2 packages dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup Crisco shortening
1/4 cup plus 1 or 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 egg yolks
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups all-purpose flour
Melted butter, for topping
1 recipe Peach, Prune or Poppy Seed Filling
In a small bowl, combine the yeast with lukewarm water. Set the bowl aside.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter, shortening and 1/4 cup sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Mix in the egg yolks, milk and salt, combining well. Stir in the dissolved yeast and flour, and mix until the ingredients are thoroughly blended into a soft dough.
Cover the dough with a towel, and set the dough aside to rise to about double in size, approximately 1 to 1 1/2 hours. While the dough rises, choose and prepare one of the three fillings.
Grease a baking sheet. Pinch off pieces of dough about 1 1/2 times the size of a golf ball, flatten the balls slightly, and transfer them to the baking sheet.
Place the balls at least 1 inch apart, and brush them liberally with the melted butter. Set them aside to double in size again, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
With your thumb, gently indent the top of the dough. Make the holes especially deep if you plan to use the poppy seed or peach filling. Spoon in a couple teaspoons of filling and, with the poppy seed or peach versions, coax the dough over the filling.
Let the Kolaches rest again for 15 to 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Bake the Kolaches for 10 to 12 minutes, until they are golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven, immediately brush the Kolaches with more butter (don’t skimp on the butter), and sprinkle them with the remaining sugar. Transfer them to a rack, and let them cool. The Kolaches should be tender, somewhat like a light buttery Danish. They are best eaten the day they are made.
2 cups small-curd cottage cheese,
drained in a sieve or cheesecloth
for 30 to 45 minutes
1/2 cup peach butter
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Squeeze any accumulated liquid from the cheese. Mix with the remaining ingredients in a bowl.
1 pound dried prunes
1 teaspoon vanilla juice
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Put prunes into a saucepan and cover them with water. Add vanilla extract, and simmer until the prunes have softened, about 15 minutes. Drain and pit the prunes, and chop them in a food processor with the sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest. Or chop the prunes by hand and then add the sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest.
Poppy Seed Filling
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups poppy seeds
3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
Stir together the sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Set the bowl aside.
Grind poppy seeds in a blender with about half the milk. Place the poppy seed mixture and the remaining milk in a large, heavy saucepan, and bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.
Reduce the heat to a simmer, and stir in the reserved sugar and cornstarch mixture and the almond extract. Simmer, stirring often, until very thick, a matter of a few minutes.
Make the center depressions carefully so the bread doesn’t go flat. Enclose cheese-based fillings totally with dough. Stiffer fillings, like the prune filling, can peek out the top.