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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 kolache recipe.
Kolache, kolach, kolacky, 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 these 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, hell!” 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 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 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” versions with the same dough, and 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 over.)
Anywho… onto the recipe and some pretty cookie pics!
- 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 flour
- an ungodly amount of powdered sugar
- Prune whip or lekvar (usually a prune or apricot butter)
- Apricot, peach, strawberry preserves (your choice)
- Dissolve yeast in a 1/2 cup warm water.
- Mix dry ingredients in a large 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 cookie 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 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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