May Fest and 24 Kolaches

Sometimes a person just needs 24 kolaches. I have dough recipes that make as many as 6 dozen, but sometimes I just need 24… staff appreciation day at my son’s elementary school, or a monthly staff meeting at work, or (today) a contribution to the dessert table at Slavnost (May Fest) at the Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center (TCHCC) in La Grange. I am a member of the Travis-Williamson Counties chapter of the Czech Heritage Society, but hardly ever go to meetings. The chapter was in charge of the dessert table at the event today, so I decided to finally volunteer with them and also contribute something to the $1/dessert table. I failed to ask what they needed, so brought a pan of kolaches, which the event actually buys from Weikel’s in La Grange.

Other chapter members and TCHCC supporters – all experienced bakers and dessert makers – brought poppyseed and other cakes, apple strudel, pecan and cherry pies, cookies, peach cobbler, brownies and other delicious things.
I wanted to bring something with sort of the equivalent number of servings, so decided to use a recipe for kolaches called Little Batch, which makes one pan of 24. The recipe is from the Catholic Czech Club of Dallas’ 1980 book Generation to Generation and the contributor’s name is Mollie Krizan. (If anyone knows Ms. Krizan today, please get in touch with me so I can talk to her about her recipe.) This was the fourth time I’ve used it and it’s a little gem of a recipe. Soft dough that works perfectly overnight in the refrigerator, and makes a manageable number of kolaches for someone in a 900 square foot apartment. My modification of Ms. Krizan’s recipe is at the bottom of this post.
Eileen Rosipal, Vlasta Vitek, and Janie Zbranek of the
Travis-Williamson Counties chapter of the
Texas Czech Heritage Society. And darn good bakers, too.

There was more information imparted to me about Czech heritage in Texas standing behind the dessert table than in the whole rest of the TCHCC that day, in my opinion. Questions about kolaches and desserts led to discussions about agricultural practices (growing poppies for seeds), Czech language, the health attributes of lard vs. butter, how new products like Crisco changed the Texas Czech table, traditional vs. non-traditional kolach shapes and do they even apply any more, and the division of labor in families, among other topics. The grand dames of my CHS chapter (photo at right) grew up in old school Czech Texas and are so generous with their memories, knowledge, and opinions. I could listen to them all day.

Some crucial tips/opinions relayed to me today from various ladies that I’m going to experiment with…
  • Punch your kolach dough down a few times and let rise again for fluffier kolaches.
  • The more eggs you use in your dough, the softer it will be.
  • Don’t ever call a strudel a buchta! The dough is different and they are not the same thing. (Darn Americans!, I was told.)
  • Use butter instead of Crisco in kolach dough recipes.
  • Evaporated milk in kolach dough = yucky
  • Cottage cheese kolaches made today are not the same as the cottage cheese kolaches made by our collective Czech grandmothers and great grandmothers. They used a drier cottage cheese, which can be replicated today with farmer's cheese.
  • “My mother always made round kolaches” vs. “whatever shape they come out, that’s what shape they are.”
The sweet interior of the 1925 Fair Pavilion on the TCHCC grounds.
The unstoppable Lee Roy and Gwen Petersen of the
Texas Heritage Music and Dance Club.  
The Majek Orchestra of Corpus Christi.
Others at the Slavnost may have been talking as much about food, but the day was filled with other activities, too…. a fried chicken lunch, polka dancing to the multi-generational Majek Orchestra, door prizes and a raffle, admiring a few gorgeous classic cars parked on the grounds, walking around the buildings on the Center’s grounds and seeing the Center’s indoor exhibits, visiting the gift shop and the general store. And, of course, visiting. As always, I ran into several people I’m related to from both sides of my family, and someone I’m probably related to, but neither of us knew our
Lunch of champions from
Shiner Smokehouse and Spoetzl Brewery. 
genealogy well enough to figure out the connection that far back. Doesn’t matter. A beer and sausage wrap and whirl around the dance floor and ALL Texas Czechs are related somehow. Even if it’s just in spirit.

Kolaches (Little Batch) – makes 1 pan of 24 kolaches
Adapted from a recipe by Mollie Krizan in Generation to Generation

½ cup of whole milk
1 packet of dry yeast
½ cup warm water
¼ sugar
½ cup melted Crisco
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
3 cups of flour
¼ cup butter for brushing pan and kolaches

Bring the milk just to the boil and then set it aside to cool. In a small bowl, sprinkle 1 packet of dry yeast over ½ cup of warm water and let proof. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sugar, Crisco, and salt.

