Three Bites: Texas Turnover

Marilyn HawkesNovember 4, 2021
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Photography by Angelina Aragon
Photography by Angelina Aragon

Topped with fruit or stuffed with meat, the kolache deliciously blends Eastern European pastry traditions with Lone Star tastes. 

Kolache Café

4302 E. Ray Rd., Phoenix
Unless you’ve lived in Texas or have Eastern European roots, you’re probably not familiar with the kolache, a pillowy pastry topped with fruit or filled with meat. When Czech immigrants settled in rural Texas in the late 1880s, they brought kolaches along for the ride. The Texas varieties are more savory than sweet, but Ahwatukee’s Kolache Café makes both ($1.98-$2.98, pictured). The handheld delights are the perfect meal, according to proprietor Joe Leal, who smuggled the dish into the Valley when he moved here from Houston. “It’s affordable, you can eat it on the go and it’s a good alternative for breakfast and lunch.” The fluffy dough – a cross between sweet Hawaiian bread and a Parker house roll – provides the perfect cradle for apple, apricot and a slew of other fruit fillings, and a spongy delivery system for smoked sausages; meat-free potato, cheese and egg; and other savory delights. Most popular? Smoked sausage and cheese, with or without jalapeño. “People buy them by the dozen.”

The Local Donut

3213 N. Hayden Rd., Scottsdale
Logic tells you that a doughnut shop would specialize in sweet kolaches, but Scottsdale’s The Local Donut only makes savory varieties. It offers four types, including sausage and pepper jack cheese with jalapeños, each wrapped in pillowy dough that bears a resemblance to a slightly sweet dinner roll ($2.29-$3.29). “We’ve had to increase kolache production because customers are discovering them,” says owner Daniel Sam. In fact, Sam recently hired a dedicated kolache baker who has been experimenting with both savory and sweet kolaches, including cherry and blueberry. Past flavors include a Monte Cristo with poached egg, turkey and cheese with local jam from Carolyn’s Classics, and a special “420” kolache that was “a big hit.” We’ve never been higher on kolaches.

Hotko Bread Co.

Using her Bohemian great-grandmother’s recipe, Alexhandra Hotko makes traditional prune and poppyseed kolacky (the Czech spelling), as well as American-style versions topped with blueberries and cinnamon or with jammy apricots (three for $5). Hotko’s mace-infused dough has a slightly floral note and a little more body than its Texas counterpart. Kolaches require a long-fermented dough that Hotko starts in the early morning and proofs for six to seven hours throughout the day. After rolling out the dough, she cuts it into circular shapes. “My great-grandma used a particular cup, but it didn’t survive, so I use a Mason jar lid,” Hotko says. After shaping the dough, she lets it rise again, makes thumbprint dimples, swabs a delicate egg wash over the top and then fills the Czech-style pastry before baking. Find Hotko Bread Co. at Uptown Farmers Market.


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