Kolaches in the Capitol

Austin may the State capitol and the live music capitol of the world, but it is not the "Kolache Capitol of Texas." That honor (or designation) was bestowed on Caldwell, Texas in 1989 by the Texas Legislature. However, if you've got a craving for kolaches in Austin, I offer my humble recommendations as a Texas-Czech, a foodie, and a baker of kolaches myself. I am biased by these perspectives, without a doubt, so my choices for respectable kolach purveyors in Austin make up an extremely short (but worthy) list. (This post is part of the Austin Food Blogger Alliance's Austin City Dining Guide 2013.)



First, a lesson for the uninitiated. Kolaches are a type of pastry brought to Texas by Czech immigrants. They've morphed over the generations and what we call kolaches in Texas are similar, but not exactly like their great-great-grandparents in the Czech Republic. They're not even exactly like their cousins in Nebraska, Illinois, Iowa or other places in the US where Czechs also settled.


Generally, the soft, fragrant, yeasty dough has been coaxed into a square shape by butting up against other kolaches while rising and baking on a rectangular cookie sheet. They can be open-faced or closed. Traditional fillings are fruit, sweetened cottage or cream cheese, or poppyseeds. In the world of commercial bakeries, dough wrapped around sausage, ham and cheese, or other savory ingredients are also called kolaches, even though they're not. This makes for much confusion if you're searching for the real thing on sites like Yelp!, where well-meaning, but clueless eaters write posts like "Love their kolaches!" about donut shops that wrap Little Smokies in Sysco-supplied croissant dough. Do not be fooled!


Kolaches are like the taco of Texas Czech cuisine – you can find them everywhere, done well and done badly, cooked at home and commercially, in artisan versions and fast food versions, filled with traditional fillings and unconventional ones.  They have aficionados and purists and also lovers who aren't from the kolach’s culture of origin but have adopted them as their own. Here are the three places in Austin at which I'll eat a kolach...


Zubikhouse's bacon, apple and brie kolaches. Photo from the Zubikhouse website.



The Zubikhhouse
Zubikhouse sells kolaches and a few breakfast items using kolach dough from a trailer at the downtown farmer's market on Saturdays. This is the only establishment I know of in Austin run by an actual, honest-to-goodness Texas Czech. Though Andy Zubik serves an untraditional smoked pork shoulder with local honey and pickled jalapenos kolach and a Sweet Mexican vanilla and cottage cheese kolach, these combinations seem like well-thought-out nods to local flavors rather than deliberate cultural hodge podges created just to attract non-Czechs to the joys of the kolach. (Which is what you'll find at chain kolach bakeries.) Andy's flavors change periodically, so try what strikes your fancy. But, if they have them, I recommend the bacon, brie and apple kolach, the Czech Dog with sausage, or the traditional prune and apricot.

Zubikhouse's trailer at the Dowtown Farmer's Market.
Photo from the Zubikhouse website.
Moonlight Bakery's jalapeno and cheese kolach on the left
and a blueberry kolach on the right. 
Moonlight Bakery
Moonlight Bakery on South Lamar makes everything from scratch which automatically gives them a leg up over many commercial bakeries. The dough is dense, yeasty, almost a square shape and they sprinkle posipka on top (like s streusel topping of butter, sugar and flour, which is traditional to me.) The blueberry kolaches were filled with real blueberries - what a treat! And try the apple, apricot, or cream cheese. But get there early. By the time I got to the bakery at 9am (most Austin hipsters were still asleep), there were literally only 4 kolaches left.... not 4 varieties, but 4 kolaches.

Kolache Creations (formerly Kolache Shoppe)
This place has been around for 30 years and truly feels like a small town bakery. It is my choice for old-school commercial kolach bakeries, but be selective. The best bets here are the closed poppyseed kolaches, or the cream cheese, cottage cheese, or prune. Not all their fruit fillings get the same care and attention as these do. Order the sausage "kolaches" at your own risk - unfortunately, Kolache Creation DOES use Little Smokies for these, though the dough is good. On some level, if you're a sausage lover, there is not a bad sausage kolach... anything smoky and salty and porky will do the trick. But for a Texas-Czech that grew up with homemade kolaches, using Little Smokies is like making macaroni and cheese with Cheez Whiz. Try the the bacon and cheese "kolaches" instead, which are busting with chopped bacon and cheddar cheese (though these are not traditional fillings.)
 



There are at least a dozen other places in Austin you could get a sausage wrapped in dough and, like I said above, if you're a sausage lover, it is hard to get a bad one. Especially when these bakeries are buying commercially-produced sausage. Really, they only need to get the dough right to have a sellable product. So, if that's what you're after, just Google kolaches in Austin and you can probably find a bakery close to you. But for fruit or cheese kolaches, I can only recommend the bakeries above. I recently got notice that Salt and Time will be making kolaches with Stephanie McClenny's Confituras strawberry jam. I hope to try them soon, so I can add them to the list above. It's a disgracefully short list for the capitol of Texas. 



Comments

  1. Oh, this is highly valuable information! Thank you!

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  2. There is a great Kolache place in Ennis,TX, if you drive between Dallas and Houston on I-45. I think it's called the Kolache Depot, in a convenience store (Chevron gas station, actually). They have the basics: cheese, berry, apricot, prune, and poppyseed. My mom and I stop there every time we go through there. If you get a chance, you should try them. -- Melinda

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