Beat the egg and add to the yeast mixture, then add that to the Crisco mixture. Then add the cooled milk to the mixer bowl. Add the flour a ½ cup at a time to the mixer. When it’s all combined, let the mixer knead the dough for 5 minutes. Turn the dough out into a large buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and put into the refrigerator for overnight.

Take the dough out to rise at least 2 hours before you expect to make and fill the kolaches. When risen, scoop out the dough by tablespoons to make 24 balls. Arrange them in a 4 x 6 array on a buttered, rectangular pan with a lip. Brush the dough balls with butter and let them rise again 20-30 minutes. Use your two index fingers to mash or spread an indentation in the middle of each dough ball. Fill with a heaping tablespoon of the filling of your choice. I mash and fill one row of four kolaches at a time. Brush the sides of the filled kolaches with butter. Sprinkle with posipka and bake in a 325 to 350 degree oven until golden brown – 15-25 minutes. This really depends on your oven. My oven runs hot so I bake them at 325 for 25 minutes, but most recipes call for baking kolaches at 350 for 15-20 minutes. Just experiment. Brush the koalches with butter once more after taking them out of the oven.

Texas Czech royalty - me and the lovely Monika Cavanaugh,
Miss Texas Czech-Slovak 2016. I want a sash, too.
Maybe one that says "I bake kolaches."
Polka royalty - National Polka Festival King and
Queen fueling up for the dance. When else does
a grown woman get to wear a crown around?
I want one.

Comments

  1. Very good article. Thanks for the "Little Batch" kolache recipe - have to try this.

    I love your blog - it's wonderful how you are documenting and preserving our Czech culture.

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    1. Thank you for reading and for commenting. Yes, it's a good recipe - I actually have another batch in the oven this morning. A reminder (for me, too) that you have to balance the stickiness of the dough. 3 cups may not be enough on a humid day where you maybe added an extra tablespoon of liquid. I've been told the dough "has to chase the spoon around the bowl" when it's ready. Of course, I use a Kitchen-Aid, no wooden spoon involved. Thought I got it right lat night, but the dough was VERY sticky this morning and on the edge of being too sticky to work with. We'll see. :)

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  2. Dawn, you and I share some connections. Your g-grandfather Kallus had a brother, Frank J. Kallus, who married my great aunt Elizabeth Catherine Wiesner.
    Also, another great-aunt, Anna Barbara Wiesner (sister of Elizabeth), married Dr. John S. Zvesper. Their son, John F. Zvesper, married Johanna A. Kallus, a daughter of your g-grandparents Kallus.

    I have my grandma's kolache recipe - but she was kinda skimpy with directions. Fortunately, my aunt, her daughter, looked it over and added to the directions. And reading the directions and your tips for this “Little Batch” helps also. Since my dad was Czech but my mom was not, I didn't have that in-house Czech to teach me. So I am now teaching myself these traditional Czech baked goods with the help of local ladies, old cookbooks, and some blogs (like yours). Thanks for continuing to share these recipes and Czech traditions!
    Linda Wiesner

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    Replies
    1. Linda - wow you know my family history better than me! ALL Texas Czechs are related some how. My mom let me know that Johanna and John Zvesper were her godparents. We both say "nice to meet you!" Thank you for getting in touch. Dobry den!

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  4. Awesome! Mollie Krizan was my grandmother, I loved reading this! I grew up enjoying this recipe with my family :)

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    1. Sarah - how wonderful! I love when connections like this are made. Your grandmother's recipe is a keeper. In fact, yesterday I cut it in half (still used 1 egg, though) and made just 12 kolaches - super convenient. If you have a photo of her, I'd love to add it to this blog post. Thanks for reading.

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  5. I love this blog! Thank you for sharing the recipe. I definitely need to try it now! I'm related to the Wiesners through my Michna line. My Wiesners never immigrated. I bet they are related to the Wiesners that did, and became Texas Czechs, though. It would be neat to learn how! As you say, we really are all related. It's kind of kind a family web more than a family tree.

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  6. I love this blog! Thank you for sharing the recipe. I definitely need to try it now! I'm related to the Wiesners through my Michna line. My Wiesners never immigrated. I bet they are related to the Wiesners that did, and became Texas Czechs, though. It would be neat to learn how! As you say, we really are all related. It's kind of kind a family web more than a family tree.

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    Replies
    1. Hi, Kate - thank you for commenting and for the kind comment. Are you in Texas? So true about it being a family web - I love feeling connected to so many people. Dobry den!

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