I’m addicted to kolaches. Any and all kinds, but especially
these pictured here. Kolaches were brought to Texas by Czech
immigrants and now have a cult-like following, for good reason.
Almost a Danish pastry, they are made with a brioche-like bread
dough instead of laminated layers; their centers filled with creamy
sweet cheese and the slightest hint of lemon. When I first came
across them in
Bread Illustrated
(America’s Test
Kitchen’s bread book) I instantly walked to my kitchen cupboards
and took out all the ingredients needed: flour, yeast, butter,
cream cheese, milk, sugar, lemon. While I worked the dough on my
counter top, my mind jumped to purchasing a nearby corner bakery
for the sole purpose of filling with kolaches. There would be trays
lined with rows and rows of beautiful circles, all topped
differently: cream cheese, chocolate and white chocolate, jam and
fresh fruit, extracts, vanilla bean, meringue, whipped cream, ice
cream. They would compete with local doughnuts shops for breakfast,
boasting both simplicity and extravagance in every dozen sold.

Of course, such day dreams are not able to become reality at
this point, but each bite I take convinces me otherwise. Maybe one
day, Minneapolis. Maybe one day.

Kolaches
Adapted from
Bread Illustrated by America’s Test
Kitchen

If your dough is not clearing the sides of the bowl after mixing,
add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time until it does so (every time
I’ve made this I’ve had to add 2-4 tablespoons  extra of
flour). You can sub ricotta for half of the cream cheese filling.
Use 6 ounces (170g) cream cheese and 6 ounces (3/4 cup) whole-milk
or part-skim ricotta cheese.

Dough
3 1/2 cups (491g) all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup whole milk
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup (66g) sugar
1 large egg plus 2 large yolks

Cream cheese filling
12 ounces (340g) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (99g) sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch salt
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice

Streusel
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon (15g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces and
chilled

1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water and pinch
salt

For the dough
Whisk flour, yeast, and salt together in bowl of stand mixer. Whisk
milk, melted butter, sugar, egg, and egg yolks in a 4-cup measuring
cup until sugar has dissolved. Using a dough hook on low speed,
slowly add milk mixture to flour mixture and mix until cohesive
dough starts to form and now dry flour remains, about 2 minutes,
scraping down the sides as needed. Increase speed to medium-low and
knead until dough is smooth and elastic and clears sides of bowl
but still sticks to bottom, 8 to 12 minutes.

Transfer dough to a well-floured counter. Using your
well-floured hands, knead dough to form a smooth, round ball, about
30 seconds. Place dough seam side down in a lightly greased large
bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled
in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. (Unrisen dough can be refrigerated for
at lease 8 hours or up to 16 hours; let dough sit at room
temperature for 1 hour before shaping.)

Make the filling
Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat cream cheese, sugar,
flour, vanilla, and salt on low speed until smooth, about 1 minute.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice,
and mix to combine. Taste filling – you are looking for the lemon
juice to brighten the filling, but not make it taste like lemon.
Add more juice if needed. Transfer to bowl, cover with plastic, and
refrigerate until ready to use.

Make the streusel
Combine flour, sugar, and butter in bowl and rub between fingers
until mixture resembles wet sand. Cover with plastic and
refrigerate until ready to use.

Finish the dough
Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Punch down dough
and place on lightly floured counter. Stretch the dough into an
even 16-inch log. Cut the log into 16 equal pieces (about 2 1/4
ounce each) and cover loosely with greased plastic. Working one
piece of dough at a time (keep remaining pieces covered), form into
rough ball by stretching dough around your thumbs and pinching
edges together so that the top is smooth. Place the ball seam side
down on a clean counter and, using your cupped hand, drag in small
circles until dough feels taut and round.

Arrange dough balls seam side down on prepared sheets, spaced
about 1 1/2 inches apart. Cover loosely with greased plastic and
let rise until increased in size by about half, 1 1/2 to 2
hours.

Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and
heat oven to 350F degrees. Grease and flour bottom of a round
1/3-cup dry measuring cup. Press the cup firmly into the center of
each dough round until the cup touches the sheet to make
indentation for filling. (Reflour the cup as needed to prevent
sticking.)

Divide filling evenly among kolaches (about 1 1/2 tablespoons
each) and smooth with the back of a spoon. Gently brush the edges
with egg mixture and sprinkle with streusel. (Do not sprinkle
streusel over filling.) Bake until golden brown, 20-25 minutes,
switching and rotating sheets halfway though baking. Transfer
kolaches to wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Serve warm.

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