Today, I am pleased to introduce you to this ubiquitous Czech pastry: the famous kolache (koláč), and more specifically a version with blueberries called borůvkový koláč.
Kolache is at the intersection of pie and brioche. It is a delicious pie-brioche-crumble with blueberries. It is found mainly in Central Europe and Eastern Europe. Also, if people often replace blueberries with poppy seeds or jam, do not be surprised to see these pastries in their savory version too!
Indeed, traditional fillings also include farmer’s cheese (tvaroh). There are several variations of these small pastries in Central Europe. But do not be fooled, the Czechs can make the difference! Kolache is normally sweet. Otherwise, people talk about klobasnik.
The Czech Republic is full of delicacies and is famous for its pastry history where each region has its own specialties. Kolache is actually originally a dessert from the Moravian region, although the Moravian kolache is traditionally filled and closed with crumble on top.
For the story, the word kolache actually comes from the Czech word kolo which means “wheel” or “circle”.
A lot of people meet for the blueberry harvest every summer, both locals or tourists. However, in recent years, blueberries have been more difficult to find in the Moravian forests.
Borůvkový koláč is a pastry that is traditionally prepared by the grandmothers throughout the region. This brioche pie with blueberries often makes people nostalgic. Formerly, it was traditional for children, to go to the forest, a tin box in hand, in search of these small berries. Whoever managed to fill his box and bring it back to the house, without succumbing to the temptation of eating them, was rewarded with a delicious slice of borůvkový koláč.
Koláč is a circular brioche dough that is flavored with a zest of lemon, and topped with a filling. The filling may vary from one region to another. It is often prepared with farmer cheese (tvaroh), jam or poppy seeds.
Koláč is found everywhere in Eastern Europe under several names, including kalach, kalács, kolach or colac. It is also called калач in Russia, калач in Ukraine, кола in Hungary, kalács in Romania and finally colac in Serbia.
But beware ! Kolache is not always a pastry or a sweet dessert in Eastern Europe. You will also find it in the form of a braided bread in Russia and Ukraine. In these countries, kolach is perceived as a symbol of luck, abundance and prosperity. In Romania, it is prepared for Easter, Christmas, weddings and even funerals! In Hungary, the famous pie is available in the form of a braided brioche. Thus, depending on the country or region, traditions vary around the kolach but it usually keeps its circular shape.
Many Czechs immigrated to Texas, United States. If they have introduced the traditional kolaches on the American continent, they have created others as well. In Texas, they sell small savory pastries, made with brioche dough (similar to kolache), called klobasniky. Klobasniky are stuffed with meat, bacon, cheese and even sausage. The klobasniky are often called kolache by the Americans.
In some cities in Nebraska (Verdigre, Wilber, Prague), you can enjoy kolaches in cafés. However, Montgomery in Minnesota is known to be the world capital of kolache. Every year, “kolacky day” is held and people gather to celebrate the kolach.
But other cities are fond of these pastries too and claim to be the epicenter to enjoy kolaches. Haugen, capital of kolache, Wisconsin, hosts an annual kolach festival where baking sales and tastings take place. Prague, Nebraska, produced the largest kolach in the world.
The kolache is thus one of the signature pastries of the Czech Republic. In 2007, at the “Café Europe”, a cultural event held at the initiative of the Presidency of the European Union by Austria, the traditional pastry which was chosen to represent the Czech Republic on the day of Europe was… kolache of course!
I can tell you that I was pleasantly surprised with this brioche pastry! It is not dry at all and can be kept for several days. The dough gets moist with the blueberries, which gives it a soft consistency. I had never heard of this pastry before! It definitely has a rustic appearance, and a very rich taste. It perfectly combines the sweetness of the brioche deliciously scented with lemon, the fruity side of blueberries and finally the crispy side of the crumble.
This recipe is validated by our culinary expert in Czech cuisine, Kristyna Koutna. You can find Kristyna on her food blog CzechCookbook.com.
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 egg
- 2-½ cups flour
- ½ cup milk
- 4 tablespoons butter soft
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 lb blueberries
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1-½ tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon flour
- ½ cup flour
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 5 tablespoons butter
- Mix the active dry yeast with 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 tablespoon of flour.
- Warm the milk in the microwave. Add the lukewarm milk to the yeast. Set aside for 10 to 15 minutes until small bubbles start to form.
- In the bowl of the stand-mixer with the dough hook attached, add the flour, the whole egg, one egg yolk, the soft butter and the sugar.
- Add the yeast mixture and knead for 10 minutes until a homogeneous ball of dough detaches from the walls of the bowl.
- Finally add the lemon zest. Cover with a cloth and let the dough rise for about 1 hour. The dough must double in volume.
- Rinse the blueberries. Add sugar, honey and 1 tablespoon of flour. Mix with a spatula. Set aside.
Mix the flour, sugar, and butter with the fingertips in a bowl until obtaining a sandy dough. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Punch down the brioche dough. Dust the work surface with a little flour. Using a rolling pin, roll out the brioche dough to a circle of about 11-12 inches diameter.
- Place a circle of parchment paper at the bottom of a 10-inch pan.
- Place the brioche dough on the parchment paper.
- Add the blueberry mixture and sprinkle generously with the crumble mixture.
- Fold the edges of dough and brush the border with the egg yolk.
- Lower the oven temperature to 350 F and bake for 35 minutes or until the crumble is golden brown.
- Wait until the brioche has cooled before serving.