Grandma Jo’s Kolache

A Tray of Kolatche

This was not the initial introduction for this recipe.  Crafted two weeks ago, the original was black and grim and utterly fitting of my mind at the time. I write best when I’m in one of those melancholy moods – the words soar off the page, even while the rest of me steeps in the mire. 

But in this morning’s dusky hours, humming between the cool sheets, I realize my gothic words no longer fit my current mood.  In the first version, I was a victim, lamenting, keening and tortured.  Today, I no longer suffer. A strong and determined bird ascending from the ashes, I will survive the surging fires that 2020 has kindled at my feet, smiling, irrepressible and radiant, as I rise towards great heights. 

Finally, after weeks of failed yeasted sweet dough recipes that were never quiet right, I’ve created these kolaches, based on my friend’s grandma’s recipe.  Here’s to brighter, delicious days ahead!


Grandma Jo’s Kolache

  • Servings: About 2 Dozen
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This recipe was inspired by my friend, Pamela’s, grandmother’s kolache recipe.


Ingredients


Dough
– 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
– 1 ¼ cup whole milk (105-110⁰ F)
– ½ cup sugar
– 2 egg yolks
– 1 teaspoon lemon zest
– 3 – 4 cups bread flour
– ⅛ teaspoon mace or ½ teaspoon vanilla
– 1 ½ t. salt
– 1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened
Raspberry Jam
– 7 oz. frozen raspberries
– 1 cup sugar
Cheese Filling
– 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
– ⅓ cup sugar
– 1 egg yolk
– 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
Posipka Topping
– 3 Tablespoons sugar
– 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
– 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Directions

  1. Make the kolache: In a small bowl, combine yeast and warm milk and set aside for 5 minutes to bloom. Meanwhile, in the bowl of an electric mixer, combine sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla (if using). Add milk mixture. Switch to a dough hook, add 3 cups bread flour, mace (if using) and salt and mix on medium speed. Add additional flour (up to 4 cups total) until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Add unsalted butter, a little bit at a time and mix on medium speed until soft and elastic, about 10 minutes. Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover and let proof in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Make the fillings while dough proofs.
  2. Make the jam: Combine the frozen raspberries and sugar in a small deep-sided saucepan and bring to boil over a medium heat. When the sugar is melted, increase the heat and boil for another 4 minutes. Remove from the heat. Leave to cool and set.
  3. Make the cheese filling: Stir together all ingredients until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  4. Make the posipka topping: Sir together all ingredients until topping resembles rough sand. Set aside.
  5. Once dough is proofed, roll into 24 1½ oz. balls, flatten slightly and place on a silpat or parchment-lined sheet pan about 1½” apart. Cover and let proof again for 30-45 minutes. Preheat oven to 400⁰F. Make a large well in each with fingers. Fill with about 1 Tablespoon of cheese filling. Dollop cheese with about 1 teaspoon jam. Sprinkle kolaches with posipka. Bake for 12-15 minutes until brown.

Unbaked Kolache ready for the oven

Cheesy Bacon Semolina Bread

Two Boules of Cheesy Bacon Semolina Bread
I host a monthly fiction book club. Successfully running for about 2 ½ years, our lineup ranges from historical fiction to surrealism to sci-fi and everything in between. I started the club with visions of it becoming a modern version of the traditional salon… a gathering of like-minded individuals discussing a shared interest, in this case – reading and books.

The other day, a potential new member asked me if we tackle uncomfortable issues – poverty, homelessness, women’s issues, and BLM. This was my response (in part):

“This is a fiction book club and while the books we read have, at certain times, focused on various issues such as slavery, poverty, the rise of Nazism in Germany, family issues, etc., these topics are always couched within a fictionalized story. Our primary focus is reading for pleasure and a good discussion.”

After responding, I felt guilty – guilty for reading for mere pleasure and a good discussion. In the face of MAGA, global warming, COVID-19, school shootings, and BLM, why am I gathering a group together to discuss fanciful escapism stories? Shouldn’t we be tackling these bigger issues? And what about my blogging? Why am I spending hours testing, writing, photographing and posting a recipe for some complicated artisanal version of bread when children in my own city went to bed last night without a morsel in their belly? Shouldn’t I focus on moving the needle rather than my own pleasure? Could I be doing more? Should I be doing more?

I’m confident I’m not alone in this feeling and, I decided, we need to cut ourselves some slack. We can donate, march, vote, and volunteer to support the causes important to us, but we aren’t doing anyone good if we don’t also support ourselves through self-care:  recharging by doing the things we love like reading and cooking and gathering socially. It’s a balance – no guilt required.

I seem to be a collector of flours.  I currently have eight (eight!) in my refrigerator, which doesn’t include the All-Purpose in my pantry.  I chose this recipe to help use up leftover semolina flour. This recipe was inspired by artisan semolina bread from breadworld.com.


Cheesy Bacon Semolina Bread

This is a hearty, savory bread that’s great for toast and rustic sandwiches. The Poolish needs to be started the night before.


