Kolache (Koláče)

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Here is a recipe for koláče, typical Slovak (and Czech and Moravian) sweet treats. Here in the US, this word, or at least it’s English version, kolache has come to mean the nut and poppy seed rolls. But this is not quite right. The word koláč (the singular form) is a generic term for anything sweet and baked – sort of like cake in English. The nut and poppy rolls are called orechovník and makovník. But even the modern Slovak meaning is not right. In the past, koláče (the plural form) referred to circular breads with sweet filling in the middle. This history is still retained in the name itself. The word koláč shares a root with kolo and koleso, both meaning a wheel. And of course, these terms surely derive from an even more ancient language (Greek perhaps?).

These old traditional circular baked goodies are popular at fairs (jarmoky). My hometown of Banská Bystrica is famous for a huge fair, Radvanský jarmok. This ancient fair is said to be the king of fairs. And for a good reason. It has been held in September for now over 340 years! It all started back in 1655 when then a village of Radvaň held its first market. Much has changed since then, the village has merged into the city to become one of its “suburbs”: Radvaň is now one of the two main residential parts (called sídlisko, the other is Sásová in the north end). The fair has also migrated to the center of town and is now held in conjunction with “Banská Bystrica Days“. But it is still a great place to find unique crafts and sample various culinary delicacies. In that article, in the second picture from the top, you can see another popular offering at Slovak fairs: gingerbread hearts. These are always lavishly decorated and sometimes even contain a mirror baked into the dough. Such hearts were given by boys to their loved ones, and in the past, mirrors were not as common as they are now so they were highly prized. That is at least the explanation I was given…

Ingredients: sweet leavened dough, your favorite toppings (plum jam, poppy seeds, walnuts, and farmer’s cheese are traditional)
Poppy seed / walnut filling: ground poppy seeds/walnuts, powdered sugar, milk
Tvaroh filling: farmer’s cheese, powdered sugar, raisins, egg
Prep time: 1 hour, plus few hours to the dough rise

Start by preparing the sweet leavened dough (click on the link for the recipe). While the dough is rising, prepare your favorite filling. Check out the poppy seed roll recipe for the poppy and walnut filling, and the tvaroh cake recipe for the farmer’s cheese filling. I also used plum jam (slivkový lekvár), which I found in a Russian grocery store under “plum butter”. You will also find steps for preparing these same fillings in the Christmas Eve cake recipe.

kolache dough
Once the dough is ready, transfer it onto a dusted board and roll out to about 4mm thick.

kolache press drinking glass making kolache
Then take a tall drinking glass and dust the rim with flour. Turn the glass upside down and use a twisting motion to cut out a circle. Then turn it the right side up and use the flat base to press out the edges. Or use a tablespoon, your fingers, or even a fancy kolache press. Spoon your favorite topping into the dimple.

kolache before baking poppy seed kolach
Transfer the filled kolache onto a greased baking sheet. Brush the edges with egg yolk. Let rise while you preheat your oven the 400F. Bake for about 15 minutes until the edges turn light brown color. The poppy seed koláč went into the oven solo: my baking pan was filled with a nut roll, buchty and tvarožník. There was simply no room for it!

kolache slovak czech kolachky
And that’s it, homemade koláče. Enjoy!

And for a slightly different version, checkout Alena’s recipe.