Tag Archives: cherry

{10} Kolachky

I realised that my baking this year has been pretty heavy on nuts and spices, so today’s recipe restores a little balance with some fruity flavours.

Here are some delightful little festive bites called kolachky which are a bit like a pastry and a bit like a cookie. They are reminiscent of miniature Danish pastries, except they are made with a cream cheese dough rather than puff pastry. And they are just the right size to have one, then another, then another….you get the picture!

These cookies are one of those recipes that seems to pop up in lots of places. I’ve seen references to kolachky as coming from various places across Eastern Europe such as Poland, the Czech Republic or Hungary. They appear with different fillings, including fruit, poppyseed and cream cheese. And sometimes they are not shaped like little parcels at all, but they are rounds of pastry with a sweet filling. The round version also seems to be quite a big thing in Texas (but hey, everything’s bigger in Texas), apparently due to Czechs moving there and brining their baking traditions with them.

When I first saw pictures of kolachky I assumed that they would be complicated to make. Happily, they are actually really simple. I have used a cream cheese dough, which just involves whipping butter with cream cheese, then mixing in flour with a bit of baking powder. It starts off very soft, but you chill it and it becomes easy to work with. Then it is just a case of cutting out the squares, adding the filling, and baking them. This means that when they bake, the pastry is buttery, flaky and tender.

When I was rolling and shaping, my inclination was to start with big squares of pastry, as they do look like something that belongs to a breakfast spread. But remember these should be more like cookies, so go with small squares. Your mind will be telling you this isn’t right, but trust me! Otherwise you’re going to end up with truly giant kolachky and you will have a low jam-to-pastry ratio, and that would just not do!

I have seen a few different ways to make the filling for these little pastries. Some suggest a filling made from chopped dried apricots and sugar that you cook until it is thick. If that’s what you want to do, go for it. However, I’ve taken a slightly lazier approach and just used jam. Not only is this quick, but it also means you can easily make a few different flavours. I went for apricot, sour cherry and blueberry to get some flavour and colour variety. As you can see there is such a difference between cherry and blueberry!

In the interests of science, also I tried a little experiment. I used some normal jam, as well as a jar of apricot jam that I had made over the summer which had a little too much pectin in it, and as a consequence it had a very firm set to it. As in, a very firm set.

As expected, the normal jam melted and some ran out during baking. Enough stayed in the pastries for this not to be a problem, so it was fine. However, my very firm jam stayed put perfectly. If you make these, don’t stress about seeking out a specialist jam for this, but if you do happen to have a jar of something that has set rather more firmly than expected, this is a good thing to use it in.

When it came to baking these guys, I didn’t bother with a glaze, egg wash or anything like that. However, I did see one suggesting to sprinkle granulated sugar on the tray first. I thought I would give this a try, as there is no sugar in the dough and so it was unlikely they would end up being too sweet. In fact, it worked great, as the base is a little crisp and caramelised. You can by all means skip this, but I like it.

So there you go – delicious little bite-sized pastries. They will last a few days in a sealed container, but I think they are best when still very fresh, so they would be an excellent thing to make in the evening, then bake then in the morning as part of your Christmas breakfast. Because that’s what we will be doing!

To make Kolachky (makes around 30):

For the pastry:

• 200g butter
• 200g cream cheese
• 250g strong white flour
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• pinch of salt

For the filling:

• jam, with a good firm set

1. Make the pastry – cream the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the other ingredients and mix to a dough. It will be very soft and quite sticky. Wrap in cling film and form into a flat square. Chill in the fridge overnight.

2. The next day, sprinkle a worktop with flour. Cut the dough into two equal rectangles, and put one back in the fridge. Take the other and roll out to a square 30cm x 30cm. Trim the edges and cut into squares of 7cm x 7cm. You will have 16 squares.

3. Add a teaspoonful of jam in the centre of each square. Gently fold one corner into the middle, then put a little water or milk on the opposite corner, and fold it on top and press lightly.

4. Sprinkle the baking sheet with some granulated sugar. Put the  kolachky on top. I did this in batches of 8.

5. Bake the kolachky for around 10-12 minutes until they look puffed and are starting to go golden. Remove from the oven, let them cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and dust lightly with icing sugar.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christmas, Recipe, Sweet Things

Sour Cherry Jam

In one of the local parks(*) here in London’s glamourous Hackney, there was a fantastic display of cherry blossom earlier in spring. On the off chance, I passed by a few days ago, and bingo! There were loads of cherries on the tree. As you can see below, these were not the large, dark, juicy sweet cherries, but small, bright red and quite tart. They were sweet and edible, but there was a distinct tang to them. They would need to be cooked if their flavour was to shine, and sadly I had not been able to pick enough to make a pie. However, there were sufficient little red fruits for a couple of jars of jam.

Not keen on spending an hour with a knife picking out stones, I bought a cherry stoner. This is a nifty device, where you pop the cherry in the holder, then it pushes out the stone. A great idea, but…it does require you to have cherries that are big enough. Mine were so small – just 1cm diameter – so they were pushed out of the de-stoning device. Somewhat miffed, this meant I had the pleasure of de-stoning by hand after all. Luckily, I could just crush them lightly, then squeeze and the stones came out easily. Some just popped out, whereas others got quite a bit of force behind them and pinged across the kitchen. Quite a few things were jazzed up with little red flecks of red cherry juice. What do we learn from this? Wear something red while de-stoning cherries!

The jam itself was a breeze – boil the fruit, add sugar and lemon juice, boil and keep testing until it sets. At the end, I also added a drop of almond oil just to complement the flavour. Just be careful – too much, and it will be less cherry jam and more like Amaretto liqueur spread. Be judicious – you will need less than you think.

Result? This is a really nice jam – good chunks of fruit and a lovely balance of sweetness and sharpness. If you see a tree groaning with fruit, do it a favour – pick it, cook it and enjoy it. Times are though, so it might even be rude not to!

For the jam:

• Cherries (sweet or sour)
• Granulated sugar (3/4 of the amount of stoned fruit)
• Lemon juice (I used juice of one lemon for 500g cherries)
• Almond oil

Wash the cherries, removing any stalks or bad fruit. Remove the stones from the fruit.

Weigh the de-stoned cherries, and place in a heavy saucepan with three-quarters the amount of sugar (i.e. if you have 1kg of cherries, use 750g sugar, but you might want to use less sugar if you are using sweeter cherries). Add the lemon juice, and cook gently.

Once the mixture comes to a gentle rolling boil, allow it to cook for as long as is necessary to come to a set(**). Pour the mixture into sterilised jars and seal. See here for how to sterilise jars. My 500g of cherries yielded 2 jars of jam.

(*) Just to say, this is a very large park, and the tree was very far from roads and other sources of nasties.

(**) How to check for a set? Chill a saucer in the fridge. Put a little jam on the cool plate, and return to the fridge for a moment. Push with your finger – if the jam  “wrinkles” when you push it, the jam is done. If it stays liquid, then cook longer. This is why you are better to cook gently but for a longer time, as if you miss the set, the sugar will start to caramelise, and the jam will be very thick, sticky and syrupy.

Worth making? If you get some cherries and need something to make with them, this is a great recipe. This took me no more than 30 minutes to make, and it looks, smells and is delicious. Also a bargain, as I got fresh, sun-ripened fruit for nothing! Result!


Filed under Sweet Things, Uncategorized