Kolaches

The funny thing about becoming a physician is that people never stop asking what you want to be when you grow up.  It’s a normal question in high school and college – everyone gets it.  Then you get to medical school, and you think, “Finally here!  I’m gonna be a DOCTOR when I grow up.”

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Then 3rd year of med school rolls around, and you realize…you’re not even close.  People start asking again.  “So…what are you going to do when you graduate?”  My go-to answer is, “Hopefully doctor things.”  But apparently that’s not acceptable anymore.  And like…I have to decide not just so I can answer people’s questions…but so I can apply for residency aka a job.  Oh also.  Once you decide what you want to be part 2 of 9287, you have to decide WHERE to do that.

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And you know what?  People STILL don’t stop asking.   During residency, you have to decide if you’re going to specialize, and what you’re going to specialize in…so now, really, what do you want to be when you grow up?

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Even if you specialize, and you’re in a cardiology fellowship, and you already made all these life decisions to get to that point…you still have to decide things.  Do you want work in private practice?  Start your own or join a group?  Do you want to do research?  Do you want to work at an academic center so you can teach?

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Let’s rewind to a few weeks ago, when Kate and I were trying to decide where to go to brunch.  It took an hour of texting to decide.  In the end, we didn’t even decide.  The Accountant had to decide for us, because I am incapable of making up my mind.  So it should come as no surprise that I am already struggling with what-I-want-to-be-when-I-grow-up.

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Internal medicine?  Pediatrics?  Internal medicine SLASH pediatrics (it’s a thing)?  I love hematology/oncology…but I have to decide how to get there first.  I think this is supposed to be easier than it is.  So I’ve decided that it’s up to you people now.  WHAT DO I DO WITH MY LIFE.

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(The correct answer is to bake these kolaches and sell them for dollars.)

Kolaches

In case you’re wondering, kolaches are the most amazing Czech “breakfast” (read: all day everyday) pastries.  In Texas, if you’re driving on I-35 near West (aka between Dallas and Austin), you always always stop at the Czech Stop at any time of day or night for fresh kolaches.  They’re pillow-y soft, not too sweet, and filled with every kind of filling – from apple to blueberry cream cheese to poppyseed.  This homemade version is not too labor intensive and completely worth it.  Perfect with a cup of coffee!

Makes 20 kolaches

Ingredients:
For dough
2 cups milk (I used whole milk), warmed to 110-115F (use a small saucepan or 30 sec turns in the microwave)
1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (110-115F)
1/2 cup (= 1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled for 5 minutes
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp salt
8 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

For cream cheese filling
8 oz cream cheese, softened
3 TBS unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon or orange

For raspberry filling
(Note – you can also use a good quality jam or preserves!)
3 cups frozen raspberries
1 cup granulated sugar

For streusel topping
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 granulated sugar
3 TBS chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Directions:
1. Make dough – Sprinkle yeast over warm water and stir to dissolve.  Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.  In a large bowl or the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk together the eggs, sugar, salt, and melted butter.  Mix in cooled milk and yeast mixture.
2. Switch to the dough hook if using a stand mixer.  Gradually add flour to the batter, 2 cups at a time, and mixing on low in between (you can also use a sturdy wooden spoon if mixing by hand).  Keep mixing until the flour is completely incorporated and the dough holds together.  The dough should be sticky, moist, and smooth.
3. Lightly oil a large bowl with vegetable oil.  Transfer the dough to the oiled bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.  Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place until roughly doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.  (You can preheat your oven to 400F for 1 minute and let the dough rise in the TURNED OFF oven.)  Punch down the dough (leave it in the bowl).  Recover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours – can be refrigerated overnight!
4. Make fruit filling – Combine frozen raspberries and sugar in a medium saucepan.  Cook over medium-high heat until boiling.  Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook until thickened, about 30 minutes.  Let cool.
5. Make cream cheese filling – In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients.  If the cream cheese is soft enough, you can mix it together by hand until completely combined.  Otherwise, you can use an electric mixer.  You can store the filling overnight in the fridge.
6. Make streusel – Stir together the flour and sugar.  Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or use your hands to incorporate the butter until there are pea-sized lumps.  Streusel can be made 1 day ahead and refrigerated.
7. Shape kolaches – Grease a 12x17inch rimmed baking sheet.  Lightly oil your fingers.  Shape the dough into 2 1/2-inch diameter balls, roughly the size of limes.  Place the dough balls evenly on the prepared baking sheet, 4 across and 5 down.  (There’s no need to let the dough come to room temp once you take it out of the fridge.)  Use your thumbs or forefingers to make generous indentations in the center of the dough balls – but don’t press through the bottom of the dough!
8. Place about 2 tsp of filling in each kolache.  You can use fruit OR cream cheese OR BOTH (whoa).  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft free place until puffy and increased in size, about 1 hour.
9. Preheat oven to 375F with a rack in the middle position.  Sprinkle the streusel topping evenly over the kolaches.  Bake kolaches until lightly golden, about 20-25 minutes.  Let cool slightly in the pan, then serve warm or at room temperature.  Kolaches are best served the day of baking, but they’ll keep for a day in an airtight container.

Recipe for kolache dough adapted from The Pastry Queen.  Recipe for cream cheese filling adapted from Homesick Texan.

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Thanks for reading, happy baking!

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