Polish Family Traditions - Making Kolachki / Nut rolls
One of my families absolute favorite treats is Kolachki, otherwise known by most people as nut rolls. These are favorite goodies for holiday times and are a staple of both our Christmas and Easter celebrations. They are not difficult at all to make and can be marvelous presents for almost anyone on your list. There is a strong Eastern and Central European tradition in making these yummy treats and I have seen the name spelled many different ways - Kolachky, Kolachki, Kolache, Rohlicky, and Rozky to name just a few. They were always served at celebrations like birthdays, Christenings, anniversaries and weddings. Each household had it's family style of rolling and filling.
Kolachki itself can take many different forms but is always a desert. Sometimes it can be a cookie with a fruit filling, or sometimes a ring style coffee cake . It starts with a sweet yeast bread type dough, rolled flat and spread with either a poppy seed filling or a nut paste filling. Then it is rolled up like a log, the ends are pinched shut, and it is baked to a golden brown. The end result is always mouth watering. I have also found that Kolachki freeze very well. Wrap each log in 3 layers of plastic wrap, follow up with a layer of foil and place in a marked freezer bag with the date and name of the item. You then have a ready gift for that neighbor or friend who goes way out in driving you to a doctor's appointment or fixing the car while your husband is out of town.
When we were growing up in Pennsylvania most of our neighbors made nut rolls with walnut filling. Although these were really good, they paled in comparison to my husband's very Polish family recipe of poppy seed filling or their walnut filling which was rich and thick. I tried to imitate that thick rich filling and most of the time it baked right out of my bread roll and onto the baking sheet. What a mess! After years of begging, I was finally presented with an old Aunt's nut filling recipe. This put the crown on my head! After stumbling through learning to make Kielbasa and Pirogi I now could make really good Kolachki. I was beginning to feel like I had finally earned a place in the family, and that just maybe there was a little Polish blood beginning to run in my veins too. I have made my own modifications over the years. We have lived in Arizona for 24 years and this is definitely pecan country. Our KolachkI is filled with pecan paste so I guess that makes it a Stylized Arizona Polish KolachkI!
- 8 cups pecans, ground
- 1-2 cups plain breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup margarine, melted
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 can evaporated milk
Mix together everything but the bread crumbs. When well blended gradually add the bread crumbs until it all comes together in a thick paste. The paste should stick to the spoon when you turn it over. This will make enough filling for 6 nut rolls (Kolachki).
You can really use any sweet roll dough you like, but I will give you our Aunt's recipe here as it will make 6 rolls too and will then use up all the filling. Any extra filling can be bagged and frozen for any other treat ideas you may have.
1 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 package yeast
1/2 tsp salt
4 -5 cups all purpose flour
Scald the milk. Add butter and sugar. Stir until the butter is melted. This should cool things down enough to add the yeast. Stir it in and let it sit for 5 or 10 minutes. This should be enough time to see bubbles forming and know that the yeast is working. Pour into a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs and with a good sturdy spoon mix in the flour 1 cup at a time. Add the salt in with a cup of the flour. Be ready to use your hands in mixing, but be careful not to overwork the dough, it should be tender, yet easy to handle. When it reaches that point knead it gently and place it in a greased bowl with a cover on top.
When it has about doubled in bulk, punch it down and knead it again. Divide it into 6 equal portions. roll only one portion at a time to a rectangle about 14 inches by 8 or 10 inches. Spread a mounded cup of the nut filling on the rectangle leaving about a 1/2 inch margin all around. Roll it up from the longest edge. Pinch and fold under the two ends and place on an ungreased cookie sheet seam down. I can place three at a time on my sheets.
Bake at 350 degrees F for about 15-20 minutes or until golden in color.
Kolachki does not have to be shaped in logs. For example, Valentine's Day is coming. If you're really creative, you might be able to bend the Kolachki into the shape of a heart. Use your imagination and have some fun!