Kolache yeast buns (pronounced "koh-LAH-chee") are a Czech/Slovak-inspired sweet roll. The dough is like a pillow, waiting to receive a dollop of flavorful, season-determined filling. Encouraged by a cool front that sent wisps of colorful leaves swirling past my kitchen window, I chose a pumpkin-cream cheese filling. But the buns can also be filled with a myriad of other sweet or savory surprises.
Because of the time it takes for the dough to rise, I recommend beginning the recipe in the afternoon, refrigerating the dough overnight, and completing the batch in the morning. Certainly no one will complain of the lovely scent wafting through the house.
(Makes 34 Kolache Buns)
2 cups milk
1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water (110 to 115 degrees)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons salt
8 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Pumpkin-Cream Cheese Filling
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 (15-oz.) can pumpkin puree
2 packed tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
scant* 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
scant 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
scant 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon cinnamon
To prepare the dough:
Warm the milk in a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat until it begins to steam. Do not boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes until the temperature registers about 110-115 degrees on a candy thermometer.
Add the lukewarm water to a small bowl. Sprinkle the yeast into the water, allowing it to dissolve and become foamy (this will take about 5 minutes).
Melt the butter in the microwave (or in a small pan on the stove). Let it cool for about 5 minutes.
In a very large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, salt, and melted butter. Pour in the cooled milk and the yeast mixture.
Gradually add the flour to the batter, about 2 cups at a time. (You may not have to use all 8 1/2 cups...begin to add only a cup at a time when you have already added 6 cups.) Use a sturdy wooden spoon and/or your hands to mix the flour with the other ingredients, adding the flour until it is completely incorporated and the dough begins to hold together. Be gentle: don't pound or overmix the dough or you will end up with tough kolaches. The dough should be sticky and moist.
Lightly grease a very large bowl with vegetable or canola oil. Transfer the dough to the bowl, turning once to lightly coat on all sides with the oil. Spray a large sheet of plastic wrap with non-stick baking spray and loosely drape it over the dough. Set a tea towel on top of the plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise in a draft-free place until doubled in size (about 1 to 2 hours, depending on the temperature of your kitchen). (A dent should remain when the dough is lightly touched.)
After the dough has risen, punch it down until it "deflates". Just a few punches will suffice...don't overdo it. Cover again with the plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
Line a 12 x 17-inch and a 9 x 14-inch baking sheet with parchment paper. Dip your fingertips in a small amount of vegetable oil, and begin rolling the dough into balls the size of medium limes (about 2 1/2 inches in diameter). Arrange the balls evenly on the baking sheets, approximately 3 across and 6 down on the large sheet and about 3 across and 5 down on the smaller sheet.
To prepare pumpkin filling:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the cream cheese and the pumpkin puree. Using the paddle attachment, beat the mixture on high speed for 3-4 minutes until nearly all white bits of the cheese are fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula about every minute during mixing time.
Add sugar, vanilla, spices and salt. Beat for another 2-3 minutes until mixture is "fluffy". Refrigerate until ready for use.
Filling the Kolaches:
To fill the kolaches, use your fingers and thumbs to make an indentation in the dough balls. Spoon about a teaspoon of the pumpkin filling into each indentation (you may end up with a little leftover filling...). Cover the filled rolls with a clean sheet of parchment paper, and then top with a clean tea towel. Place in a warm, draft-free place to rise until nearly doubled in size (about 1 hour).
To prepare streusel topping:
Using your fingers or a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine the streusel ingredients until they resemble fine crumbs.
Set oven racks in the middle and lowest position.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Sprinkle rolls with the streusel topping.
Bake rolls until golden brown on top, about 25-30 minutes. Set the timer to remind yourself to switch the position of the baking sheets about every 10 minutes.
Allow the kolaches cool for about 20 minutes before serving. Refrigerate any leftovers and reheat at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.
*The term "scant" means a little less than. Pinch out a teensy bit of the spices from the 1/8 teaspoon measure before adding it to the filling.
Dough and Streusel recipes from: The Pastry Queen: Royally Good Recipes from the Texas Hill Country's Rather Sweet Bakery and Cafe.