My husband’s family has Slovak heritage, and this sweet little cookie has been a Christmas tradition in his family for generations.
Sometimes spelled kolach, kolache, or kolace, these little fruit-filled pastries came to the United States with Czech immigrants in the late 19th century.
In Iowa specifically, kolacky are often associated with the Cedar Rapids and Pocahontas areas, where they were introduced by Czech immigrants in the 1870s, and have been a bakery tradition ever since.
Until recently, I had never tried my hand at making them, instead enjoying the ones skillfully prepared by mother-in-law. But last Saturday, we invited her over for a fun day of baking, to actually teach us her method of making these little beauties.
Cream Cheese Dough
My mother-in-law uses a simple dough made with flour, cream cheese and butter. She told us that her grandmother used to make a yeasted version, that were larger, but she had never made them that way herself. I’d like to try that version sometime, too.
After the dough is mixed, divide it into three equal balls, wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for about an hour to make it easier to work with.
Roll the Dough & Fill
Roll the dough out very thin–1/8 of an inch– and then cut into approximately 3-inch squares. It’s really important to get the dough thin, or your cookies will be too puffy.
Place about a teaspoon of filling into each square, and then fold two corners inward, pinching together to hold.
We made a nut filling with ground walnuts, and then used raspberry and apricot Solo filling for the fruit ones.
After awhile, my mother-in-law and I were ready for a break, so my husband whipped us up a cocktail and then he took a spin with the rolling pin!
At this point, we started experiencing some quality control issues. Not sure if the problem was with the hubby or the cocktail. Probably both. 😂🤣🍹
You Can Use a Cutter
As a result of the quality control issues, I decided we needed a more uniform way to cut, so I got out a 3-in round biscuit cutter. We did better after that, but this batch didn’t have the pointed wings that are a characteristic of this type of kolacky.
We experimented with a few other methods of folding them that my mother-in-law said were also traditional ways, but in the end we all agreed that we liked her version the best.
I ended up ordering this set of square cutters, so that next year we can do better in our uniformity. 🤣
Thanks, Mama J!
It ended up being a great day, and not only did we have fun, now we know how to make this family recipe ourselves, and can continue to pass it on to future generations!
My Mother-in-Law’s Kolacky Recipe
- 2 8 oz packages of cream cheese
- 2 cups butter
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- Beat butter and cream cheese until smooth.
- Slowly add flour, mixing until fully incoporated.
- Divide dough into 3 balls, and wrap in cling wrap. Chill for about an hour, for easier handling when rolling out dough.
- Lightly flour counter or dough board. Roll dough out to about an 1/8 thick. You want it fairly thin.
- With a pastry or pizza wheel (or 3" square cookie cutter), cut dough into 3" squares.
- Place a teaspoon of filling in center of each square and bring 2 opposite corners together and pinch.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 17 minutes until lightly brown. When cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar.
- We usually make these in 3 flavors. Solo rasperry and apricot are the fruit fillings we use, and the nut filling below.
- 2 cups ground walnuts, 2 tablespoons melted butter, ½ cup sugar, ¼ cup sour cream, 1½ teaspoons vanilla, 2 eggs whites stiffly beaten.Mix first five ingredients together and then fold in egg whites.
My Mom’s Sugar Cookies
My mom’s soft and cakey sugar cookies are a traditional recipe that my side of the family associates with Christmas. Last Christmas, I made my mom’s cookies, and my mother-in-law and niece made the kolacky, so we could have both for our Christmas dessert tray.
Do you have traditional holiday recipes that have been passed down through the generations? Have they evolved, or do you still make them exactly the way your ancestors did? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. I love traditions and am always so interested in how other families and cultures pass them along over the years.
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