Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tex-Czech Breakfast

West, Texas (which, confusingly, is in the northern part of the state) is known as the kolache capital of Texas. The traditional fruit-filled, pastry which came to the area with Czech settlers, is generally similar to a Danish, but more tender and less flaky.  We stopped at the Little Czech Bakery at the Czech Stop in West (just off I-35, on the opposite side of the highway from the Czech Inn) on the way home from Dawn and Jim's wedding in Forth Worth last weekend to sample some of the best.

Frank, Geoff and I all tried the jalapeno, cheese and sausage-filled kolaches and they were HOT.  I would say that there was about a 50-50 cheese to pepper ratio.  But as soon as my mouth cooled down, I wanted another one.  Unfortunately, we were already back on the road so I had to be satisfied with my sweetened cottage cheese kolache with strudel topping and apricot kolache with cream cheese.  The cottage cheese kolache was so-so, but the apricot featured a half of the fruit pushed down into the dough and filled with a sweetened cream cheese.  As it baked, the apricot softened and became sticky and candy-like, it was amazing.

Inspired, I decided to make some of my own.  Fruit kolaches are the most traditional but meat and cheese stuffed ones are popular in Texas (and were our favorite).  Luckily, The Foodie Bride had recipes for both.  The enriched dough reminds me a lot of a Hawaiian roll due to the sweetness and the addition of eggs, butter, and milk.  I didn't have any peach jam to make the filling, so I just cooked down chopped peaches with brown sugar and a splash of almond extract.  I really enjoyed the almond-peach combination and the freshness of the filling.  Texas peaches have been overflowing in our farmers' market so I was glad to have another way to use the ones I didn't eat as snacks.  Hot-house peaches are such a poor substitute, so I always try and get my seasonal fill.

For the savory version, the recipe actually calls for the same sweet dough, which I was a little but uncertain about.  While the dough really is sweet, it held up well to the heat from the jalapenos.  However, if I were making only savory kolaches, I'd cut back on the sweetness.  I like big flavors so I used an extra-sharp cheddar cheese, red and green jalapenos, and garlic chicken sausages inside my kolaches.  The enriched dough is extremely tender which is great for flavor, but it tends toward holes.  I missed a few and ended up with pools of cheese on my pan (still delicious).  If you can't make it to Texas, try your hand at making kolaches of your own, you'll be glad you did.

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