Serious Eats: Talk

Kolacky, Kolache, Kolachy, Kolach

My mom was from the Philippines and didn't move to the states until 1955, when I was three. One of the first recipes she wrote down was for Kolacky, which she pronounced "Ko-Lots-Key." I have her hand-written recipe, which I would never pass along because the cookies were so tough and hard that they couldn't be eaten unless they were dunked in hot tea. It calls for a half-cup of cornstarch to be added with the flour, and the dough is rolled into logs, wrapped in wax paper and chilled, then sliced, topped with fruit filling and baked. Bad, bad recipe, but she made them every year for Christmas until I started baking.

When I was in my mid-teens, I got confused when I found recipes titled "Kolacky" that resulted in fat puffy yeasty buns topped with fruit, or recipes for flat brioche-type pastries that look like Danishes and recipes for rich buttery cookies with cream cheese or cottage cheese in the dough, which is cut into squares, topped with fruit filling, has two corners pinched together before baking and is dusted with powdered sugar after baking. There are recipes for European, Moravian, Bohemian, Polish, New York, Texas and Oklahoma kolacky.

No one I've asked agrees what a kolacky is, much less how to spell or pronounce it. Is it Koh-lotch, koh-lotch-ee, ko-lackey, ko-lots-key? The only thing anyone agrees on is that they are topped with fruit or poppyseed filling.

For the past 40 or so Christmases, I've made two kinds: I follow the cream cheese recipe on the back of the can of Solo filling, adding a half cup of pulverized walnuts and topping half with apricot, half with one of the red flavors to look festive; and I use Julia Child's recipe for brioche to make the puffy yeasty kind with prune (stop yer snickering!) or poppyseed topping.

Does anyone have fond memories of making these with their mother or grandmother? Which version--cookie or bun or Danish? And please tell me how you spell and pronounce it.

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