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Sweet and tart and filled with delicious varieties of traditional jam flavors — this pastry recipe has been in my family for generations. And today, I’m sharing them with you!
No, you are not drunk. You read the title right. Today, for the first time in the history of this blog, my Cleaning and Recipes link will cease to be quite as much of a prank as it has always been (and if you’ve been reading this blog through a reader, it’s the one prank that has always existed here, and you should probably check it out by clicking through to the blog’s navigation bar to get clued into the joke!).* Today, I’m sharing a family cookie favorite: Granny’s kolaczki cookies recipe.
Whether you try to spell it as a kolaski cookie recipe, kolache, kolach, kolacky, koláče, kolachky, or even just “damn good cookies” as she sometimes called them — this recipe has been synonymous with my family’s holiday memories. And today, I decided I just wanted to share it. Not just because they’re awesome — I mean, any cookie that’s oddly tangy and covered in powdered sugar can’t not be — but because of what it means to my family and the memory of Gran.
I took most of the below cookie pictures last Christmas while baking with Mom, but since Granny’s passing earlier this year, she’s been on my mind a lot lately. This will be the first holiday season without her, and even though her Alzheimer’s meant she stopped being able to bake with us a long time ago, the pain from missing her is still very present.
Even though it’s not in my usual blog nature to share recipes at all (since I’m admittedly a terrible cook, but a decent baker), sharing this recipe with you is my way of remembering my Granny in a way that she could appreciate while using as little swear words as possible (another trait I inherited from her). Plus, it’s Friday, which is often the day I choose to share life-related posts, so it seems fitting. One thing to note is that I’m actually putting up the recipe in its entirety (with family permission), because one of Granny’s other traditions was to remove one ingredient before sharing it outside of the family… just so that no one else’s food would taste as good as hers (and she’d probably say “Ah, crap!” if she knew I was doing this!). That, plus I kinda promised that I’d share these already, so now seems like as good of a time as any to catch up on the 982 other drafts in my writing folder.
Growing up, there were certain events that were simply understood as tradition in our family. We’d watch White Christmas together. We’d put up Uncle Knick-Knack and fight over white or multi-color lights. We’d make the dog miserable by dressing her in a Santa hat, putting those sticky bows on her back, or some other such equally traumatizing display of (childhood ignorance) affection. And, of course, we’d make all the family recipes. My personal favorite is, and has always been, hard-boiled egg cookies, but I’ll save that recipe for another week.
These Czech koláče cookies are handed down from my Mom’s side, and I distinctly remember helping my grandmother roll out dough on her old macaroni board, sneaking finger licks of powdered sugar as I “helped” her put jam into all of the cookies (but usually just got sticky—and I hated being sticky!). She’d sometimes make them into “thumbprint cookie” versions with the same dough; a round cookie base with a thumb used to indent the top, then filled with jam. I always felt special that she would not only make these specifically because I asked her to, but she’d let me be the one to press my little thumb into each one.
Now that most of the cookie making goes on in Mom’s house, we have used Mom’s rules for cookie baking—one of which being that we fold these cookies like tiny cannolis. They taste the same and look a lot better than my mashed thumb versions, but ultimately playing around with our traditions was also just as much of a part of the holiday. Cue terrible hair choices and cheesy smile in 3… 2… 1…
(I know, I put way too many dumb photos of myself on this blog. But if I can’t laugh at myself, then everyone else is still laughing at me, and Mom will share this photo 4 times as often.)
Anywho… onto the recipe and some pretty cookie pics! In a way, I hope this passes along some of our joy and you can share in it, too. My little way of remembering Granny and all the joy she brought to our lives the way we knew it best: through her food. (I mean, she also liked to pinch our butt cheeks and give us giggles and hugs, but I think that might be a little too awkward to do through the web, so recipes it is.) Ready to roll up your sleeves?
Granny’s Jam Kolache Cookie Recipe
- Cook Time: 17 minutes
- Total Time: 17 minutes
- 1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter
- 1 cup shortening
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 pint of sour cream
- 1 package yeast
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 7–1/2 cups all purpose flour
- an ungodly amount of powdered sugar
- Prune whip or lekvar (usually a prune or apricot butter)
- Apricot, peach, blueberry, strawberry preserves (your choice)
- Dissolve yeast in a 1/2 cup warm water.
- Mix dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add butter and shortening and cut in like pie crust.
- Beat 4 eggs in another bowl and add sour cream, mix well.
- Add dissolved yeast and water mixture.
- Chill dough several hours or overnight.
