Kolaches

kolaches and apple braid

(pictured above: Kolaches and Apple Braid)

There was a very elderly lady named Fanny Sladek who was in her eighties and worked in the fabrics section of the family department store.  She was small and thin, and as spry and quick-witted as any young person.  My father told me that her family had been the court florist for Emperor Franz Josef of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and that she knew five languages.  Fanny loved children, and she always made a fuss over my brothers and me when we were in the store.  We saw her as another grandmother and always gave her a kiss when we saw her.

Each year there was a picnic for store employees at my grandfather’s cottage.  Fanny would make the most wonderful kolaches and I always looked forward to the picnic because I could eat her kolaches.  They were not only delicious, but they were made with love.

Sweet Pastry Dough Recipe

INGREDIENTS

1/4 cp. lukewarm (105 – 115oF) water

1-1/2 tsp. dry yeast

1 cp. scalded milk, room temperature

1/3 cp. honey

4 cps. whole wheat flour

1-1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 cp. melted butter or oil

1 large egg, beaten

 

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Pour the lukewarm water in a bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top of the water. Allow 10 minutes to pass for yeast to dissolve and begin to foam.
  2. Pour scalded milk, cooled to room temperature, into the bowl. Add honey and stir to dissolve.  Add 2 cps. flour to mixture, place salt on the flour and then add the butter or oil and beaten egg.
  3. Mix all ingredients together to form a homogenous mixture. Continue adding flour and stirring to form a solid dough, reserving ¼ cp. of flour for kneading.
  4. Dump the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Incorporate loose flour and fragments of dough and knead for 10 minutes to form a smooth, elastic dough, using as little extra flour as possible when the dough becomes sticky.
  5. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp. oil in a clean bowl and place the dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and place in a warm, non-drafting place for 1-1/4 hours, or until about double in size.
  6. Remove the towel and deflate the dough gently by pushing on it. Place dough on a work surface and allow to rest 10 minutes.  Dough is now read to use.  If making ½ of a recipe, cut the dough in half and double wrap the unused dough and place it in the freezer for use at another time.

 

Prune Filling                                      Apricot Filling                         Glaze

3/4 cps. pitted prunes                       1/2 cp. pitted apricots           2 Tbs. honey

1/2 cp. boiling water                          1/2 cp. boiling water              2 Tbs. hot water

2 Tbs. honey                                       2 Tbs. honey

1/4 tsp. allspice                                  1/2 tsp. grated orange peel

 

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. To make prune or apricot fillings, soak the fruit in the boiling water in a covered boil bowl for 2 hours or overnight. Purée in an electric blender.  Transfer purée back to the bowl and add the honey and allspice/orange peel.

 

  1. Once the pastry dough has risen, place it on a work surface and roll it into a rectangle about 12” x 9”. With a 3” round metal cutter or glass cut 12 circles in the dough and transfer circles to oiled baking sheets.  Reform scraps and cut 1-2 more circles and transfer to baking sheets.

 

  1. Cover dough circles with a damp cloth and place in a warm, non-drafty place to rise for 30 minutes. Remove cloth and make a depression in the middle of each circle with your thumb and fill each depression with about 2 Tbs. of prune or apricot filling.

 

  1. Place baking pans in a warm place. Pre-heat oven to 375oF and allow kolache to rise fifteen minutes.  When oven is at desired temperature, place baking pans in the center of the middle rack of the oven.  Bake for 25 minutes, remove pans from the oven, mix the honey and hot water in a small bowl to form the glaze, and apply to the dough portion of the kolache with a brush.  Transfer kolache to wire racks to cool.  Serves 13-14.

 

Lieblings

Blissball, Carob Chip, Liebling, Orange Almond, Cinnamon Snow, Peanut Butter, Peanut Butter Date, Gingersnap, Anise, Chinese Almond

(cookies pictured clockwise starting at top (noon):Peppermint blissballs, carob chip, lieblings, orange almond, cinnamon snow, peanut butter, peanut butter date, gingersnap, anise, Chinese almond)

I had become familiar with the concept of a non-bake cookie made with carob powder and raisins.  The raisins and honey add sweetness and moisture to the dry carob powder, and Hans and I decided to use peanut butter as the chief binder for the ingredients.  Hans was a person of great intelligence and culture, and he used to venture out to the Goethe Institute on Lake Shore Drive to read German literature and poetry.  He named this cookie liebling, which in German means “a thing you love.”

