These crisp, flaky treats are essential at any Central European celebration or holiday gathering. They can be filled with almond paste, prune butter, stewed apricots, poppy seed filling or jam.
Make Ahead: The dough must be refrigerated overnight. The kolache can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 1 month.
Servings: 64 cookies
- 8 ounces (about 1 packed cup) vegetable shortening, preferably at room temperature
- 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 5 large eggs, beaten
- 1 cup whole or low-fat milk
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast (may substitute 2/3 ounce cake yeast)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 5 to 6 cups flour, plus more for the work surface
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Confectioners' sugar, for rolling and dusting
- About 2 cups seedless jam or filling of your choice (see headnote)
- 1 large egg, beaten with 2 tablespoons water, for brushing
Combine the shortening and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer. Beat on medium speed until smooth. Reduce the speed to low; add the eggs and beat until well incorporated, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Heat the milk in a microwave-safe mixing bowl on LOW until the milk is just lukewarm, then add the yeast and stir until it has dissolved. Add to the shortening mixture; beat on low speed to incorporate. Stop to scrape down the bowl, then stir in the vanilla extract.
Sift together 4 cups of the flour, the baking powder and salt. Add in batches to the shortening mixture, beating on low speed to form a sticky dough.
Lightly flour a work surface. Transfer the dough there; knead the dough, adding some or all of the remaining flour until the dough no longer sticks to your hands. Return to the bowl; cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
When ready to bake, position oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat to 350 degrees. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners. Lightly flour a work surface.
Take a large handful of the dough and roll it in confectioners' sugar. Roll the dough into a large square or rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. Cut the square or rectangle into 2-to-3-inch squares. Place a teaspoon of the filling in the center of each square. Use the egg wash to brush two opposite, pointed ends of the dough, then pinch them together over the filling to form a small "danish" shape, making sure the dough is securely bonded. (If not, the ends might open slightly as the cookies bake. That is okay; only the looks and not the taste will be affected.) You also can brush all the points of dough, then pinch them in the center to form a small package; if desired, use a sharp knife to create a diagonal slash from each corner toward the center.
Arrange 3 inches apart on the baking sheets. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack with several paper towels beneath it.
When the cookies have cooled a little but are still warm, sift a little confectioners' sugar over the tops of the kolache, if desired, to create a shiny coating. Repeat to use all of the dough.
Cool completely before serving or storing (at room temperature, between sheets of parchment or waxed paper).
From Washington cookbook author Carol Cutler.
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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