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How to make the best kolaches from our favorite NYC pastry chef

Apricot Kolaches
Kolaches with apricot jam and poppy seed curd, topped with cornmeal crumble, from pastry chef Zoë Kanan. Prop styling by Nidia Cueva.
(Leslie Grow / For The Times)

These tender kolaches from Simon & the Whale pastry chef Zoë Kanan are easier to make than the length of the recipe might convey.

The poppy curd and cornmeal posipka can be made days in advance, as well, so making the pastries the day of can be a breeze. They make a great sweet to pack on a picnic or to sit out at as dessert after a barbecue. Serve any leftovers for breakfast the next day with coffee.

Apricot Kolache
Zoe Kanan’s sweet kolaches, with apricot jam and homemade poppy seed curd. Prop styling by Nidia Cueva.
(Leslie Grow / For The Times)

Apricot-Poppy Kolache

2 hours, plus 6 hours chilling or proofing. Makes 24.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1 ½ tablespoons honey
  • 2 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 ⅓ cups whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons fine sea salt, plus more
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • ½ cup plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • Poppy Curd (see recipe below)
  • 1 cup apricot jam, homemade or store-bought
  • Cornmeal Posipka (see recipe below)

Instructions

  1. Combine the milk, honey, 1 whole egg, and the yolk in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and whisk to combine. Add both flours, the sugar, salt and yeast, and mix on the lowest speed for 3 minutes to combine the dough. Increase the speed to medium and knead the dough for 5 minutes to develop the gluten well.
  2. Reduce the speed to the lowest setting again, and slowly stream the butter into the dough, allowing it to fully absorb the butter slowly, instead of pouring it in all at once. It should take you 4 minutes to add all the butter. After the butter is added, continue kneading the dough until it is smooth and shiny, and all the butter is fully absorbed, 2 to 3 minutes more.
  3. Remove the dough hook and scrape the dough off the sides of the bowl and shape it into a ball in the bowl. Cover the dough with a barely damp towel and set the bowl aside to rise in a warm place for 1 hour. Chill the dough overnight, or for at least 3 hours.
  4. The next day, line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and coat lightly with nonstick spray. Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour and scrape the dough onto it. Using a knife, divide the dough into 24 equal pieces (using a scale makes this process easier; each piece should weigh 40 grams). Shape each piece into a tight ball and arrange them on the baking sheets, 12 on each, spaced evenly apart. Lightly spray the balls with nonstick spray and loosely cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. Set in a warm place to proof until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
  5. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange 2 racks in the middle and bottom of the oven. Make egg wash by whisking together the remaining whole egg with a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Place some more flour in another small bowl for dipping your fingers while you shape the kolaches. Uncover both baking sheets.
  6. Dip the tips of both your index fingers into the flour and, beginning in the center, firmly flatten each dough ball nearly all the way through to the parchment. Aim to form a large cavity with a thin 1/4-inch edge around the perimeter of each ball. Lightly brush each flattened dough ball with some of the egg wash.
  7. Spoon 1 tablespoon Poppy Curd into each cavity and use your finger to flatten the curd so it fully covers the bottom in an even layer. Next, spoon 1 to 2 teaspoons apricot jam in the center of the poppy curd so it fills the rest of the cavity (do not overfill or jam will spill out and burn in the oven). Sprinkle a large pinch of the cold Cornmeal Posipka around the edge of each kolach.
  8. Bake both sets, rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through cooking, until the kolaches are golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Using a metal spatula, transfer the kolaches to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Poppy Curd

20 minutes, plus overnight chilling. Makes 2 cups.

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup poppy seeds
  • 1 lemon
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 large egg

Instructions

  1. Using a coffee or spice grinder, work in batches to process the poppy seeds into a fine meal, stopping before they begin to clump. Transfer the ground poppy seeds to a medium bowl. Using a Microplane grater, zest the lemon and let it fall over the poppy seeds in the bowl. Set a fine strainer over the bowl. Squeeze the juice from the lemon (you should get about 2 tablespoons) into a bowl and reserve.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, sugar, honey, butter and salt and place the pan over medium heat. Whisk until the sugar dissolves and the butter melts.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk the egg in a small bowl to loosen. While steadily whisking, pour about 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture into the egg to temper it. Scrape the egg-milk mixture back into the pan and quickly whisk to combine. While continuing to whisk constantly, bring the mixture to a boil, then continue cooking, still whisking constantly, until thickened and the whisk leaves a trail in the curd when dragged over the bottom of the pan, 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and immediately pour the curd through the strainer, allowing the curd to cover the ground poppy seeds and zest. Stir to combine and then press a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd. Refrigerate the curd until fully chilled and thickened, at least 4 hours or overnight. Stir the curd once more before using. If not using right away, transfer the curd to a storage container and refrigerate for up to 5 days.

Cornmeal Posipka

5 minutes, plus 30 minutes freezing time. Makes about 2 cups.

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup fine cornmeal
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temp
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

Instructions
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and scrunch together with your hands until no butter clumps remain and small crumbs form. Crumble the mixture in an even layer on a baking sheet and freeze until firm, about 30 minutes. Transfer the crumble to a storage container and freeze until ready to use, up to 2 weeks.


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