Even my son Brian remembers them and it’s been about 20 years since he ate one. Heavenly diamond shaped butter and cream cheese dough pastries with a dab of fruit filling in the middle. Brian fondly recalls cherry. I have a strong memory of apricot. My Mom’s family Christmas gatherings wouldn’t be the same without them.
The holiday dessert table at my Aunt Bertha’s and Uncle Sam’s never failed to offer dozens of these little Eastern European gems. We called them kolachkys, a.k.a. kolaches. A bit of research reveals that Bert’s recipe probably was of Polish origin, and therefore spelled kolaczki. Who cares how they are spelled or what they are called, I was just glad they were a holiday staple! (Well, if you do care, check out this post by Eastern European food expert, Barbara Rolek. as well as a brief bio highlighting her culinary career.)
Like Brian, I’m able to conjure up the image and taste of kolachkys from Christmas past, even fifty years later. Food memory is powerful and good for our emotional state. Culinary historian Kyle Cherek explains that experiences of eating are imprinted on the neuropathways in our brain. The positive associations between home, good food, and family gives us a grounded sense of place in our world and personal identity. Cherek admonishes that continually taking shortcuts by sub-contracting flavors to take out and processed foods sabotages this aspect of well-being. He kiddingly remarks, “Occupy Kitchens!”
This season, kolachkys were my Christmas treats for friends in our new neighborhood. To my delight, when I handed this boxed assortment to the couple next door, they both exclaimed their grandmas used to make kolachkys for the holidays as well! Another heart-warming food memory reinforced.
It also felt satisfying to pull out my stand mixer, sifter, and pastry wheel; items my Mom used on a regular basis for holidays long ago.
Thanks, Bev Augusta, for sharing your Mom’s recipe. While Aunt Bert is no longer with us, her tradition of Christmas baking continues in many of our hearts and homes.
CREAM CHEESE KOLACHKYS
1 cup of butter, softened
1 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
½ cup of powdered sugar
2 cups of all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon of salt
1/3 cup canned filling (strawberry, raspberry, cherry, apricot, cream cheese, nut, etc.) (Aunt Bert always used Solo Brand. I like Comstock.)
Be prepared to have a lot of filling leftover. Fortunately, it does freeze well. For a how-to, go to the end of this recipe.
- Cream butter and cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually blend in sugar. Stir together flour and salt; mix into creamed mixture.
- Cover and chill dough several hours or overnight.
- About an hour before you roll out the pastries, set out the dough to soften it up a bit.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Divided dough into thirds. On a lightly floured surface, roll each portion to a 12 by 10 inch rectangle. With a fluted pastry wheel, cut into 2 ½ inch squares. Place a dot of filling in center of each square, bring up two diagonal corners to center, pinching together well to seal.
- Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake until firm but not too brown on bottom. Eleven minutes in my oven works great. The recipe suggests 12.
- Place cookies on a rack to cool. While still a little warm, sift powdered sugar over them.