- Roll dough out in powder sugar. Cut the dough into 3×3 inch squares. Place a tsp. of filling in the center of each square. Overlap opposite corners and pinch together.
- Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake 17 minutes at 350 degrees until nicely brown. Remove from oven and dust tops with powdered sugar.
- The powdered sugar is what gives this cookie the right sweetness as the kolache dough has no sugar in it. Make sure you roll the dough out in powdered sugar, not flour, because it will taste way too sour with just the jam and the sprinkle of sugar on top.
- This dough warms quickly and can get soft at room temperature, so you may have to re-chill periodically to make it roll between batches (especially if things heat up in the kitchen with the oven going the whole afternoon).
- Watch the oven carefully if you have a finicky uneven one like Mom’s, because these taste best just as they start to turn brown (the thinness of the dough can make them crispy fast, and I prefer them a little softer).
Once baked, fan out on a pretty plate or paper doily, dust with powdered sugar, and watch them disappear. Experiment with fillings until you find one you can’t stop eating. Granny’s favorite was often lekvar or a sugary-walnut mixture left over from another batch of holiday cookies we’d make (that I hated). I’m personally partial to the plum and apricot myself, but it’s fun to gather up all of the jams from the fridge and see what tastes good.
We’re planning on doing another cookie bake this year (next week), so I’ll probably update this post with more pics once those are baked and ready for eating. And, of course, I’ll also be sharing the recipe of my favorite cookies ever: hard-boiled egg (I know, it sounds weird, but you gotta trust me and try them at least once). Enjoy!
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Check out these other family favorites!
can I just fill these with nutella and call it a day?
Haha, never tried it! Nutella would be an interesting twist. I’ll think about that next week when we roll out a new batch.
I think these are the cookies that my Grandma made, as well. Yippee- I will be making them soon with poppyseed filling in some. Here in Texas the Czech Kolache are a puffy yet delicious yeast dough- but I remember these and I’m sure my Mom will be excited to have an old treat her Mom made for her. Do y’all think this goes in Weight Watchers? LOL
HaHa…..One would think anise cookies were created by our elders strickly as a prank but everyones pallatte is unique, however I do remember us kids tasting candies while at Grandpa n Grammas Christmas Eve and some of us had winched confused faces as if they had done something wrong and were being punished when they tasted the anise candy given to them. I myself kinda liked it, it was diff and had a taste….well…like nothing else. Then, I’m the one and only one I’ve ever met who likes ( chocolate flavored licorice ) offered and given a (few) times (because of lack of interest ) to work mates over the years but usually resulted in funny or plain face return looks. We had a family tradition as growing up I and my siblings on our birthdays would get our choice of the family dinner on our special day. When my special day arrived I think my siblings may have thought I was kind of pranking them because they never really cared for liver and onions like I did and still do from time to time.
My Granny Julia, who moved to the Eastern Dakotas (N.E. So.Dak.) around 1932 pretty much on her own to be a teacher in a small school my ancestors built on their farm section, went all out making so many differnt candies, fudges, cookies, divintiy – some with dates in the middle or maybe a big nut, and in diff colors which made a very pretty christmacy display.
Speaking of bad hair ( you mentioned it Sarah – ha! ) actually your hair looks good with the lighter color and love the deer in the headlight look by your Mom. Thnx for the recipies / Merry Christmas n Happy Holidays!
ps. a shot of jack or tequila followed by a pickle juice chaser would be……. like a big bite of one strong big anise cookie……just saying n that’s just me ;-) forgive any mispelling or puncuation errors, I have no degree or spellcheck n do not proofread :-)
Jack & Willie G.
This is almost to a tee same as my recipe. Handed down to me from my Mom and she got it from my Bohemian Father’s side of the family. When I moved out on my own, I saw some kolacky in the store, bought them and was sorely disappointed. Went right home to Mom and asked for her recipe. Its the yeast and the cutting in of the butter and rolling in powdered sugar that makes this recipe so special, so old world, so flaky. Just magic melt in your mouth. My Mom made a lot of Bohemian food; pork and dumplings with sauerkraut all brown from the pork drippings, duck and dumplings, chicken and dumplings, Potica , Easter Meatloaf ( cant spell the Czech name for Easter Meatloaf). She has bad dementia now, can’t even finish a sentence let alone cook these treasured recipes. I miss cooking with her and all the rest of the times when you just need your Mom. Thanks for sharing.
Reading your comment left me very hungry! I’m glad you keep those memories for your Mom. <3