2017-12-14 / Life in Leelanau


Kolaches source of nostalgia for pair of Leelanau women
By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff

KOLACHES ARE part of the traditional holiday celebration for residents throughout the county. KOLACHES ARE part of the traditional holiday celebration for residents throughout the county. The sense of smell is closely linked with memory, probably more so than any other sense.

At no other time is this truer than the holidays.

Ruth Steele Walker of Omena remembers well the sights and smells of her mother’s kitchen during the holidays.

“My mom liked to bake, but really didn’t like to cook,” Steele Walker said. “She was Bohemian and German and I’ve found that a lot of our Christmas baking is influenced by this.”

Her mother, Catherine Viskochil, married Verlin Steele, and Ruth grew up enjoying her mother’s home-baked goods which included pies, cookies and fruit cakes. However, among Steele’s favorite were kolaches — a Czechoslovakian yeast bread filled with poppy seed or fruit filling.

“She really enjoyed working with yeast dough,” Steele Walker said. “But she must have made the kolache recipe by memory. She died and I couldn’t find anything written down.”

ROSEMARY (SEDLACEK) Moe Kalchik remembers helping her mother bake kolaches at their Gills Pier farm. ROSEMARY (SEDLACEK) Moe Kalchik remembers helping her mother bake kolaches at their Gills Pier farm. Steele Walker, who found a recipe for the poppy filling, asked a friend of her mother’s for a kolache recipe.

“Her response was that she just made a sweet dough,” Steele Walker said. “They were an amazing generation of bakers.”

Rosemary (Sedlacek) Moe Kalchik, 84, grew up making kolaches on the family farm near Gill’s Pier. Her mother, Anna (Kolarik) Sedlacek, made kolaches for special occasions. She helped.

“It was my job to thin the poppies so we could get the seeds later,” Kalchik said. “Then I’d use a grinder to squeeze the seeds. We’d add sugar, water and cinnamon and cook it down to form a paste.”

The same was done with dried prunes and apricots.

Sally (Baatz) Majszak of Empire learned how to make kolaches from her mother-in-law, Agnes Majszak.

“It was for special occasions — baptisms, first communion and breakfasts for brides on their wedding day,” Majszak said. “Usually it was made just before Christmas.”

She describes kolache as sweet rolls with filling in the middle such as walnuts, apricots, prunes and poppy seeds.

“I make a larger version, but the smaller versions can be given out to your postman or delivery boy,” she said.

For years homemade kolaches were part of the summer festival and chicken dinner at St. Wenceslaus Church.

No doubt, Grace (Plamondon) Kolarik, contributed to the supply.

She grew up French in Lake Leelanau and wasn’t part of the Bohemian community of Gill’s Pier. Still, Kolarik has developed a reputation for the yeast-bread goodies.

“I guess I must be doing something right because there are some people who can’t get enough of them,” she said.“They haven’t kicked me out yet.”

Using a sweet dough recipe from her mother, Clara Plamondon, Kolarik said she “improvised.”

Instead of making them flat like the traditional form, she places the dough in individual cupcake tins.

“That way the pocket is deeper and you can put more of the good stuff in the middle,” she said.

Kolarik combines Solo poppy seed filling with the sauce from tart cherry filling then adds a little vanilla and cinnamon, making it all her own.

Oh, and don’t forget the two cherries on top.

“You have to have that,” she said.

Not everyone likes poppy seed, so Kolarik also makes a filling by reconstituting dried apricots. This goes on top of a cheesecake filling at the bottom of the cup.

Come later this week, she will be in the kitchen baking up a storm in preparation for Christmas and visits from her children which includes daughter Molly and husband, Noel of Atlanta; daughter Trina and husband, Aaron of Midland; son Justin and wife, Katie of Grand Rapids; and closer to home, daughter Kayla and husband, Adam of Lake Leelanau and daughter Maggie and husband, Nate of Gills Pier.

There are also sure to be plenty of goodies for her 12 grandchildren, who in future years will perhaps recall the holiday treat just like Steele Walker does.

“Mom really spoiled me,” she said. “Nobody’s kolaches taste like hers. But nothing tastes as good as it does to a hungry 6-year-old.”