Ingredients

    Poolish
  • 1 cup bread flour
  • ½ teaspoon rapid rise yeast
  • ¾ cup warm water (105⁰ – 110⁰ F.)
  • Dough
  • ½ teaspoon rapid rise yeast
  • ¾ cup warm water (105⁰ – 110⁰ F.)
  • Poolish
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups semolina flour
  • ½ – ¾ cup bread flour
  • 8 slices bacon, fully cooked and crumbled
  • 8 scallions, finely sliced
  • 1 cup strong-flavor grated cheese (such as aged white cheddar)
  • 2 Tablespoons dried sage

Directions

  1. Make Poolish: Stir together flour and yeast in a medium bowl. Add water and stir until blended. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit overnight or up to 24 hours at room temperature. The poolish will become frothy.
  2. Make Dough: Dissolve yeast in water and let rest for 5 minutes. In the bowl of a mixer, combine water, poolish, olive oil and salt and mix on low speed with a dough hook until blended. Add semolina and ½ cup bread flour and continue mixing on low until fully combined. If dough is too sticky, add additional bread flour, if needed. On medium  speed, knead dough with a dough hook for 5about minutes until dough becomes a silky, smooth ball.
  3. Add bacon, scallions, cheese and sage and knead about another minute until ingredients have combined. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film and proof in a warm location for about an hour or until doubled in size.
  4. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half. Working with each half, pull the edges of the dough towards the center, working your way around and shaping it into a round ball. Turn the ball over, cupping the sides of the ball, and roll the bottom around in a circle until the top is smooth and tight. Place both boules on a parchment-lined rimless baking sheet. Cover with cling film, ensuring the cling film does not touch the dough and proof for another hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 475⁰, arrange an 8×8 pan filled with 1” of hot water on the bottom rack (steam ensures a crisp crust), and a rack above for the baking sheet  (the sheet should be as close to the bottom of the oven as possible). Score each boule. Place the baking sheet on the rack and bake for approximately 25 minutes or until the internal temperature  of the bread reaches 200⁰. Cool on wire rack.

Lemon Blueberry Breakfast Buns

Lemon Blueberry Breakfast Buns
Yesterday was about self-care. Cajoling myself to smile, if only a little, for a moment. I bought myself a new candle, vetiver and cedarwood. I took an extra-long, extra-hot shower. I sat on the floor and played with the kitties in the morning sunlight while sipping my coffee. I spent the afternoon in my kitchen, my Band-aid and bomb shelter, baking wonderful things to share, scenting my little house with yeast, sugar and lemon.


Lemon Blueberry Breakfast Buns

Decadent fluffy lemon buns studded with blueberries for indulging and sharing.


Ingredients

    Dough
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk (105⁰ – 110⁰)
  • 1 Tablespoon Red Star Yeast
  • 1 Large egg (room temperature)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 5 ¼ cups bread flour
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter (softened)
  • Filling
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter (softened)
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon zest
  • 2 cups frozen blueberries, thawed and drained
  • 1 large egg (beaten)
  • Glaze
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 1 Tablespoon light corn syrup
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 ⅛ cups powdered sugar

Directions

  1. Combine milk and yeast in a small bowl and set aside for 10 minutes to allow the yeast to activate. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine egg, vanilla, bread flour, sugar, salt, and milk mixture. Using a dough hook on low speed, stir together ingredients until combined. Increase to medium speed and mix for about 8 minutes, slowly adding the butter a little bit at a time, until dough is fully developed (window pane test). Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film, and let proof 45-60 minutes until doubled in size.
  2. Combine butter, sugar and lemon zest in a small bowl and set aside. Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface 16” long by 15” wide. Cover dough with sugar filling leaving a 1” border on one long side. Cover sugar filling with blueberries. Roll up lengthwise sealing along the border with a little beaten egg.
  3. Cut into 12 rolls, approximately 1 ½” thick. Place in a 13” x 11” pan, cover with cling film and proof for another 45 minutes or until doubled in size.
  4. Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 190⁰-200⁰. Remove from oven. Combine glaze ingredients and glaze buns while still warm.

Note: I was originally going to use fresh blueberries in this recipe, but decided to use frozen due to their uniformity in size and the ease of rolling them up in the buns.

Coconut Cherry Breakfast Buns

A pile of Coconut Cherry Breakfast Buns sprinkled with toasted coconut
“Can you FEEL that?!” he asked – his breath in my ear. He wasn’t asking about the sex. Yes, I could feel the pleasure of him inside of me, but this was something…electric. I was astonished to discover he could feel it as well – a tingling running through both of us like an unbroken current of charged energy. We fit together in a way that transcended the physicality of the act. I wasn’t new to good sex, yet this was the first time I understood the power of true chemistry – a shared, tangible connection, separate and unique from emotions like love.

