I have always loved almonds, but I never truly appreciated them until I visited an almond tree farm in Spain and learned how they are actually grown and harvested. Almonds grow in little pods of one nut each, and at harvest time the trees are shaken to release these pods, then each one is cracked open, collected, and processed. Almond trees take about 5 years to produce a harvest, and once the trees are mature it’s about 7 months from flower to almond. This all makes $6.99/pound seem like a real steal when you consider the time and work involved!
Why all this talk about almonds? Because I recently discovered that Kolachy are like the almond of the holiday cookie world. My aunt makes them every year, and I’d usually eat one here or there, but it wasn’t until I spent a day making them this fall that I came to truly appreciate the detail, care and deliciousness that go into each one of these little treats!
[A note here on spelling… like so many other Eastern European foods, Kolachy have about 50 different spellings and 8,000 different countries of origin. I wish I could tell you that these are the definitive Slovenian version, but just like my decidedly non-Polish family’s habit of listening to Bobby Vinton singing “Santa Must Be Polish” every year on Christmas Eve, I think it’s fair to assume that these are a mishmash of several different ethnic traditions.]
Kolachy has as many recipes as it does spellings, but they are all pretty similar – a soft, cream cheese dough with your choice of filling. I’m sharing my family’s recipe below. For filling, we used some purchased at a local baking supply store (also available online). Occasionally, you can also sometimes find it in the grocery store (just make sure it is for pastry, as “pie” filling tends to be too watery). You can also use a very stiff jam (again, just nothing too watery). And, of course, there are recipes online if you’d like to try making your own.
- 3 ounces cream cheese
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup any flavor fruit jam or pastry filling
- 1/3 cup confectioners sugar for dusting
- Mix cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add flour slowly until well blended. Shape into a ball and chill for several hours or overnight.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough on a floured surface into 1/8 inch thickness (check out our favorite rolling tip here!)
- Cut into 2-1/2 inch squares.
- Move squares to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper*. Place approximately 1/2 tsp filling onto each square.
- Overlap opposite corners and press dough together — you should press hard so all three layers of dough make contact.
- Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until very lightly browned at the edges. Cool on a wire rack, and sprinkle lightly with confectioners’ sugar.
(*this is a really helpful step that most recipes neglect to mention. It is so much easier to move the dough to the tray before you fill and seal the kolachy!!!)