Christmas morning without Kolaches is like the 4th of July without fireworks. Cherry Kolaches have always been my favorite and, until a few years ago, the only kind I ever made. What to do when your new son-in-law doesn’t like cooked fruit? You can never go wrong with Chocolate.
The first year I was a bit doubtful about the results but I was pleasantly surprised. I took a piece of dough, as I would for the cherry kolaches, but flatten in slightly, pressing 1-2 chocolate kisses in the dough, then pinching the dough closed around the chocolate.
Update January 2021: I have made these every year but have graduated to a higher grade of chocolate, using Ghirardelli chocolate chips or squares.
Allow the dough to rise, per the recipe, and bake. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar when removing from the oven (optional).
Kolaches originated in the Slovak countries and our Smaha family brought this Bohemian tradition to America when they immigrated to Iowa in the late 1800s. This tradition has been passed down in our family for many generations. Kolaches are wonderful any time of the year but especially wonderful at Christmas. My family tradition is to have them Christmas morning while we are opening gifts and sipping coffee or hot chocolate.
This picture was taken in Christmas morning 1987 with my Mother, Mother-In-Law, and oldest daughter, Megan. Let the Kolache feast begin!
My all-time favorite Kolache is cherry. This season I was fortunate to buy a large container of fresh frozen tart cherries that I’ve been saving for Kolache filling this Christmas. Other years, I have used canned cherry pie filling. I have made Kolaches from old-fashioned sweet dough recipes but a new favorite is the sweet dough recipe for the bread machine. In a pinch, I have used frozen bread dough, even though not sweet, is very good.
Traditional Kolache come in many flavors including the timeless Bohemian prune or poppy-seed fillings. My Mother’s Kolaches were fabulous and we waited with excitement while they baked, poised to snatch one as soon as they came out of the oven.
Everyone’s Kolaches are a tad different. My Mother didn’t add the crumb topping to her Kolaches but a wonderful farm neighbor, Nellie, made Prune Kolaches with crumb topping in her old wood stove. You haven’t lived until you’ve had Kolaches from a wood cooking stove. My Aunt Lora, baked Kolaches that she pinched closed at the top and sprinkled with sugar. Equally wonderful.
Wishing all of you a wonderful Christmas and many cherished family traditions.
SWEET BREAD DOUGH (FOR BREAD MACHINE)
1 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast
4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup less 1 T. water
All ingredients should be at room temperature. Add the ingredients in the order listed above.
Run the machine through the dough cycle. Remove and work on floured board to desired loaf, rolls, etc.
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 cup juice from cherries
3 cups pitted tart red cherries (water pack)
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon red food coloring
Combine 3/4 cup sugar with cornstarch. Stir in cherry juice.
Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, till mixture thickens and bubbles; cook 1 minute longer. Add remaining sugar, cherries, butter and food coloring and cook until thickened. Mixture will be very thick. Let stand while preparing bread dough for Kolaches.
PREPARING THE KOLACHES:
Pinch a piece of dough about the size of a walnut (or ping pong ball) and place on a greased baking pan. Cover with wax paper then a towel and let rise until double in size. When risen, push centers of balls down and fill with cherry filling (or filling of choice). Let rise again and bake at 400 degrees.
KOLACHE CRUMB TOPPING (Optional)
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/4 teaspoon salt (omit if using margarine)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Mix all ingredients together (use a pastry blender) until crumbly and use as a topping for Kolaches or coffee cakes.