INGREDIENTS

2/3 cp. natural salted peanut butter

1/3 cp. tahini

2/3 cp. honey

2/3 cp. carob powder

2/3 cp. raisins

2 tsp. oil, approximately

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Mix the peanut butter, tahini, and honey in a medium-size bowl.
  2. Add the carob powder and raisins to be liquid ingredients and mix thoroughly. If the carob powder is lumpy, push it through a metal sieve.
  3. Add the oil and mix thoroughly. The dough should neither be crumbly nor stick to your hands.  If the dough is too dry and crumbly, add a bit more oil.
  4. Break off pieces of dough and roll them into balls 1” in diameter. Roll the balls in shredded coconut or sesame seeds and place on a large plate.
  5. Refrigerate the balls for one hour to stiffen.  Makes 3 dozen.

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Pumpernickel Bread

Pumpernickel bread (1)

Hans was a young German man with long blond hair who was a key person at the bakery its first year.  He had come in the bakery one day in the fall and we began talking.  I learned he was traveling in the United States for an extended period of time and had no pressing obligations.  After we talked for a while, he offered to help me in the bakery, but I told him I had no money to pay him.  He said this was unimportant, as I was doing something worthwhile.  Hans brought his sleeping bag and camped out on the office floor at the bakery.  Hans, Randy, and I would rise early in the morning to bake bread, and for breakfast and lunch all we had to eat was largely bread.  We became very good friends.

This dense, dark rye bread is similar to what Hans ate in Germany.  The use of an over-night pre-ferment produces a slight tanginess which complements the flavor of the rye and caraway.

INGREDIENTS

Twelve Hour (overnight) Pre-ferment                                  Next Morning

1 cp. lukewarm (105 – 115oF) water                                      1 cp. lukewarm (105 – 115oF) water

1 cp. whole rye flour                                                              1-1/2 tsp. dry yeast

Pinch dry active yeast                                                            1/4 cp. dark molasses

 

1/2 cp. rye flour

3-1/2-4 cps. whole wheat flour

1 cp. cooked rye flakes or berries

2-1/2 tsp. salt

2 Tbs. carob or cocoa powder

3 Tbs. oil

2 tsp. caraway seeds

 

Note:  To cook rye flakes, place 3/8 cup uncooked flakes in a saucepan with 1 cup of water and boil 20 minutes.  Let cool.  To cook rye berries, place ¼ cup uncooked berries in a bowl with ¼ cup hot water, cover, and let soak overnight.  The next morning, place berries and soaking water and 1 cup more water into a saucepan and boil or 1-1¼ hours until tender.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Creating a Pre-ferment: To develop pre-ferment, combine rye flour, yeast, and water in a bowl, mix and cover overnight.0

 

  1. Proofing the Yeast: The next morning, place additional lukewarm water in a bowl, add molasses and yeast, and mix thoroughly.  Let it sit for 8-10 minutes for the yeast to become active.

 

  1. Mixing the Dough: Add the remaining rye flour and 2 cups whole wheat flour to the bowl.  Place salt, caraway seeds, carob powder, and oil on the flour and mix thoroughly.  Add cooled rye flakes/berries and pre-ferment, and mix.  Add the rest of wheat flour, reserving 1/2 cup for kneading.

 

  1. Kneading the Dough: Place the dough on a floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes.

 

  1. The First Rise: Clean the bowl and sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of oil on bottom of bowl.  Place dough in bowl, flip bottom side up, and cover dough with a damp cloth.  Let rise 2 hours.

 

  1. The Second Rise: Remove the towel from the bowl, gently deflate the dough, flip it over so the bottom of the dough is on top, and re-cover the bowl. Let rise 1-1/2 hours in a warm place until soft, puffy, and about double in size.

 

  1. Shaping the Loaf and the Final Rise: Remove the towel from the bowl and gently deflate the dough, and place it on the work surface.  Cut the dough into two equal pieces, form each into a ball, and let rest for the next 10 minutes.

Shape doughs into a smooth ball by cupping both hands around the dough and pulling down on exterior surface of dough, while rotating the ball slightly clockwise.  Place the two round loaves on a flat metal pan which has been sprinkled with cornmeal or oiled.

Cover the loaves with a damp towel, place pan in a warm, non-drafty place, and let rise about ½ hour for loaves to soften and expand in size, but not flatten excessively.  Pre-heat the oven to 375oF.