Czech-Bohemian Kolaches

Utensils needed: Large bowl, long-handle spoon, 2-inch cookie cutter, pastry brush. 2 cookie sheet pans, polling pin & spatula. Also you need canola oil and a small fry pan to heat oil.

Sweet roll dough:

2 pkg. yeast (Fleishmann’s rapid rise instant yeast)

1 cup lukewarm water

1 cup lukewarm milk

1/2 cup oleo (margarine)

7 cups sifted flour

1 tsp. salt

2 eggs, well beaten

1 tsp. lemon juice

1 cup sugar

Filling: 1 can Solo poppy seed filling

1 tsp. vanilla

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Pour lukewarm water over yeast; stir, let stand for 10 minutes. Pour lukewarm water over yeast mixture. Melt margarine and pour into yeast, water, and milk mixture. Stir well and blend. Add sugar, salt, and eggs; blend in flour to make a medium soft dough, using a long spoon.

With your hands, knead until smooth, but keep as soft as can be handled without sticking. With a pastry brush, dip in warm oil and rub the insides of the bowl, lifting dough a little bit so you can “oil” that, then also oil the top of the dough.

Put a wax-paper sheet on top of the bowl of dough, and place on warm over top, and let the dough rise until about double in size.

When dough is ready to work with, sprinkle some flour on your clean counter work-space, and use about 1/2 the dough, placing it onto the floured work space. Sprinkle top and sides with flour,. and knead lightly so dough is not sticky.

You are ready to use the rolling pin and slightly press as you roll the dough, sprinkling with flour as needed, turning it over a few times, continue rolling until dough is about 1/4 inch thick.

Do the same with the other 1/2 of the prepared dough from the bowl.

Now grease with warm oil, the bottom and sides of your cookie sheets. With cookie cutter, cut dough into round 2-inch shapes, and place them on cookie sheets, about 1 inch apart (about 15 should fit on each cookie sheet).

Dip pastry brush in warm oil and brush top and sides of each ‘round.’ Place each pan also on warm oven top and let rise to about double in size.

While waiting for dough to rise, you mix poppy seed filling with the vanilla, in a small bowl. With the first cookie sheet, make an indentation in the center of the ‘round’ with fore-finger, leaving about 1/2 inch for the sides of the round and fill the indentation with about a tsp. of the filling.

Place cookie sheet in the hot oven for about 7 or 8 minutes, until the kolaches are a golden brown. Keep close check on them … give them a minute or two, if needed, or until they are nice and light brown.

Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack. When cooled, store in a plastic storage box or bag.

Repeat with above with the second pan.

From — Rosemary (Sedlacek) Moe Kalchik

3 3/4 to 4 1/4 all-purpose flour

1 pkg. active dry yeast

1 cup milk

3/4 cup margarine or butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

4 egg yolks

1 tsp. finely shredded lemon peel

1 recipe apricot filling (recipe below)

2 Tbls. margarine or butter, melted or milk powdered sugar

In a large mixing bowl stir together 2 cups of the flour and the yeast. In a medium saucepan heat and stir the 1 cup milk, the 3/4 cup margarine or butter, sugar, and salt just till warm (120 degrees F to 130 degrees F) and margarine almost melts. Add to the flour mixture. Then add the eggs yolks. Beat with an electric mixed on low to medium speed for 30 seconds, scraping the sides of the bowl constantly. Then beat on high speed for 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the lemon peel and as much of the remaining flour as you can.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Kneed in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately sough dough that is smooth and elastic ( 3 to 5 minutes total). Place dough in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the surface. Cover and let rise in a warm place till double (1 to 1 1/2 hours). Meanwhile, prepare apricot filling. Set aside to cool.

Punch down dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide in half. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Grease baking sheets. Shape each half of dough into 12 balls, pulling the edges under to make a smooth top. Place the balls three inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Flatten each ball into 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Cover; let rise till nearly double (about 35 minutes).

Using your thumb or two fingers, make an indentation in the center of each dough circle. Spoon about two teaspoons filling into each indentation. Lightly brush the 2 tablespoons melted margarine or milk around the edges of rolls. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes or till rolls are golden brown. Remove rolls from baking sheets and coll on a wire rack. Lightly sift powdered sugar over the tops. Makes 24.

Recipe offered by Ruth Steele Walker from Better Homes & Gardens Test Kitchen

Return to top