Kolaches are a simple fruit-filled pastry. They are one of my husband's favorite foods from both his childhood and his Czech heritage. Made with a simple yeast dough and a filling made from dried fruit, they taste like a much-less-sweet version of a classic breakfast pastry. They pair amazingly well with strong coffee and early holiday mornings.
You can make the entire recipe the night before you plan to serve them, although honestly, they are best fresh out of the oven. (The dough also makes fantastic rolls.)
This is my mother-in-law's recipe, which may or may not be authentically Czech, but it's authentic to our family. And while she makes her own filling from dried fruit, I've found that it's easier (and just as delicious) to use premade jam. We like apricot and strawberry best.
1 packet active dry yeast
2 tablespoons warm water
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
3 1/2 to 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup jam
Stir the yeast, water, and sugar together in a large bowl. Let stand until yeast is bubbly, about 5 minutes.
Bring the milk just to a boil in a small pot over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in the butter to cool. Pour over yeast mixture and add the salt.
Add 2 cups of flour, stirring well, then stir in the egg. Stir in an additional 1 1/2 cups flour, using your hands to finish bringing the dough together as needed. Knead, adding up to remaining 1/4 cup additional flour as needed, until the dough is smooth and bounces back slightly when pressed on with a finger, about 5 minutes. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Grease a baking sheet and set aside. Break off 1 golf ball-sized piece of dough at a time and shape each into a 3-inch-wide, 1-inch-thick circle. Place onto the prepared baking sheet and let rise for 20 minutes.
Using a finger, press a wide well in the center of each dough round. Fill each round with 1 teaspoon jam. Let rise while arranging a rack in the middle of the oven heating to 350°F.
Bake until just lightly browned, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer to wire racks, cool, and serve.