  1. Baking the Loaves: Remove the towel from the loaves and spray with water from a spray bottle if available.  Loaves can be sprinkled with poppy seeds and slashed.  Place pan on the center of the middle shelf.  Spray the loaves with water after 20 minutes and 40 minutes.  Bake loaves for 55-60 minutes until evenly brown on all sides and bottom and thumping on the loaf makes a hollow sound.  Remove the pan from the oven and place loaves on wire racks to cool.

Variation:

For a darker, slightly sweeter loaf, omit the caraway seeds and add 1/2 cup of raisins in the mixing of the dough.

Peppermint Bliss Balls

Peppermint Blissball

Annette brought this recipe using carob powder, honey, and oil of peppermint to the bakery, and it was a great success.  We are familiar with chocolate-covered peppermint patties, and this no-bake cookie captures some of this flavor.

 

INGREDIENTS

1 cp. natural salted peanut butter                                       2/3 cp. finely chopped walnuts

1/4 cp. roasted tahini                                                                        1/4 cp. carob powder

1/2 cp. honey                                                                         1/4 cp. shredded coconut

1 tsp. vanilla extract                                                              1/2 cp. raisins

1 tsp. peppermint extract

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Mix the peanut butter, tahini, honey, vanilla, and peppermint extract in a medium-size bowl.
  1. Finely chop the walnuts in a food processor so they are the consistency of crumbs or cornmeal. Add the chopped walnuts, carob powder, coconut, and raisins to the liquid ingredients and mix well.
  2. Cover the dough and place in the refrigerator 1-2 hours to stiffen. Remove dough from refrigerator and break off pieces to make balls 1” in diameter.  Roll the balls in chopped walnuts, shredded coconut, or sesame seeds.  Makes 40.

Raisin Bread

The seeds of grasses such as wheat, rye, and barley are very hard and must be boiled in water for lengthy periods of time to be edible and for their nutrients to be bio-available.   The grinding of these hard seeds into flour is another way to accomplish these ends.  Our ancestors discovered this over 10,000 years ago when they took wheat and barley seeds and ground them into a coarse meal between two stones.  This meal was mixed with water and cooked near a fire as flat bread or mush.  By 1000 B.C. Egyptian millers were grinding grain between two flat millstones using large animals like oxen to rotate the top stone.  The Romans, who were skilled builders, constructed mills powered by water wheels. In parts of northern Europe windmills were used to grind grain into flour by the Middle Ages.  During the Industrial Era of the late nineteenth century, industrial flour mills were constructed which replaced the millstones used for grinding with steel rollers.  These flour mills could produce large quantities of flour with the bran and germ of the wheat removed.

 

INGREDIENTS

 

2 cps. lukewarm (105-115oF) water

1-1/4 tsp. dry yeast

3 Tbs. honey

 

4-3/4 cps. whole wheat flour

2 tsp. salt

3/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. gr. coriander

2 Tbs. oil

1 cp. raisins

 

INSTRUCTIONS

 

  1. Proofing the Yeast: Pour the lukewarm water into a bowl, sprinkle the dry yeast on the water, add the honey, and stir until dissolved.  Wait 8-10 minutes until the yeast begins to grow and forms a tan colored foam

 

  1. Mixing the Dough: Add 2 cps. whole wheat flour to the water and stir for 3-4 minutes to form a homogenous batter and begin working the gluten out of the flour.  Add more flour on top of the batter and place the salt, cinnamon, coriander, raisins, and oil on the dry flour, mixing this into the batter.  Continue adding the rest of the wheat flour, reserving 1/2 cup for kneading and mix to form a stiff dough.

 

  1. Kneading the Dough: Dump the dough in the bowl onto a floured work surface.  By pushing on the dough with both hands, form the dough into a ball and incorporate the fragments and loose flour into the ball.  Knead this dough for 10 minutes, adding more flour to the work surface and the ball if the dough sticks to the surface or your hands.  Raisins which pop out of the dough should be pushed back into it.

 

  1. The First Rise: Clean and dry the bowl.  Sprinkle about ½ tsp. oil on the bottom of the bowl.  Place the dough into the bottom of the bowl and flip it over once so that the entire surface of the dough is lightly covered with oil.  Place the bowl in a warm, non-drafty place and cover with a damp towel.  Let rise 2 hours.

 

  1. The Second Rise: Remove the towel from the bowl and gently press on the dough which has nearly doubled in size to deflate it. Flip the dough over so the moist bottom is now on top. Place the damp towel back over the bowl and let rise 1-1/2 hours.

