Monday, 30 July 2018

Strawberry Kolaches

It's been so long! Not just on this blog but also since I baked a new recipe. I've hardly baked these past few months. The weather forbade it. And if I have baked or cooked something, it's always been a tried and tested recipe, preferably one with zilch chances of anything going wrong. And then this weekend, something changed. Must be the rains, I thought to myself to explain this change of heart. I love the rains, if you haven't already heard me shout it from the rooftops earlier. I'll get to that on another day but for now this weekend, I baked.

I wanted to bake something new, something that challenged me, that reminded me why I enjoy baking and why I have this blog in the first place. And no matter how many times I have baked bread, any recipe with yeast always has me second guessing myself. I am never sure of myself until I take the bread out of the oven, tap it on the bottom for that hollow sound, leave it to cool, have it tasted and get that an approving smile. Till that happens, I am not convinced that I can bake or for that matter that I can read a recipe straight. 

The recipe for these kolaches have been bookmarked for years. Yes, procrastination is my vice. These buns are of Czech origin and with my weakness for exotic sounding recipes, they fit the brief completely with a recipe that had all the ingredients for a long, rainy day baking session. The buns are made from a milk-butter-egg yeasted dough which then holds some kind of fruit filling in the centre. I had seen these years back on Barbara's blog and liked  her idea of knotting the buns for effect. 

The recipe behaved as it should and Barbara's step-by-step pictorial on her blog were super helpful. The buns came out soft and golden hued with the scent of orange to round them off. I used a strawberry filling but use any fruit jam/preserve that you have at home. In hindsight, I should have knotted them tighter (they came a bit loose while baking) and maybe, should have made them a bit smaller. This is a rich dough and these buns were a bit on the bigger side, so, even one was quite a bit to get through. A smaller bun would I guess even have a better jam to bread ratio. But, these are small tweaks, washed down with a cup of coffee, these were perfect!

And, it was a rewarding baking session. I had forgotten the thrill of baking a new recipe. I  was on such a roll that day, I even baked a batch of cookies while the dough was proving. Hopefully, with these kolaches having restored my faith in my ability again, maybe I could get this blog back on track.

My mother, of course, alternated between being bemused and perplexed by this sudden burst of activity by me in the kitchen. She wisely surmised, it must be the rains. I think she knows me well!

Strawberry Kolaches

Recipe source : Minimally adapted from Barbara Bakes' recipe. I urge you to visit Barbara's blog to see how she shapes these buns with step-by-step pictures.

Makes 4-6 (depends on how big you shape the kolaches) . I have halved Barbara's recipe, so, for the full recipe, click on this link

  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/8 teaspoons rapid rise (instant) yeast (1/2 sachet)
  • 1/4 + 1/8 cup milk, room temperature
  • 1/8 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/8 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 cup fresh orange juice, room temperature
  • 1 egg, room temperature (lightly whisk the egg, use half in the recipe and half as an egg wash)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest of one orange
  • 5-6 tablespoons fruit filling (homemade or canned like a preserve or jam even)
  • Mix 1 1/2 cup flour and yeast in stand mixer fitted with a beater blade. (You can alternately use a bowl with a hand mixer if you don't have a stand mixer like me) 
  • Heat milk and butter until butter melts and mixture is warm (54 deg C/130 deg F, where you can comfortably dip your finger with it getting burnt). Add sugar and salt, stir until dissolved.
  • Add liquid mixture to flour mixture. Add orange juice, 1/2 egg, vanilla, and orange zest and beat at low speed until well combined.
  • Switch to the dough hook, on speed 2 gradually add the remaining flour - 1/4 cup (add more or less as necessary) until dough clings to the hook and almost cleans the sides. Knead until smooth about 8 minutes, but still slightly sticky. (You can knead by hand but it will take more time). 
  • Shape into a ball. Place in greased bowl, turn. Cover, let rise until double approximately 60–90 minutes.
  • Punch down, let rest 10 minutes, divide dough in to 4-6 pieces and shape into desired shapes (Head to Barbara's blog to see how). Keep dough covered with a damp cloth while shaping rolls.
  • Cover. Let rise until double (30 – 45 minutes).
  • Preheat oven to 200 deg C/400 deg F
  • After second rising, make an indention in the center of the rolls with the end of a wooden spoon. (Be careful not to flatten it too much or poke a hole through the dough.) Fill with approximately one tablespoon of fruit filling.
  • Optional: Lightly brush the rolls with an egg wash with the remaining half of the whisked egg. It gives the rolls a beautiful colour.
  • Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown.
  • Note: If you wish them to make them for breakfast, you would have to wake up very early to allow for 2 rises of the dough. Instead, do what I did. After the first rise, punch down the dough and then go onto shape them into their desired shapes. Put the buns on a baking tray, cover them tightly with plastic wrap and put them in the fridge overnight. The next morning, take them out of the fridge and let them rise for the second rise. This will take longer than the time mentioned as the buns will first come to room temperature and then rise, say double the time. Once risen and proved for the second time, proceed as usual to bake them. 

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