Have you ever heard of kolaches? Whether you know the name or not, you’ve almost certainly seen (and at least smelled the sweet aroma of) these lovely Czech pastries. These highly enriched round yeast breads are tender and lightly sweet, and most traditionally filled with a sweet cheese mixture. This recipe for gluten free kolaches is definitely not your grandmother’s kolache, since I’m willing to bet she had never heard the word “gluten” much less thought about making them gluten free. But I’d proudly serve it alongside hers any day of the week.
The method is simple, and even though the instructions have more than the 3 or 4 steps I generally prefer, these pastries are actually quite easy to make. The main idea is to divide the dough after its first rise into 8 equal pieces, shape each into a round (then press gently into a disk), and allow to rise until just swelled. If you allow the dough to overproof, your kolaches will dimple and buckle in the oven. Then, all that’s left is to create a deep indentation in each piece of risen dough, fill with the simple cream cheese-ricotta filling and sprinkle generously with the streusel topping and bake until lightly golden brown. You can, of course, bake them to a more traditional deep golden brown but I really prefer the pastries to be super tender.
This recipe only makes 8 gluten free kolaches, but you can of course double the recipe. The cheese-filled pastries don’t freeze very well as ricotta cheese tends to separate when frozen, but I have also baked some of the dough in unfilled rolls (just don’t create the indentation for the filling in the risen rolls, brush with the egg wash and top with the streusel topping before baking). They freeze beautifully, and a quick spin on defrost in the microwave and you’ve got a soft, piping hot sweet, tender breakfast roll.
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Prep time:Cook time:Yield:8 pastries
DOUGH 2 cups (280 g) Gluten Free Bread Flour*, plus more for sprinkling
2 tablespoons (25 g) granulated sugar
2/3 teaspoon (2 g) instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon (3 g) kosher salt
1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) warm milk (about 95°F)
1 egg (60 g, weighed out of shell)+ 1 egg yolk at room temperature, beaten
6 tablespoons (84 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup (140 g) Gluten Free Bread Flour, as discussed more fully on pages 8 to 10 of GFOAS Bakes Bread, contains 100 grams Mock Better Batter all purpose gluten free flour (or Better Batter itself) + 25 grams whey protein isolate (I use NOW Foods brand) + 15 grams Expandex modified tapioca starch.
First, make the dough. In the bowl of your stand mixer, place the flour, granulated sugar, and instant yeast, and use a handheld whisk to combine well. Add the salt and whisk to combine well. Add the milk, egg, egg yolk and butter, and mix on low speed with the dough hook until combined. Raise the mixer speed to medium and knead for about 5 minutes. The dough is a lovely, smooth, enriched dough. It climbs up the dough hook during kneading but remains intact and smooth. Spray a silicone spatula lightly with cooking oil spray, and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl or proofing bucket large enough for the dough to rise to double its size, spray the top of the dough with cooking oil spray, and cover with an oiled piece of plastic wrap (or the oiled top to your proofing bucket). Set the covered dough to rise in a warm, draft-free environment to allow it to rise to nearly double its size (about 1 hour). Full doubling is not essential, as this is a low-yeast dough. Once it has risen, place it in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes or until it is chilled. This will make it much easier to handle. Alternatively, place the covered dough in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours and up to 3 days.
Prepare the streusel topping and the filling. Place all of the streusel ingredients, in the order they are listed, in a small bowl. Mix with the tines of a fork until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator to chill until ready to use. To prepare the filling, place all of the filling ingredients in a medium-size bowl in the order they are listed, and beat with the tines of a large fork until well-combined. Set aside.
Prepare the dough for shaping. Once the dough has nearly finished rising, line a large rimmed baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper, and set it aside. Turn out the chilled dough onto a lightly floured surface and, using the scrape and fold kneading method and using a very light touch, sprinkle the dough with more flour and knead it lightly, sprinkling with flour when necessary to prevent it from sticking, scrape the dough off the floured surface with a floured bench scraper, then fold it over on itself. Repeat scraping and folding until the dough has become smoother. Do not overwork the dough or you will incorporate too much flour and it will not rise properly.
Shape/fill the dough + the final rise. On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into two equal portions, and then each portion into 4 equal portions for a total of 8 pieces, each about 2 1/2-ounces. Shape each into a round by following the Directions for Shaping Small, Round Rolls and press down into a 3/4-inch-thick disk. Place the disks onto the prepared baking sheet, about 2-inches apart from one another, and sprinkle the tops of the rounds lightly with flour. Cover the baking sheet with a piece of oiled plastic wrap, and place in warm, draft-free location to rise only until the buns are just beginning to swell (about 30 minutes, but it could be more if your rising environment is particularly cold and/or dry). Do not overproof.
As the dough is in its final rise, preheat your oven to 350°F.
Once the dough has finished rising, remove the plastic wrap. Press the floured bottom/bowl of a 1/4-cup measuring cup into the center of each piece of dough slowly but firmly until the measuring cup touches the baking sheet to create a deep well. Fill each well fully with the filling, and spread the top of the mixture into an even layer. Sprinkle each pastry liberally with the streusel topping and brush the sides with the egg wash.
Bake. Place the baking sheet in the center of the preheated oven. Bake for 15 minutes or until the buns are lightly golden brown all over. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.