 

  1. Shaping the Loaf and the Final Rise: Remove the towel over the bowl and gently press on the dough to deflate.  Remove the dough from the bowl and place it on the work surface.  Cut the dough in two equal pieces, shape each half into a rough ball, and let them rest 10 minutes to relax the gluten in the dough.  Shape the loaves into cylinders according to the Direct Bread Making Instructions.  Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.   Place the loaves in two oiled 8”X 4” bread pans, place the bread pans in a warm, non-drafty spot, and cover with a damp cloth.  Let rise 30-45 minutes.

 

  1. Baking the Loaves: When the bread has risen, remove the cloth and spray the loaf with water from a spray bottle, if available.  Place the two bread pans on the middle rack in the center of the oven and allow some space between the two pans.  About 15 minutes into the baking cycle, the loaves can be sprayed again to form a shiny crust.

Remove the loaves from the oven after they have baked approximately 50 minutes.  The bottom and sides of the loaves should be evenly browned when the loaves are removed from the bread pans and thumping in the loaves with your fingers will produce a hollow sound.  Remove the loaves from the pans immediately and place on wire racks to cool.

 

Variation:  Cinnamon Swirl Raisin Bread

Do not add the raisins while mixing the dough, but reserve until after second rise when shaping the loaves.  Form the dough into a rectangle approximately 11 X 8 inches by pressing it or rolling it with a rolling pin.  Sprinkle the raisins and some additional cinnamon evenly on the rectangle and then roll the shorter side up to form a cylinder.  Pinch the seam to seal and place in an oiled bread pan.

 

Swedish Limpa Rye

       Randy was an integral part of the bakery its first year. I had met Randy in Champaign-Urbana, where I heard him sing and play his guitar on an open microphone at the Red Herring Coffeehouse.  Randy used to wail out his original compositions, and I do mean wail, but what he lacked in musicality he made up for in heart.  He was a person of great sincerity and had insightful perspectives on life.  When he heard that I had opened up a whole wheat bakery in Chicago, he came up to talk to me and offer his help.  He said, “I want to learn how to bake good bread,” and I said I would teach him what I know.

 

INGREDIENTS

2 cps. lukewarm (105 – 115oF) water

1-1/4  tsp. dry yeast

1/4  cp. honey

3-3/4  cps.  whole wheat flour

1-1/2  cps. whole rye flour

2 tsp. salt

1 Tbs. fennel seed

3 Tbs. oil

Optional:  2 Tbs. grated orange peel

 

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Proofing the Yeast: Pour the water into a bowl, sprinkle the dry yeast on the water, add the honey, and stir until dissolved.  Wait 8-10 minutes until the yeast begins to grow and create a tan-colored foam.

 

  1. Mixing the Dough: Add 2 cups whole wheat flour to the water and stir for 3-4 minutes to form a homogenous batter and begin working the gluten out of the flour. Add more flour on top of the batter and place the salt, fennel seeds, and oil on the dry flour, mixing this into the batter.   Continue adding the rest of the rye and wheat flour, reserving 1/2 cup of the wheat flour for kneading and mix to form a dough.

 

  1. Kneading the Dough: Dump the dough in the bowl onto a floured work surface.  By pushing on the dough with both hands, form the dough into a ball and incorporate the fragments and loose flour into the ball.  Knead this dough for 10 minutes, adding as little flour as possible to the work surface and the ball if the dough sticks to the surface or your hands.

 

  1. The First Rise: Clean and dry the bowl.  Sprinkle about ½ tsp. oil on the bottom of the bowl and place the dough into the bottom of the bowl and flip it over once so that the entire surface of the dough is lightly covered with oil.  Place the bowl in a warm, non-drafty place and cover with a damp towel.  Let rise for 1-1/2 hours.

 

  1. The Second Rise: Remove the towel from the bowl and gently press on the dough to deflate it. Flip the dough over so the moist bottom is now on top.  Place the damp towel back over the bowl and let rise 1 hour.

 

  1. Shaping the Loaf and the Final Rise: Remove the towel over the bowl and gently press on the dough to deflate.  Remove the dough from the bowl and place it on the work surface.  Cut the dough in two equal pieces, shape each half into a rough ball, and let them rest 10 minutes to relax the gluten in the dough.  Shape the loaves into round balls according to the Direct Bread Making Instructions.

