Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Crisp Apple Kolachy

I can remember the day when a salesman brought kolachy to a girl at work who had requested that he bring some by.  The salesman did bring some but they were prune filled.  Not exactly what she had wanted.  Prune filled as well as poppy seed are the traditional fillings of this Czech pastry.  Those fillings did not appeal to me either, so kolachy pastries were forgotten about.

However, as I was skimming through a cookbook, I found a recipe for apple kolachy.  With fall here, the apple filliing was a perfect choice. Concerning the dough, my first thought was that the process of making it would involve overnight refrigeration.  In this recipe, the dough chills in less than an hour.  The other thing I was worried about was all the sticky runny syrup that the apples are cooked in.  Then I read that the syrup was only to be used to cook the apples, not baked with the pastry.

Besides the chore of peeling, slicing and coring the apples, the whole process of making these was fairly easy.  It is great when something gives the impression that a lot of effort was made and in reality it was not.  The word "pastry" and "easy" rarely come together, but this time they did.

The cottage cheese in the dough did make the pastries quite flaky.  I had my doubts, seeing the white curds showing in the dough. I have never used cottage cheese in dough and was surprised at the wonderful results. This recipe makes about 16 pastries and is the perfect way to serve up some apple pie flavor to a group without the all the trouble of a traditional pie.

Crisp Apple Kolachy
adapted from Classic Home Desserts

1 cup creamed style cottage cheese (I just used small curd)
1 cup or 2 sticks cold butter cut into 1/2 inch chunks
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp nutmeg or ground mace
ice water, if needed
pearl or sparkling sugar (for topping)

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter
4 medium sized apples (peeled, cored and sliced 1/4 an inch thick)***
***feel free to use more if you prefer a really packed kolachy
1 egg beaten with 2 tbs milk (for egg wash)

To make the pastry dough, place flour and butter in the bowl.  Use a pastry cutter to blend the two ingredients together until it becomes the consistency of coarse crumbs.  Then stir in the mace or nutmeg.  Add the cottage cheese and mix until it is evenly distributed throughout the dough. Your dough should be able to be formed into a big ball.  If not, add 1-2 tbs of ice water so the ball can be formed with the dough.

This particular dough will be slightly sticky, but take care that you do not "over flour" the dough when rolling out or it will make the dough dense.  Lightly dust a flat surface with flour along with the ball of dough.  Pound the dough into a disc and then roll out, forming a 16 inch square. Fold it up like you would fold a business letter.  Then pound it out again and roll. into a 12X7 inch rectangle.  Repeat the same business letter fold and tuck in the uneven edges.  Wrap in plastic wrap and place in fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

To make the filling, melt the butter in a medium size skillet.  Put the sliced apples in the pan and let cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes.  Remove the skillet from heat and sprinkle sugar on top of apples.  Let cool.  Once the apples are back to room temperature, sprinkle with cinnamon.

Take pastry dough out of the fridge and roll out on a floured surface.  The dough should be rolled into a 16 inch square again.  Then cut the dough into 16 four inch squares.  Place each piece on a flat cutting board or platter and put back in fridge for 10 minutes.

While the pastry is chilling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Take the pastry squares out and place a few tablespoons of apple slices on the center of each.  The syrup mixture that formed while cooking the apples should remain in the skillet. Once all the pastry squares are filled, discard the syrup mixture.    For each square, take two opposite corners and overlap ( about 1/2 an inch) in the center and pinch the dough to seal.

Place each pastry on a baking sheet about 1 inch apart.  Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with pearl or sparkling sugar.  Bake each pan of kolachy for about 15-20 minutes.  They will be lightly golden on the edges when done.

Remove baking sheets from the oven and place pastries on a rack to cool.  These can be served slightly warm or room temperature.  Also, to really indulge you can add a small scoop of ice cream on top.
                  **LAST YEAR: Sinbads Basra Treats***