Monday, May 10, 2010

domestic (with a capital D!)

so i have been wanting to make kolaches for quite some time now. i've only ever been able to get them in iowa, and that just wasn't working for me.

what are kolaches you ask? well, they are delicious little pasties that i believe are czech or polish (large populations of both heritages reside near my hometown in iowa). actually, after a quick wikipedia search, it seems that they are in fact czech (although, the ones pictured on wikipedia do not look anything like the ones you get in northeast iowa).

anyway, recipes for these vary greatly, and i've never been sure what to use. my grandma ethel use to make them, and her's were the best i've ever had. so, i went on a search for her recipe. i begged my mom to ask her sisters for the recipe (since my mom has never attempted to make them). i think she got around to asking my aunt judy (the eldest of the clan), but never actually got me a recipe. i took matters into my own hands and asked my aunt/godmother jan via facebook (prolly should have done that from the start). turns out that aunt jan has grandma's handwritten cookbooks - bingo! she did some perusing and found this recipe:
1 pint of milk scalded
2 well beaten eggs
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1 cake yeast or pkg of quick acting yeast (start this in alittle sweetened water)
3 tsp salt
1 Tablespoon lard
6 cups of flour

Mix all this together and beat well. Put the dough in a greased pan to rise until it has doubled. Knead it down and let it rise again. After it has risen make little flatten sqares and fill with your desired filling and bake 350.
first of all, this is not a very descriptive recipe - especially for something you bake! with yeast! oy vey. jan also included this disclaimer, "it's tough to make these and get it right. You know Mom went by the feel of things like how her dough shaped up... good luck and let me know." reassuring, huh?

second of all, the recipe called for lard - LARD! do you know how hard it is to find lard in dc? let's just say it isn't easy. thankfully, someone in the area needed lard and put up a question on chowhound not too long ago, so i used the advice i got there to find a vendor at a farmer's market that carried leaf lard.

which brings me to my second point - did you know that it is almost impossible to buy rendered lard in dc? well, it is. which means, that i not only had to haul my butt up to the u street farmers market (thanks lindsey and tina!), but i also had to then take my pound of pork fat home and render it. good thing we have a crockpot at home (thanks raf), and it is also a good thing that real food mama blogged about how to render lard in a crockpot. i successfully came home on saturday night (a little tipsy) at about 1:30AM and started the rendering process. by the time i rolled out of bed in the morning, i had a bunch of bubbly liquid fat ready to be filtered!

then what, huh? well, i tried out grandma's recipe. i basically put all the ingredients into li'l martha (my stand mixer) and blended. when i started to add the second half of flour, i switched from a whisk attachment to my dough hook. i ended up using about 1 - 1.5 cups more flour than grandma's recipe called for. i think i used more water in my yeast starter than i needed. anyway, the dough was super easy to work with. each time it only took about 1 - 1.5 hours for the dough to more than double in size (and punching it down is the BEST part).

then i tried to remember what kolaches looked like. i had some jam to put in them (my grandma usually made her's with prunes - which tasted good, but i wasn't going to go down that road). so i rolled out the dough, made little squares, put a tablespoon of jam (either ikea brand lingonberry or lindsey's homemade blackberry) in the center, then folded the corners in to attempt to make smaller, fatter squares - which sort of worked.

i then baked them for 16.5 minutes. oh, i also brushed them with an egg wash. which made them brown nicely, but also made them have a crisper outer edge (which i did not like). i only made 1/2 the dough (i froze the rest), since this was going on late on sunday night - and i was getting tired.

the result:
a variety of little kolache-esque forms. a number of them burst open or let all the filling ooze out. not sure how to fix that.this is clearly a work in progress. i'll keep you all updated when i try it again. but no worries, this batch, while not the end result i'm searching for, still is mighty tasty.

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