Thursday, November 1, 2012

Peach, Pear, Poppy, Prune, Pecan



Last week I did a kolach-making demo at the monthly meeting of the Austin Czech Historical Association (ACHA.) I was worried that I'd be "preaching to the choir", so thought I'd focus my attention on filings rather than the basics of how to bake kolaches. Poeple tend to make the big three at home (prune, apricot, cheese) and though I'm not a fan of non-traditional fillings, there are others that are worthy of being made. I was actually surprised by how few people at the meeting raised their hand when I asked who made kolaches themselves. I did end up talking about the whole process, but did a handout of assorted filling recipes I'd collected.  

Me and ACHA President Alice Kubicek. 
For the demo, I made prune, cottage cheese, cabbage, and poppyseed fillings. The cabbage and prune fillings were very good and I've included them below. One older man at the meeting tasted the cabbage filling from the bowl and smiled as if he was momentarily transported back to his childhood. It is not a taste for everyone, though - my partner Mark took one bite of the finished cabbage kolach, but wouldn't take another. My sons wouldn't even try them. 

The other two recipes I tried were bombs - Claudia Matcek's poppyseed filling from Robb Walsh's new book "Texas Eats" and Virginia Rektorik Atkinson's cottage cheese filling from www.texasczechs.homestead.com.  Both were way too runny and I did not include them below.


Though I was "teaching" the attendees, I learned several pointers from Austin's resident rock-star Czech (from Czech Republic) cook, Pavla Van Bibber. Pavla teaches baking and pastry at the Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Austin and makes the whole Czech meal for the ACHA's annual Cesky Vecer dinner. I was actually nervous to bake in front of her, but she was kind and encouraging and admits that she doesn't make Texas-Czech kolaches. Apparently Pavla made kolaches the next day with her students using my grandmother's dough recipe which really pleased me. My grandmother would have been humble about this, but I hope she's smiling up there in heaven.


Pavla cautioned against using egg yolks in fillings, which I sort of understand after the cottage cheese filling turned out badly (called for two egg yolks.) However, the cream cheese recipe below does call for egg yolks - I've made it several times and I know it's good. And Pavla generously showed me and the attendees how to shape "wedding kolaches"... a way to make covered kolaches that's different than the rectangular method we use in Texas for poppyseed and for klobasniky. It's my new preferred method. 



Many hands make light work. Poeple loved to come close and watch
or get their hands into the dough and help shape and fill the kolaches.
The recipes in this post are either from my collection of cookbooks and articles (I copied them exactly from their sources) or were from ladies I'd watched make them. I've actually tested the recipes whose titles are in red and would recommend them.  The others are ones that seemed right and are offered in the spirit of variety. If anyone has recipes for pear, persimmon, dewberry, or nut fillings and would be willing to share, please send them my way (with source credit) as I haven't found examples of those yet.

I think people have forgotten that women used to make kolaches out of whatever they had grown, whatever was in season. Pineapple excluded, I can think of at least a dozen fillings that could be locally sourced or home-grown in Texas. That's a much wider definition of "traditional" than commercial bakeries would have us believe. Happy baking!   

Apple Pecan
Bernice Meyer in the “Czech Heritage Collection” put out by the Most Holy Trinity Mission in Trinity, TX, 1994
3 large apples, finely chopped in food processor
½ cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix sugar and cornstarch and add to apples. Cook in a saucepan over medium heat until apples are tender and filling is thick. Add cinnamon, pecans, and vanilla. Let cool.

Apricot
Anastasia Rainosek (deceased)
16 ounces dried apricots
½ cup white sugar
Soak the apricots overnight in a pot of water. In the morning, boil them in the same water until soft, then drain. (Save the juice for drinking or Jell-O or fruit syrup.) Mash the drained apricots with a potato masher until pulverized. Add the sugar and taste. If they are not sweet enough, add more to taste.



Apricot Variation
Mrs. Jerome Knebel, “A Key to Good Cooking” compiled by the Hillje Altar Society, 1973
Cook 8 oz. package of dried apricots in a small amount of water slowly, being careful not to scorch it. When the apricots are soft, add 1 can drained peach slices and mash together. Add sugar to taste and a small amount of butter. Tapioca may be added as a thickener. This should be made a day or so ahead of time and allowed to set before using.