I’m older wiser now and understand there are a rare few whose chemistry mixes so profoundly with mine – men who, at the careless brush of their hand along my skin, cause my blood to shimmer. Unbelieving that I am the only one transfigured by this rush of sensation, I want to grab them, look them square in the face, and ask, “Can you FEEL that?!”

Moving outside my bedroom and into the safer confines of my kitchen now, my second favorite chemical reaction is the combining of yeast and sugar (or, in the recipe below, honey). Officially called enthanol fermentation, it’s the delicious result when yeast and sugar get their boogie on. I’m pretty sure, when it happens, yeast rubs up against sugar and asks, “Can you FEEL that?!” Their chemistry results in yeasty breads, rolls and buns – transforming a few simple ingredients into something transcendent, like these Coconut Cherry Breakfast Buns.


Coconut Cherry Breakfast Buns

Mildly sweet breakfast buns stuffed with toasted coconut, Morello cherries and spices.


Ingredients

  • ¾ cup whole milk
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup Morello cherries or other canned/jarred cherries, drained well and chopped
  • ½ cup toasted coconut, plus more for decorating
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon water

Directions

  1. In the microwave, heat the milk and honey until warm (105⁰ – 110⁰ F). Sprinkle the yeast over the milk and let rest for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, combine flour, salt, cinnamon and cardamom in a large bowl.
  2. Add the butter and vanilla to the milk mixture (it should be foamy by now) and then stir into the flour to create a shaggy dough. Cover and let dough rest for 15 minutes.
  3. Transfer the dough to your work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 12-15 minutes. Pat the dough into a disk, sprinkle with cherries and coconut and press into dough. Roll the dough up like a sausage encasing the fruit and then lightly knead to distribute the fruit well. Transfer the dough to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave to proof in a warm spot until doubled in size, about one hour.
  4. Divide the dough into 8 even pieces, roll into round balls, picking off any fruit on the outside that is exposed, and place each bun on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and proof again until risen, about 45 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake for 17-22 minutes until buns are dark golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. For glaze, combine sugar and water and microwave until sugar dissolves. Brush warm buns with glaze and sprinkle with toasted coconut. Buns are best served slightly warm.

Best Coffee Cake Muffins

These muffins have the ideal 50/50 ratio of streusel to cake that every proper coffee cake should have – and the muffin portion is so light, rather than eat the streusel and throw away the muffin– it begs you to eat the whole thing…and perhaps even go for another. No health–redeeming qualities – this is pure morning indulgence.

coffe cake muffins with streusel topping

“Good morning, Sunshine,” the dawn nudges me through my bedroom window. I roll to my left, away from the light, and burrow deeper under the duvet, hoping the patiently waiting kitties outside my bedroom door haven’t heard me stir. I’ve made this bed too much of a sanctuary to leave these sweet dreams and warm warren of covers so easily. I sleep in a freezing-cold room, a habit I learned from my mother. Each evening, I throw my window wide open to the night air, and if the eve isn’t cold enough, I supplement with A/C as well. Sixty-seven degrees – ideal sleeping conditions for coveting a deeper snuggle, but not a temperature that beckons throwing the covers off each morning. I wear nothing but a tank top and panties, ensuring the need for my well-insulated nest. I surround myself with no less than four pillows – two under my head, one that I drape myself over, like a lover, and a fourth on standby, in case one escapes to the floor during the night. My blanket is “microplush,” my duvet, goose down. I arrange myself beneath the warmth and weight of these friends, creating a womb for dreaming, and dread the morning that always seems to come too soon.

A steaming cup of coffee brought to me in bed, with just the right amount of milk – my favorite morning treat, but not a pleasure I’ve experienced lately. If I want coffee, it’s up to me to leave this nest and brew it. Caffeine alone will not tempt me from my lair, but coffee and one of these muffins does the trick.


Best Coffee Cake Muffins

  • Servings: 12 muffins
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These muffins have the ideal 50/50 ratio of streusel to cake that every proper coffee cake should have – and the muffin portion is so light, rather than eat the streusel and throw away the muffin– it begs you to eat the whole thing.


Ingredients

    Crumb topping
  • ½ cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • Batter
  • 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 large eggs
  • ⅔ cups full-fat plain yogurt
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Make crumb topping: Mix both sugars, cinnamon, and salt in medium bowl. Add melted butter and stir to blend. Add flour and toss until clumps form. Set aside.
  2. Make Muffins: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 12 muffin tins with papers or grease with butter. Sift flour, baking soda, and salt into medium bowl and set aside. In the bowl of a mixer, beat butter until smooth. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat until well combined. Add yogurt, lemon zest and vanilla and beat until blended. Add flour mixture in 2 additions, beating just until incorporated.
  3. Fill each muffin tin ¼ full of batter. Sprinkle ½ of crumb topping over. Cover topping with remaining batter, smoothing as evenly as possible. Cover with a thick layer of remaining topping. Do not overfill.
  4. Bake muffins until tester inserted into center comes out clean and topping is deep golden brown and slightly crisp, about 25 minutes. Cool and serve slightly warm or at room temperature.