Kolaches Are The Pinnacle Of Carb Perfection

If you're a fan of pillowy dough filled with fruit compote and maybe a little sweet cheese, then you'll want to go out and find yourself a kolache (pronounced koh-lah-chee). These pastries originate from Czechia and are a delight for sweet-toothed carb-lovers. They're made with a fluffy yeast-based dough that contains eggs, butter, milk, and sugar; the fruit (or cheese) filling goes in a small depression in the middle of the square or round pastry. The traditional fruit fillings include apricot, poppyseed, prune, and a sweetened curd cheese called tvaroh in Czech, or quark in English. (Some Americanized recipes will just call for cream cheese, as quark is difficult to find in the U.S.) Although they look like danishes in terms of their presentation, danishes use a lighter, flakier pastry that's quite different in texture compared to the softer but denser kolache dough.


If you're already a convert to kolaches, there's a good chance you live in Texas, where this pastry is particularly popular. And there's one good reason why it's so popular there: immigration.

A pastry beloved by Czechs and Texans

Over the past 150 years or so, Czech immigrants found their way to the state in search of better living conditions — to escape everything from disease to military conscription, attracted in part by its affordable farmland. Popular destinations for the immigrants were the counties near larger metros like Houston, Austin, and San Antonio, and they brought the kolache with them, which spread well beyond the so-called "Czech Belt" of the state. These days, it's quite easy to find them across Texas proper — not just in the area where Czechs originally settled.


Although Texas wasn't the only part of America to receive Czech immigrants (Chicago and Milwaukee were other popular destinations), it's suggested that the Czech diaspora in Texas tended to hold on to its traditions more than in other locations. That said, it doesn't mean every kolache sold in Texas is exactly traditional: It's very much possible to find decidedly non-Czech fillings like chocolate or peanut butter. And then there are the savory options — which, while equally delicious, are a whole other category of the pastry.

Sweet versus savory

For purists, there's no such thing as a "savory kolache." But if you've ever visited a Texas bakery selling kolaches, there's a good chance they offered pastries with fillings like sausage, non-sweet cheese, jalapeño, or even brisket. However, variations will sometimes feature other meats like ham and bacon (to say nothing of ultra-creative options like the beef stewed in pho broth kolache that one Houston bakery, Koffeteria serves inside a milk roll. Officially speaking, any of these meat-based pastries are called klobasnek, and in spite of the Czech-sounding name, they're specifically a Texan creation. 


Credit for their invention usually goes to the Village Bakery in West, Texas, north of Waco, which devised a pastry featuring a hot dog stuffed into the classic kolache dough (and no fruit, of course). Klobasneks weren't so prominent until recent decades, when chains like the Kolache Factory helped to popularize them across the state, making them just as common as their sweet counterparts.