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

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.

Almond-Orange Bostock Pastries

Two Almond Orange Bostock on a plate

My guy wanted to sample a loaf of freshly baked bread I had made earlier in the week. I knew it wouldn’t survive with maximum freshness until Saturday, when I’d see him next, and I was trying to determine the best way to supply him with the baked goodness he craved. Toast with jam? Yawn! French toast? Been there, done that! Then, I remembered bostock.

Oh yes, bostock!

If French toast and a bear claw had a love child, bostock would be the result. This addictive breakfast confection is made by soaking a thick slice of enriched bread, like brioche, in flavorful syrup, slathering it with a generous layer of homemade almond cream paste and finishing it off with crunchy sliced almonds. The pastry is then baked until the almond topping is puffed, golden and crispy. It needs nothing more than a sprinkling of powdered sugar to finish it off. Fancy enough for a brunch gathering, this tasty treat first appeared in Europe as a way for bakers to use up day-old brioche bread but became such a beloved treat that bakers had to start baking more brioche just to keep up with the demand.  I’ve seen some bakers sandwich a layer of jam between the syrup and almond paste to gild the lily, but I prefer the simplicity of the original.

It may seem like a lot of work for a busy weekend morning, but it’s actually simple to prepare. The syrup and almond cream paste can be made the day before. Then, in the morning, just slather the bread with the syrup and almond cream while the oven heats up, sprinkle with almonds, bake for about 20 minutes while you have your first cup of coffee (or some morning canoodling) and they’re ready. Breakfast is served!


Almond-Orange Bostock Pastry

The REAL French toast. Crispy almond cream paste topped pastries flavored with orange flower syrup.


Ingredients

    Orange Flower Syrup
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon orange flower water
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • Almond Cream Paste
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup almond flour a.k.a. almond meal, toasted until fragrant
  • ¾ cup powdered sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract
  • Bostock
  • 6 slices brioche, challah or other enriched bread, sliced 1” thick
  • ¼ cup sliced almonds
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting

Directions

  1. Make Syrup: Heat water and sugar in a small saucepan until sugar has dissolved. Turn off heat and add orange flower water and zest. Set aside.
  2. Make Almond Cream Paste: In a medium bowl, stir butter, toasted almond flour, powdered sugar, and salt together until well combined. Add egg and extracts and blend well.
  3. Make Bostock: Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. Brush both sides of brioche slices well with orange flower syrup. Liberally spread tops of slices with 3-4 tablespoons of almond cream paste and sprinkle with sliced almonds. Place bostock on lined sheet pan and bake 18-22 minutes until tops are golden and almond cream is slightly puffy. Dust with powdered sugar and serve warm.

4 bostock on a sheet pan and dusted with powdered sugar

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.