Cabbage
Dorothy Bohac (deceased), published in the 1998 edition of Texas Monthly’s “The Ranch” (online)
3 cups grated cabbage
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 ounce butter
½ cup or more sugar
1 teaspoon flour
Fry the cabbage in the butter until soft. Add the salt, black pepper, sugar and flour and fry until 
golden brown, being careful not to burn.


Cabbage filling sauteing in the pan.
Cottage Cheese
“Texas Highways Cookbook” by Joanne Smith, University of Texas Press, 1986
1 cup drained cottage cheese (must be dry*)
2 tablespoons flour
½ cup sugar or more to taste
¼-1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
raisins if desired
Mix all ingredients.
*Note from Dawn - drain the cottage cheese in a colander in the refrigerator overnight. Then, place it in cheesecloth and squeeze as much of the remaining moisture out of it as possible. 

Cream Cheese
Rose Hauger and Ann Adams, Floresville, TX
16 ounces cream cheese
2 egg yolks
½ cup sugar
grated rind of one lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla
Soften cream cheese. Beat all ingredients into the cheese in a medium-sized bowl.

Fig
Vickie Klimitchek (deceased)
1 12-ounce bag of dried figs
½ cup sugar or to taste
1 teaspoon cinnamon or to taste
Boil the figs for about 10 minutes until tender. Drain them and let cool. Mix the cooled figs together with the sugar and cinnamon.


Peach
John Sommer
24 ounces dried peaches
1 ½ cups sugar
2 1/3 tablespoons cinnamon (rounded)
Cover peaches with water for approximately one hour. Cook until tender. Drain. Using a potato masher or food processor, process the fruit and combine with sugar and cinnamon, tasting constantly until reaching optimum level. Use.

Pineapple
Bexar County Czech Heritage Society, handed out at the 2005 Texas Folklife Festival in San Antonio
1 small can crushed pineapple and juice
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour or cornstarch
Mix all together and cook until thick.

Variation: Pineapple Swirl
Lori Jurena, Yoakum, TX from “Victoria County Czech Heritage Society: A Collection of Family Recipes,” 1992
1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple
3 level tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup sugar
8 oz. cream cheese
¼ cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Bring pineapple and sugar to a boil. Meanwhile mix cornstarch with water to make medium-thick mixture and pour into the boiling pineapple mixture. Cook until thickened and clear. Set aside to cool. Stir the cream cheese and ¼ cup sugar together until well blended and add the egg yolk. Stir well and add the lemon juice, Swirl the cream cheese mixture into the cooled pineapple mixture. Set aside until ready to use.

Poppyseed
Mary Kutra Hosak, Travis-Williamson Counties CHS "Czech Heritage Cookbook", 1996
            2 cups ground poppy seeds
            1 cup milk
            1/2 cup butter
            1 1/2 cups sugar
Cook on medium heat until thickened.

Prune kolaches just out of the oven. 
Prune
Mary Siptak, 1985 Reserve Champion, Burleson County Bake-Off, from the Burleson County Chamber of Commerce website

Cover an 8 oz. package of pitted or unpitted prunes with water and bring to a boil. Simmer 20 to 25 minutes or until tender. Add ¾ cup sugar and boil for 3 minutes. Drain off juice and reserve. If unpitted, let prunes cool then remove stones and mash prunes to a pulp (or place in a blender and blend until like mush.) If consistency is on the thick side, add some of the reserved juice. If too thin, add some flour. Add 2 tsp. melted butter or margarine and flavor with vanilla or cinnamon. Place on kolaches when cool.

Variation: Prune or Apricot and Nuts
Mrs. James Matcek, “A Key to Good Cooking” compiled by the Hillje Altar Society, 1973
Press indentation in center of each bun [dough ball.] Place a pitted, cooked prune or apricot dipped in nuts into each indentation.

*Thanks to Lori Najvar for taking photos at the meeting.  And if any of you readers would like a private baking class, I'll come to your house and teach you and three friends if you make a substantial donation to PolkaWorks for the traveling exhibit we're producing called Texas Czechs: Rooted in Tradition. Contact me for details.  

1 comment:

  1. I came here from the Smithsonian article when I saw you shared the same kolache philosophy my husband (3/4 Czech heritage, raised in Texas) has. I've been making kolaches for several years now, but haven't made poppyseed yet, so I'm hoping the recipe you found works. Apple pecan looks good too, and you might consider dried cherry for a nice tart variant.

    You mentioned you were shown how to do a wedding kolache- any chance of doing a video? I'd love to see the method.

    ReplyDelete