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Czech Kolaches

Czech kolaches on a table
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From the kitchen of Evelyn Funda.

There is an old Czech proverb that says, “Without work, there are no kolaches.” While the multiple steps to making kolaches would never qualify them as a fast food, many fine Czech pastries actually begin with the same basic dough. Czechs traditionally made their sweet dough with melted goose or duck lard, but modern cooks substitute butter. Although my mother always kneaded her dough by hand, I have updated my instructions to use a bread machine. My mother never made fewer than three types of kolaches at a time, and I’ve included here several traditional fillings, including the spice plum recipe Cather referred to in her novel.

More of my Czech recipes and other Cather-related foods can be found in At Willa Cather’s Tables: The Cather Foundation Cookbook (available at willacather.org); as a bonus, that cookbook includes my recipe for apricot and nut fillings, as well as recipes by Anna Pavelka’s granddaughter, who, by the way, also makes her kolaches round and never savory! What follows are my own Ántonia’s recipes, which I’ve transcribed from the butter-stained pages of the spiral notebook where my mother and I wrote down her recipes many years ago.




¼ cup melted butter

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 ¼ cups warm water

2 scant tablespoons (or two packages) dry yeast

3 eggs

4-6 cups flour

Grated rind of 1 lemon

2 teaspoons vanilla


Put ingredients in a bread machine in the order listed. Start with just 4 cups of flour. Turn on the machine’s dough cycle and watch as the ingredients mix. Add remaining flour as necessary to achieve a soft, silky-smooth dough (My mother used to say, “Think baby’s bottom.”) Let the dough rise in the machine for one hour or until doubled. Turn out on a floured surface and let rest for 15 minutes before rolling out and assembling kolaches.



2 cups flour

1 ½ cup sugar

1 cup butter, softened

Mix together to form a soft crumble topping.



Spiced Plum Filling

1 pint prune butter *

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

Mix together.  If too thin, thicken the mixture with ½ cup bread crumbs or 3-4 crushed gingersnaps.

*Prune butter is made of Italian plums slowly cooked down to a fruit butter consistency. You can substitute one pound of chopped dried prunes, reconstituted with hot water. Drain the prunes and blend with a stick blender before adding sugar and spices.


Cottage Cheese Filling

1 32 oz. tub of regular cottage cheese

¼ cup melted butter

1 cup sugar

Grated rind of one lemon

2 egg yolks, beaten

3 tablespoons of flour

¾ cup of golden raisins

Drain the cottage cheese in the refrigerator, using cheese cloth and a colander. Mix in other ingredients.


Poppy Seed Filling

3 cups ground poppy seed (use a coffee grinder to finely grind the seeds)

1 can evaporated milk

1 cup sugar

½ cup butter

1 tablespoon rum flavoring

Bring milk, butter and sugar to a boil.  Add ground poppy seed. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent scorching.  Cool slightly before adding the rum flavoring.


If you don’t want to make this filling from scratch, you can substitute two cans of Solo Poppy Seed Filling.  To make it taste more homemade, add ½ teaspoon of rum flavoring.


Apricot Filling

1 lb dried apricots, coarsely chopped

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon grated lemon rind

In a saucepan, cook apricots and just enough water to cover.  Cook until fruit is tender.  Drain and chop with a stick blender to make a paste.  Add sugar, vanilla or lemon rind. If the filling needs to be thickened, add 3-5 crushed gingersnaps.


Instructions to assemble kolaches:

Roll out dough and use a 2-inch round cutter. Place dough rounds on parchment-lined pan, brush with melted butter, and allow to rise for 40 minutes or so until fluffy.  Make a depression in the center of each. I use the back of a measuring tablespoon. If the dough springs back immediately, let the dough rest for 15 minutes more. Fill with your favorite filling, and press into the top a generous pinch of posipka. Let the kolaches rise one final time, about another 30 minutes. Bake 13-15 minutes in a 350 degree oven until golden brown. The bottoms brown more quickly than the tops, so check the bottoms for nice brown color to confirm they are done. Cool on a rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.








Review overview
  • Margaret May 7, 2019

    Love your recipes but can’t figure out how to print, copy or past them. Thanks for sharing.