Early recollections of Easter dinners bring back memories of coloring Easter eggs and making kolaches. We looked forward to sweet treats because those were given up for Lent. Usually we had a few apples that were wrapped in newspapers to help keep them from shriveling. These made up into delicious apple-filled kolaches.
This is a yeast bread that is filled with any number of fruit and other fillings. There are many variations but a couple of my favorites are the apple-filled kolaches and poppy seed kolaches, shown here.
Growing up, our Easters were very much centered around church and church activities. Giving up meat on Fridays and fasting were part of the pre-Easter ritual. We were ready for the fulfillment of the Easter season through Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday morning.
After the Good Friday services and Holy Saturday fasting until noon, it was time to think about food for Easter Sunday dinner with family. No matter what the main dish for Easter, it was always baking day on Saturday. We knew there would be wonderful smells and tastes all day.
In addition to making Easter braided bread, which many Eastern countries claim as their own, although also a favorite of Italian and Greek celebrations, there was always enough dough for kolaches. Having these sweet rolls is a tradition in many Czech holiday meals, as it was in ours.
The kolaches that I’m most familiar with are placed on a pie plate, pressed down to keep a higher ridge around the outside, then filled and baked. Many families make small sized ones but ours filled a pie pan. After they were baked they were cut into six pieces like a pie and eaten with a fork, or by hand.
Here is a recipe for Kolache adapted from my cookbook: From the Apple Orchard: Recipes for Apple Lovers. I’ve included it in the book as a tribute to my Czech heritage:
Dough for bottom crust:
2 pkg. dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 eggs, well beaten
4 1/2 —5 cups flour
Dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in warm water. Heat milk and butter together slowly in small pan until butter is melted. Pour into large mixing bowl and cool slightly. Add 1/4 cup sugar, salt, and eggs with about 2 cups flour. Mix well. Add dissolved yeast mixture to flour mixture in mixing bowl. Stir until smooth. Then add enough remaining flour to make a soft dough.
Turn out on board and knead until smooth and satiny. Place in greased bowl. Turn dough to coat top, cover, and let rise until double in bulk. Punch down.
Grease bottom and sides of 4 pie pans. Divide dough in fourths. Roll out each ball the size of bottom of pie pan and place in pan. Let rise 20-30 minutes. Press dough down slightly to keep a higher ridge around the outside.
Fill center with apple filling, or other filling and bake immediately in 375 degree oven for 12-15 minutes. After baking, brush crust with melted butter and drizzle a teaspoon of melted butter over each kolache. Cut into 6 pie shaped servings.
3 medium apples, peeled and sliced
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 tablespoons butter
Lightly toss apples with sugar and cinnamon. Arrange apples on top of dough in each pan. Cover to the edge with apples, leaving a narrow ridge of dough around. Sprinkle 1/2 of the graham cracker crumbs on top. Dribble 1 tablespoon of melted butter over top of each kolache. Makes enough for 2 kolaches.
A quick variation of apple filling is to use hand made or commercial apple butter or apple sauce. Sprinkle with crumbs and bake.
1 cup ground poppy seed
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 – 1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
Dash of cinnamon
Mix together sugar and flour. Heat milk and just before it begins to boil, add poppy seed, sugar and flour and stir vigorously. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture thickens. Add vanilla and cinnamon. Cool. Set aside until pastry is ready to be filled. If filling is too thick, add little more milk. Makes enough for two pie pans. Sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs. Drizzle butter over top of kolache.
Note: the poppy seed needs to be ground. There is a big difference between whole and ground poppy seed. Whole poppy seed can be found in bulk in many stores and needs to be kept in the refrigerator as the seeds are high in fat and can go rancid. Seeds can be ground with a mortar and pestle, coffee grinder, or high-speed food chopper.
Easter meals are a celebration of tradition and early memories. Kolaches were always a welcome part of our Easter dinners. What comes to mind when you think of Easter meals at your house with family and friends?
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