The September Daring Bakers challenge was brought to us by Lucie from ChezLucie. She challenged us to make a true Czech treat: Kolaches! The Czech koláč consists of a large sweet yeast dough round topped with pools of a sweet mixture. Round breads are some of the earliest of ritual foods, variously symbolizing the sun, moon, and female. Around the 15th century with the arrival in Eastern Europe of yeast breads enriched with butter, eggs, and sugar (the first light cakes in the region), the name kolo was applied to round sweetened yeast loaves enjoyed for celebrations from the Balkans to the Baltic Sea, including the Polish kolacz (pronounced kowatch), Russian kulich, Ukrainian kolač, Serbo-Croatian kolač, Hungarian kalacs, and Yiddish koyletch (an early synonym for egg challah, considered a cake by Sephardic Jews). Distinct from the unadorned yeast cakes of Eastern Europe (or those additionally flavored with raisins), varieties from Bohemia, Moravia, and Slovenia were paired with povidla (plum butter made from cooking down Italian plums without the addition of sweeteners).

Some speculate that originally people simply spread the beloved povidla on chunks of baked sweet bread to enhance the gastronomic experience. Besides plum (slivkóvý koláče or povidlové koláče), two other venerable central European baking favorites became traditional Old-World kolache toppings: Poppy seed (makov‎‎ý koláče) and cheese (tvaroh koláče). In Europe, Czechs used a form of the Teutonic quark for the cheese topping. For a dazzling presentation, each indentation of a large cake round is filled with a different flavor and color. A relatively recent innovation is an optional streusel topping known as posipka. Many Czech families had their own secret kolache recipe handed down from generation to generation, mothers and grandmothers assiduously instructing the young girls. The dough, abounding with butter, should be rather dense, not fluffy. Some prefer a plain flavor, while others add a hint of spice or lemon zest to the dough.

PRAZSKY KOLAC/PRAGUE KOLACH

Ingredients:

For the Cake

1¾ cups (420 ml) (9 oz) (250 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour

½ cup (120 ml) (125 gm) mayonnaise (store-bought or home-made)

2 tablespoons (30 ml) (1 oz) (30 gm) granulated sugar

1 small egg, room temperature

15 gm (½ oz) fresh yeast or 1 packet (2 teaspoons) (7gm) dry active yeast

5 tablespoons (75 ml) milk, warm

½ teaspoon (3 gm) table salt

For the Cream

2 cups (500 ml) milk, divided

½ cup (120 ml) (3½ oz) (100 gm) granulated sugar

1 tablespoon (½ oz) (15 gm) vanilla sugar

½ cup (120 ml) (2-2/3 oz) (75 gm) vanilla pastry cream powder

1 stick (½ cup) (4 oz) (125 gm) butter, room temperature

5 tablespoons (75 ml) double cream, chilled

For the Streusel Topping

1/3 cup (1¾ oz) (50 gm) plain flour

¼ cup (60 ml) (1¾ oz) (50 gm) butter, chilled and diced

¼ cup (60 ml) (1¾ oz) (50 gm) caster (or granulated) sugar

½ teaspoon (2 gm) ground cinnamon

For Finishing

1 small egg, lightly beaten

Method:

  • In a bowl of your stand mixer, sift the flour and make a hole in the middle. Crumb dry active yeast into the hole.
  • Add 1 teaspoon sugar and about 3 teaspoons warm milk to the mixture. Mix the yeast, sugar and milk with a fork.

  • Lightly sprinkle the surface with flour. Cover the bowl with towel and let rise for 10-15 minutes in a warm place.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients (mayonnaise, sugar, milk, egg and salt) and knead with dough hook on low speed.

  • Knead for 10 minutes until dough is smooth. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and cover with a towel.
  • Let rise for about an hour to double its volume. Form the dough into a ball and place it onto a lined baking sheet.

  • Press the dough and shape it into a disc of about 20–25 cm (8-10 inch) in diameter and 2–3 cm (¾-1 inch)thick.
  • Let rise for 30 minutes. Meanwhile preheat oven to moderate 320°F/160°C/gas mark 3 and make streusel topping.

  • In a medium bowl, mix together sugar, flour and cinnamon. Add cold butter and mix all ingredients until crumbly.
  • Brush with eggwash and sprinkle with generous amount of streusel topping. Bake for 20 mins until golden brown.

  • Let cool on a wire rack. For the filling, mix ½ cup (125ml) milk with vanilla pastry cream powder in a small bowl.
  • Set aside. In a saucepan, mix the rest of the milk 1½ cup (375ml) with sugar and vanilla sugar and bring it to boil.

  • Stir occasionally. Add the milk-pastry cream powder mixture and boil it for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Transfer the mixture into a bowl of your standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment and let cool completely.

  • Stir constantly on a low speed. Add diced butter and mix together. Separately whip the double cream until stiff.
  • Fold into the vanilla cream. Cut cooled cake lengthwise, spread filling onto bottom part and top with upper part.

September 2014 Challenge

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