Authentic Czech Kolaches

Growing up, kolaches meant giant spiral muffins with sausage and broccoli from the local bakery next to the zoo. Then, I thought kolaches were hot dog cheddar rolls wrapped with fluffy bread like pigs-in-a-blanket, thanks to Kolache Factory during our surgery grand rounds. So when I began googling for recipes, I realized I had no idea what kolaches really were.

Actually, kolaches are a round Czech/Slovak pastries made of mildly sweet and dense yeast dough topped with fruit, cheese, or poppy seed fillings. Some recipes call for a crumble topping with butter and sugar called posypka, which is a more recent addition. It differs from a danish since it’s less sweet and less buttery/flakey.

Technically, kolaches do not contain meat; those are klobasnek (plural klobasniky or klobasniki). Czech settlers created the klobasniky after they immigrated to Texas, and these are very popular in central and south Texas, caled “the Czech belt.” For more history, check out The History Kitchen, The Smithsonian, and The NY Times.

This is an authentic family recipe from a Czech friend, with some adaptations from The History Kitchen.  Next time I would try adding the yolk and butter as well as the posypka to make it fluffier and sweeter. The recipe itself is a labor of love, with all the rising times and homemade fillings, but you can greatly speed it up by using jam (though supposedly, it will bubble over during the baking). I made the mistake of not shaping the dough before the final rise so I had to let it rise a fourth time (the agony of waiting) since it totally deflated when I re-rolled / indented the dough in the baking trays. 

Authentic Czech Kolaches

1 package yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup scalded milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 sifted flour
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk, for wash
(optional: 1 additional egg yolk and 1-2 Tbsps of butter for a richer dough if desired)

Cheese Filling
1/2 package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar, to taste
1 large egg yolk
flavoring: 1 tsp vanilla extract, grated lemon zest, and/or ground cinnamon

Poppy Seed Filling
1/2 can Solo Poppy Seed Filling

Dried Fruit Filling
10-15 pieces dried prunes or apricots
3/4 cup orange juice/water, additional if needed
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
sugar, to taste
1-2 tablespoons cornstarch, additional if needed

Sour Cherry Filling
1 can pitted sour cherries, with juices reserved
1/4 cup reserved cherry juice
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
sugar, to taste

1-2 tablespoons cornstarch, additional if needed 
Posypka (optional)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/8 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Soften the yeast in the warm water. Combine the milk, butter, and salt, and cool to lukewarm. Add one cup flour and mix well. Add the yeast, egg, sugar, and remaining flour and knead until dough is smooth and elastic (dough will be wet).
FYI: I did not do the extra rich dough version but I imagine you mix in in.

Cover and let rise in a warm place until double. Punch down and let rise again until double.

Turn out onto lightly floured board. Roll into 1 1/2 inch balls, slightly flattened, and place onto baking trays lined with parchment paper. Let rise again until doubled.

Once dough has risen, use thumb to make a large indentation in the center. Brush the dough with the egg wash. Add your fillings in the center, and top with posypka if using. Bake at 375 F for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown

Cheese Filling: In a medium bowl, beat the cheese and sugar until smooth. Blend in the yolks and flavoring.
Dried Fruit Filling: Optional: soak dried fruit in juice for several hours or overnight beforehand to soften. In a large saucepan, simmer the fruit and liquid until very soft, about 30 minutes – 1 hour. Add sugar, cinnamon, and cornstarch. Mash/blend until smooth. Adjust cornstarch and liquid to make a thick jamlike consistency

Sour Cherry Filling: In a large saucepan, simmer the cherries and liquid until very soft, about 20-30 minutes. Add sugar, cinnamon, and cornstarch. Mash/blend until smooth. Adjust cornstarch and liquid to make a thick jamlike consistency.

Poppyseed Filling: I used canned. Note that it may bubble over while baking.

Posypka: In a bowl, combine the sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Stir in the butter to make fine crumbs.

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  1. These look just like the ones my Grandmother taught us to make. Every year at Christmas we would have lots of these. My Grandmother would start baking a couple of weeks before Christmas so everyone could take some home. I continue that tradition, just not on the same scale as she did.

  2. Hi! I'm a Texan living in Tennessee and I've been missing kolaches A LOT. I made this recipe up last night with the sweet cheese filling. It seemed my dough, which did have the extra butter and egg suggested for enrichment, was far too wet to traditionally knead and I wasn't sure if this was even called for due to wording in the recipe so I just mixed well in the bowl for a few minutes. It seemed to me that the baked off product was a little more biscuit-y than the Czech belt kolaches I'm accustomed to. Any suggestions? Thank you!

  3. Hello! There no place like Texas! I did the non-rich dough version and it was already pretty wet for me. I can't say I'm an expert since this was a recipe from my Czech friend's grandmother and it's the only recipe I've ever made :/ Mine wasn't biscuity so maybe try it without the extra egg and butter?