger than a gold ball. I think between 50g-55g is about the ideal size, and I highly recommend weighing the dough, as this will help keep your sizing consistent. Although it doesn’t look like much dough, it will rise a lot in the oven.

Press your dough piece into a a rough square shape, about the same length as your piece of sausage. Sprinkle with some cheese, your jalapeños if using, and then top with your sausage.

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Carefully pull the dough over and encase the fillings, pinching the seams together in the middle, and at the sides. Turn the kolache over and try to tuck the side seams gently underneath. This can take some practice, so be patient!

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Arrange your prepared kolache on your baking tray, and brush carefully with egg wash. Leave them to rise for another 20-30 minutes.

There’s a very good chance that they will have become ugly and lumpy after the final prove. Don’t panic – the rapid oven spring should improve their appearance!

Bake for about 15 minutes until they are a deep golden brown colour. Because the kolache have a high sugar content, they will brown quickly. Do not be tempted to take them out too early, as they may be underdone inside, especially if your sausages weren’t completely dry.

Cool on the tray for about 20 minutes before attempting to eat!

OMG. So good.

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Texas-style Kolache

Sponge:
1 cup warm milk
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup (50g) sugar
10g instant yeast
210g bread flour

Dough:
95g melted Crisco
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup warm milk
10g salt
270g bread flour

Fillings:
360g Gilbets Smoked Viennas
150g grated mature cheddar
(optional jalapano slices)

Eggwash:
2 egg whites
1 tbsp water
pinch of salt salt

Mix together the sponge ingredients, then leave to rise for 1 hour
Add melted Crisco, egg yolks, milk, salt and flour. Mix until combined
Turn out onto the bench, and knead for about 5 minutes until the dough is elastic. Leave to rise for another hour

Preheat the oven to 200c/180c fan

Knock the dough back, and then tear off 60g pieces to make each kolache
Stretch out a square of dough on the bench, sprinkle with about a tablespoon of cheese, and then top with a sausage
Roll up the kolache, pinching the seams and sealing the filling
Place seam side down on a lined baking sheet
Egg wash and leave to rise for another 20 minutes

Bake for 15 minutes
Cool on a wire rack

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