My grandmother was an Old World cook. She made everything from what we’d call scratch, but in her day, I don’t believe they had pre-packaged foods. She spent a good deal of her time in the kitchen and turned out delicious meals.
My grandmother was Slavic, but she and my grandfather (both immigrants) lived in the Pittsburgh area. Every December she homebaked hundreds of Kolaches, a traditional flaky Baltic pastry filled with small amounts of sweet jam or pulped fruit, such as apricots or prunes. My favorites were the apricot-filled treats, but she also made some with prune filling.
With the desire to recreate my grandmother’s goodies, I found this recipe in 2020. While complicated and time consuming, you end up with the most scrumptious Christmas cookies. This is now the third year I am baking them.
My cookie recipe makes very short-crust dough, like flaky pie crusts, filled with dried apricots chopped or pureed in my Cuisinart food processor along with a bit of sugar and orange juice.
The tricky part of the recipe is rolling out the dough. You place a tablespoon of flour inside a gallon size zip-lock bag and shake it around. Remove any excess and then roll some of the dough inside each bag. The dough nearly fills the entire bag at about 1/8 inch thickness. This method prevents the dough from sticking to the rolling pin or to avoid adding flour to the rolling surface.
Lay flat the dough-filled ziplock bags in the refrigerator and leave overnight. The next day, you must mark off 2-inch squares, creating 25 squares (or just 20) per bag. You will need a straight-edge to make it easier.
After you have marked off the squares, you cut through the zip-lock bag and peel off any plastic. Place the squares of dough on a parchment lined cookie sheet. They can be close together as the dough does not spread during baking.
Work quickly and drop about a half teaspoon of the apricot mixture onto each square of dough and then pinch two sides together. If the dough is too hard, it might break. Too soft and it will be sticky!
Bake them until just slightly golden. The hardest part for me if not eating them all. I have such wonderful memories attached to these cookies, that they are simply hard to resist. Yes, the process is complicated, but absolutely worth the effort.
Traditional Kolache Cookies with Apricot Filling
1 3/4 cup dired apricots
3/4 cup sugar
2-3 Tablespoons orange juice
1 1/4 cup (2 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
8 ounce cream cheese, softened
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting the food storage bags
Sifted confectioner’s sugar for dusting the finished cookies
To Make the Apricot Filling
Combine all the filling ingredients in a food processor and process (or puree) until it forms a paste.
To Make the Cookie Dough and Assemble the Cookies
- Add a tablespoon of flour to each of four gallon sized food storage bags and shake to dust the inside. Pour out the excess and set the bags aside. I use zip-lock bags.
- Blend together butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Blend in the flour until just mixed.
- Divide the dough into quarters and flatten with your hands. Place the dough inside the prepared gallon-sized plastic bags. Roll dough in bags to 1/8 inch thickness. Chill until firm and the bags of dough do not bend. I leave them overnight.
- Measure off a grid of 2-inch squares (5 rows of 5) on each bag. Return to the refrigerator until ready to assemble and bake.
- Prehear the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Remove 1 bag at a time. Cut along the grid lines, removing all plastic, and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
- Put about 3/4 teaspoon of the filling in the center of each square. Fold opposite disagonal points across the filling and pinch close.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the edges turn slightly brown.
- Allow the cookies to cool (I transfer them to cooking racks), then dust the tops with confectioners sugar.
- Store in an air tight container.