Today is Texas Independence Day! On March 2, 1836, Texas became independent from Mexico, briefly becoming the Republic of Texas before it became part of the United States in 1845. Growing up in the Lone Star State, I can’t recall ever acknowledging this holiday in any formal way, but when I realized that March 2nd fell on a “blog day,” I set out to bake up a Texan delicacy: kolaches.
If you’ve ever driven up or down I-35 between Austin and Dallas-Fort Worth, you know the turn-off for West (the town, not the direction) means two things: a pit-stop and kolaches (“kohl-ah-cheh”). This small Czech enclave is one of the most popular food attractions in Texas. I’m not exactly sure how this came to be the state capitol of Czech pastry, but basically everyone who has ever stopped at the Czech Stop is grateful it exists. Kolaches are the ultimate in Texan road trip snacks.
Fun fact: I happen to be of Czech descent (my mother’s maiden name is Fitzek), but my ancestors came to the U.S. by way of Chicago and didn’t bake, as far as I know. But back to the pastries…
If you haven’t had a kolache, just imagine a puffy, pillowy-soft pastry filled with sweet fruit filling (or sweet cheese or savory sausage & jalapeño). Apricot, prune, and poppy seed are some of the most popular traditional flavors, but when I set out to make quality homemade kolaches, I wanted to go extra Texan. I set my focus on a sweet-tart filling made from Texas Ruby Red Grapefruits.
As far as I’m concerned, kolaches are a great treat any time of day, but I think they’re especially good alongside a cup of coffee on a weekend morning. But who wants to get up way early and work with yeast dough for three hours on the weekend?!
My solution is to make the dough the night before and let it rise in the fridge while I sleep. This cuts waaaaay down on the early morning time commitment. Plus, the dough is initially super soft, thanks to the additions of sour cream, whole milk, and melted butter. It’s much easier to manipulate after a long chill.
Just punch it down in the morning…
…roll it out and cut it into 2 1/2” circles. Brush them with melted butter.
Let them rise for half an hour while you mix together the posypka (crumble topping) and add a little flour to the homemade grapefruit curd filling. This will help keep it from running out of the kolaches while baking.
Once 30 minutes are up, press a well into each piece of dough.
Fill them with grapefruit filling…
…and top them with the posypka.
Bake the kolaches at 350F for 12-14 minutes, just until they’re barely starting to turn golden and smell like butter and grapefruit and nostalgia for your Texan childhood.
That last part may just be for me 🙂
Give the finished kolaches another brush of melted butter before digging in.
Whether or not you are familiar with these Czech pastries, you are in for a treat! Grapefruit Kolaches are super soft and buttery and the grapefruit filling has the perfect sweet-tart balance. One (or two) paired with a cup of coffee can make almost anyone happy to be awake.
As if there were any doubt, I’m always happy to be Texan.
makes about 22 pastries
1/2 cup (1 stick) + 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup full-fat sour cream
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon lemon zest (from 1 medium lemon)
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup grapefruit curd (recipe below)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
The night before you want to eat kolaches, makethe dough. Cut 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter into 8 pieces.Combine butter, whole milk, and sour cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Melt together, stirring occasionally, until mixture is warm to the touch (about 115F). Pour into a large mixing bowl and stir in sugar. Sprinkle yeast over the top and allow to prove for 5 minutes. Mixture will have just a few small bubbles.
Add 1 cup of the flour, the lemon zest, and salt to the wet ingredients. Fold together. Fold in beaten eggs, followed by 2 1/4 more cups of flour. Dough will be very soft and a bit sticky.
Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead 5 minutes before forming into a ball. Dough may be challenging to manipulate—use a bench scraper for easiest kneading. Grease a mixing bowl with oil. Place dough ball in the bowl, being sure to grease it on all sides. Press plastic wrap to the surface of the dough. Refrigerate overnight, about 8-12 hours.
In the morning, line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Remove dough from refrigerator and discard plastic wrap. Into two pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough until it’s 1/2-inch thick. Use a 2 1/2-inch round cutter to cut kolaches, rerolling as necessary. Place 3 inches apart on prepared pans.
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Brush on the tops of cut kolache dough. Loosely cover with plastic wrap (or greased foil) and allow to rise in a warm, draft-free place for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the filling. In a small bowl, use a fork to stir together grapefruit curd and flour until combined. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
Make the posypka (crumble). Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Stir with a fork until crumbly.
Position oven racks near the center. Preheat the oven to 350F.
Remove plastic wrap from one baking sheet of dough. Flour the back of a tablespoon and press it into the center of one kolache to make a well. Immediately fill with 1/2 tablespoon (1 1/2 teaspoons) of grapefruit filling. Flour the tablespoon again and repeat process with all remaining kolaches on the baking pan. Top all kolaches with a big pinch of the posypka. Repeat process with remaining baking sheet.
Bake kolaches uncovered for 12-14 minutes, rotating pans front to back at the 6 Minute mark. They will be barely-golden when they are done. Brush bakes kolaches with 1 tablespoon melted butter.
Let kolaches cool slightly on the pans. Serve warm.
Kolaches are best the day they are made, but may be refrigerated for a couple of days. Warm before serving.
makes about 1 1/3 cups
1 1/2 cups fresh-squeezed ruby red grapefruit juice, from about 2 large grapefruits
2 tablespoons grapefruit zest, from about 2 large grapefruits
1/2 cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice, from about 1/2 medium lemon
1 large egg + 3 large egg yolks, room temperature
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 24 small cubes
Pour grapefruit juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until reduced to 2/3 cup (about 12-15 minutes). Remove from heat and cool 5 minutes.
Fill a small pot with 1-2 inches of water. Set a heatproof bowl over the top, ensuring that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Remove bowl and bring water to a simmer.
In the heatproof bowl, whisk together grapefruit zest, sugar, warm grapefruit reduction, lemon juice, and eggs. Set bowl over the pot of simmering water. Whisk constantly until mixture thickens slightly (it should coat the back of a spoon). Add butter 1-2 cubes at a time, whisking until melted. Continue until all butter is used. This should take 11-15 minutes total.
Set a fine mesh sieve over a medium mixing bowl. Push curd through sieve to remove zest. Transfer curd to a jar (or other container) and press a piece of plastic wrap to the top. Chill well.