(Direct Bread Making Instructions for shaping loaves):

For round or free-form loaves, place both hands around the bread dough in a cupped fashion and tighten the “skin” or exterior surface of the dough by moving your cupped hands downward.  This will create tension in the surface of the dough and smooth any wrinkles, folds, and crevices.  Do not pull so hard on the dough that it will tear.  While moving your cupped hands in a downward motion to tighten the surface, rotate the dough clockwise slightly so that you can gently pull down on all sides of the dough.  After doing this for a minute, the dough will be a round ball with a smooth, somewhat taut surface, and any cracks or loose ends of the dough will be moved to the bottom of the dough.

Sprinkle corn meal or oil on a flat baking sheet and place the round loaves on the sheet, seams down.  When both rye loaves are on the baking sheet, place in a warm, non-drafty place and cover with a damp towel for about 20 minutes.  Pre-heat the oven to 350oF.

 

  1. Baking the Loaves: When the bread loaves are becoming soft and puffy, but have not flattened, remove the damp cloth, spray the loaves with water from a spray bottle, if available, and place the pan on the middle rack in the center of the oven.  Bake for 50 minutes until the bottoms of the loaves are evenly firm and brown, and thumping on the loaves produces a hollow sound.  Remove the loaves firm the oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

The Oven

Clark Street Bakery used a massive Middleby-Marshall baking oven which John Goodell had generously given me and I transported to Chicago in pieces in a rental truck.  Two friends helped me move the big pieces of the oven into the bakery and my brother referred me to an African-American tradesman who he called “Big Dave” to assemble it.  Big Dave was truly big and muscular, with biceps the size of my thighs, and very knowledgeable about assembling this type of oven.  Without a blueprint, he put it all together and poured nearly a ton of powder insulation into its steel walls.  When finished, the oven was an imposing 11’ X 11’ steel box which stood 7-1/2’ tall and was covered in white enamel with black trim.  The paddle wheel inside the oven had six shelves, each of which could accommodate a reclining adult.  It was quite an oven.

The Apprentice with the Master Baker

I conceived of the idea of starting Clark Street Bakery with the vision of baking healthy, good-tasting bread and baked goods for people.  I knew that I would need further knowledge and skills in the baking trade in order to make this vision real, however. Before I moved to Chicago to begin the bakery, I baked for several months with a talented baker named John GoodeII to learn the process of commercial whole foods baking.  John had just opened a very attractive bakery in downtown Champaign and was glad for my assistance as his apprentice.  I have adapted about ten of John’s original recipes for this book such as the Milk and Honey Bread, Savory Walnut Bread, Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, and others.

The Health Inspector

Once the bakery had been in operation for a while, a health inspector came to assure the operation was sanitary and safe.  He inspected the bakery from top to bottom, and said everything was in order.  Everything seemed fine and I was sure we had passed.  Yet, after completing the inspection, he just stood in front of the oven and was making no move to sign the health certificate.  I wondered why he was stalling and just standing around and then it dawned on me, “Boy, am I stupid. Chicago is the city of the greased palm.  Everything operates by way of kickbacks.”  Realizing what needed to be done, I immediately said to him, “Sir, can I offer you a complementary loaf of bread?”  He smiled and said, “Certainly!”  With this I rushed to the front of the bakery to wrap up a fresh loaf for him.  When I presented it to him he signed the certificate.  Yes, I was learning how to be a good businessman in Chicago.

Excerpt from “A Whole Foods Baking Book”

The Clark Street Bakery was located on the north side of Chicago in the early 1980’s.  This is a portion taken from the “Forward”…

The goal at the bakery was to produce good-tasting and nutritious baked goods for the people in the area, and the bakery used only organic whole grain flours, less refined sweeteners such as honey or molasses, and vegetable oil rather than lard, shortening and a lot of butter.  No chemicals such as preservatives, dough conditioners, bleaches, or food dyes were used in the baked goods.  The bakery sold its goods as a retail community bakery as well as supplying natural food stores and coops in Chicago and Evanston.

Although not originally intended, the bakery was not your ordinary business enterprise.  We had a sort of missionary zeal to deliver fresh nutritious baked goods to the people of Chicago.  Because our goals were worthwhile, a number of people served as unpaid volunteers to help at the bakery, including two men, Randy and Hans, who lived in the bakery with me the first year.  Other people came to work at the bakery as paid employees without my solicitation simply because they wanted to work there and shared our ideals.  Some people in the community came as ‘friends,” just to hang out and partake of the social atmosphere.  The place functioned as a community drop-in center at times.  Over time this rather unique group of people became a type of family who cared for each other and supported each other in the many crises of life.