Brisket, Cheese, and Jalapeño Kolaches
There are a number of things I must consume on my regular trips to Texas, chief among them is barbecue, but kolaches come in a close second, and I never leave the state without having them at least once. While I've learned to make respectable Texas-style barbecue at home, and it's become readily available in many parts of the United States, the same is not true for kolaches. For those unfamiliar with kolaches, these open-faced sweet pastries are an import from Czech immigrants who settled in Texas and a few other areas around the United States. The kolache is really that singular sweet pastry type, while the savory fillings you often find alongside the sweet ones are technically klobasniky, but no one I know has every called any of these creations anything other than "kolaches." I'm partial to the jalapeño sausage kolache, but I had some leftover smoked brisket looking for a use, so I utilized that in my first ever kolache attempt to churn pretty decent brisket, cheese, and jalapeño kolaches.
Being a kolache first-time baker, I needed to find a starting point, and when it comes to many things Texas, I usually start with Homesick Texan. I checked out Lisa Fain's kolache dough recipe and did some perusing of a few other recipes and decided her's seemed like a solid starting point just as it was written. So I ventured forth with making this rich and lightly sweet dough by first warming milk and butter together, then mixing that with flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. The directions said to let this mixture "rise" for 30 minutes, and at the end of that time, it should look bubbly and porous. My dough definitely gained some volume and had the textured look you see above, but it wasn't quite the bubbly I had in mind after becoming accustomed to doughs like focaccia that bubble and rise in a more dramatic fashion.
Next, more flour was added along with eggs and oil, and that mixture took a spin in the KitchenAid with the dough hook attached at medium speed. The dough was quite loose at first, but it gained a shape and became smooth and elastic, as the directions said it should, after about five minutes of kneading. At that point I knew it was ready, so I turned it out onto a lightly floured cutting board and formed it into a ball by hand. Then I placed the dough in a bowl for the second rise.
This rise is meant to be done fully at room temperature until the dough doubles in volume, but I actually made the dough the night before because I wanted to have fresh kolaches for breakfast the next morning. So I let mine rise for an hour on the counter at first, then placed it in the fridge overnight—from experience, I imagined this would only make the dough more flavorful in the end.
The next day, I removed the dough to find it had risen to about double in size quite nicely without over proofing during the extended stint in the fridge. I had to let the dough come back to around room temperature, so I used the 30 minutes or so that took to prep the filling ingredients.
The filling was mainly smoked brisket, which I had leftover from a monster-sized slab of beef I smoked last summer. The day prior to baking these kolaches, I had defrosted the piece I had vacuum sealed and frozen, and in its cold state, the brisket was super easy to cut into 1/4-inch slices that I then diced. After that, I diced up a few jalapeños followed by grating Longhorn cheddar.
The dough had come up to almost room temperature at this point, so I removed it from the bowl and cut it into twelve pieces as evenly as I could by just eyeballing it. I then began the kolache assembly by first taking one piece of the dough and stretching it out by hand into a roughly 4-inch round, which left the dough a little less than a 1/4-inch thick.
Next I placed a helping of brisket in the center and topped that with some of the chopped jalapeños and grated cheese. I then encased the filling by folding the edges of the dough up and pinching the dough closed, after which I transferred the sealed kolache to a parchment-lined baking sheet, seem side down.
When purchasing kolaches in Texas, it's common for the spicy versions to be adorned by a single jalapeño slice. I'm guessing this is mostly so you can identify which kolache is which more than any type of flavor enhancement, but I do like the look of that jalapeño garnish, so I topped each of my kolaches with one. A brushing of butter was all that was left then before I slid the sheet of twelve kolaches into the oven I had preheated to 375°F.
I kept an eye on how they were cooking, judging doneness purely on how brown the exterior was. Once they were all a golden color, about sixteen minutes for me, I removed the tray and brushed them butter one final time.
My kitchen smelled like I had stepped into a Kolache Factory, which both had my mouth watering and made me feel as if I probably did this right. A bite into one confirmed those feelings with a soft and lightly chewy sweet dough that was instantly familiar to me. That was enough to bring my mind back to Texas, both those innards further cemented that experience with smoky and peppery brisket that was moist, tender, and well paired with the fruity and spicy jalapeño whose heat was tempered by the mild creamy cheddar cheese. The only thing that was really off just a tad was the exterior, as I'm used to a bit of shinier appearance, which I can easily change up by swapping out the butter brushing for an egg wash. I'm not quite sure why it took me so long to make kolaches at home, or why they don't really catch on in other areas of the country—while in New York, I saw multiple kolache establishments open and close—but it's nice to know that if I ever get a craving now, the option exists to make these again.
Brisket, Cheese, and Jalapeño Kolaches
- Yield 8 servings
- Prep 30 Minutes
- Inactive 2 Hours 15 Minutes
- Cook 15 Minutes
- Total 3 Hours
- For the Dough
- 227 grams whole milk (1 cup)
- 110 grams unsalted butter, divided (8 tablespoons)
- 420 grams all-purpose flour, divided (4 cups)
- 50 grams granulated sugar (1/4 cup)
- 5 grams instant yeast (1 1/2 teaspoons)
- 3 grams kosher salt (1/2 teaspoon)
- 27 grams vegetable oil (2 tablespoons)
- 2 large egg yolks
- For the Kolache Filling
- 12oz smoked brisket, roughly chopped
- 6oz Longhorn or mild cheddar cheese, grated
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh jalapeño, seeded (about 2 medium jalapeños)
- 12 slices thinly sliced fresh jalapeño (optional)
- To make the dough: Place milk and 4 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan set over medium-low heat. Continue to heat until butter has melted and milk begins to steam. Remove from heat and pour into a mixing bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl. Add in 180 grams of the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt and stir until no dry flour remains. Cover bowl and let sit until bubbles form and dough looks porous, about 30 minutes.
- In a small bowl, whisk together oil and egg yolks. Pour egg mixture into bowl with dough and stir to combine. Add in remaining 240 grams of flour and, using a dough hook, knead dough on medium speed until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Alternatively, knead dough by hand on a lightly floured cutting board until smooth and elastic. If using a stand mixer, remove dough from bowl and knead by hand on a lightly floured cutting board into a smooth ball.
- Place dough ball in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in volume, between 1 and 3 hours.
- To make the kolaches: Turn dough out onto a lightly floured cutting board and divide into 12 equal pieces. Take one piece of dough and stretch it out into a roughly 4-inch round. In the middle of dough round, place roughly 1 ounce of chopped brisket, 1/2 an ounce of grated cheese, and 1 teaspoon of chopped jalapeños. Bring sides of dough up around filling and pinch close to seal. Place filled dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet, seam side down, and press a single jalapeño slice into top of dough (if using). Repeat with remaining dough and filling ingredients. Cover filled kolaches with a kitchen towel and let rise for 45 minutes.
- While the filled dough is rising, preheat oven to 375°F. Metl remaining 4 tablespoons of butter. Remove towel and brush tops and sides of kolaches with about 1/2 of the melted butter. Transfer baking sheet to oven and cook until lightly browned, about 15 to 18 minutes. Remove baking sheet from oven and brush kolaches again with remaining melted butter. Let kolaches cool for 5 minutes, then serve while warm. Store leftover kolaches in refrigerator for up to 3 days, reheating as needed.
Kolache dough recipe by Homesick Texan