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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Czech poppy seed cakes (kolache)


Poppy seed is largely used in sweets and breads all-throughout Eastern Europe and especially the Czech cuisine. Its flavor in combination with honey or sugar and milk can be surpassed by few other sweets. Careful though, poppy seeds in large quantities (like more than a few hundred grams ingested at one meal - which is unlikely to happen, not because they're not delicious but because we are human and our stomachs have their limits :P) can induce sleepiness. Like the poppy fields which made Dorothy and Toto and the Lion sleep on their way to the Emerald City of Oz :).

The kolache are wonderfully semi-sweet yeast-based dough pastries that the Czechs are  famous for and that was chosen to internationally represent their cuisine. They were originally served at weddings but began to be more common in everyday life. The recipe is adapted after an old family Romanian cookbook. Enjoy :)

More Czech goodies:

Garlic soup with chorizo and mustard (Czech).
Bramboraki (Czech potato pancakes).





Ingredients (makes 10-12 large kolache):
  • 500 g flour
  • 1 fresh yeast cube
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of honey
  • 225 ml milk
  • 300 g poppy seeds
  • 100 g butter
  • zest from one lemon
  • 4 eggs
  • one pinch of cinnamon dust
  • 100 g candied lemon peel
  • 1 egg-white
  • a few almond flakes

Lightly heat 100 ml of milk and dissolve the yeast cube in it, along with 1 tablespoon of sugar:

Mix the flour with a pinch of salt, pour the sweet milk and yeast mixture into it and mix into a dry dough:

Let it rise for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, grate the lemon to produce the lemon zest:

After the 15 minutes are up, add the zest, 50 g butter, the rest of the sugar (2 spoons) and the 4 eggs to the dough:

Mix:

Leave to rise for 30 minutes:

After the dough is risen, put the remaining 50 g butter in a small pot or sauce pan and melt together with the remaining 125 ml milk:

After all is melted, add the honey and cinnamon:

Mix. Add the poppy seeds:

Also add 50 g (half) of the candied lemon peel and mix. Preheat the oven at 200 degrees Celsius. Turn off the heat under the pot. Your poppy seed filling is now ready:

Next, lightly sprinkle flour dust over a work surface and take out one handful of sticky dough at a time. Shape it like a 12 cm squares (with a 4 mm thickness):

Yup, those are manly hands working it :). When it reaches the square shape, put the egg-white in a glass nearby (you'll need it to brush the kolache). You can use a pastry brush or your hands:

Next, fold the corners of the square on top of it, like this:

Brush the upside of the folded corners with egg-white also. Then, top it with 3-4 spoonfuls of poppy seed filling:

Also sprinkle with some of the remaining candied lemon peel (you still have half - 50 g - left) and a few almond flakes:

Transfer to a baking tray (with some parchment or baking paper on) and repeat the process with the remaining dough and filling until the tray is full (leaving some space between the cakes):

We used one more little tray (more like a casserole-tray) in addition to the main one:

And yes, that in the corner is a mini-kolack :D. We wouldn't want good dough and filling to go to waste now, would we :) ?
Now, just put the tray(s) in the preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes (depending how browned you like'em). We had to take out the big tray after the first 20 minutes and push up the smaller one for another 3-4 minutes to get more heat into it. So when the time is kindof up, check on your kolache. Then, take'em out:

Allow them to cool a little and dig in! :)

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