My sourdough starter is known affectionately as Celia. Until last month, she had only ever been used in the making of savoury bread…. daily bread, pizza, flatbread, focaccia – quite a range, but all along the same lines.
Then I stumbled upon sourdough surprises. My first attempt at breaking out of the bread, bread and more bread rut was a mixed success. Delicious, but very flat, muffins. I had gone in with high hopes that my Celia could make anything rise, and she underperformed.
So this month, I was determined to make it work.
This month’s bake is the kolache. Confession – I have never heard of this bun. But apparently it is originally Czech, and is particularly famous in Texas, where the immigrant Czech community have made it mainstream.
It’s a soft, enriched, brioche-style dough, baked in rounds with a fruity or a sweet cheesey filling (apparently it can also be savoury, but thanks but no thanks).
Not being given a recipe to follow, I based my dough-mix on this method from King Arthur Flour, and soured it up using this method (180g of starter replacing 90g of flour and 90g of liquid for every 500g flour).
The dough was super-super-easy to mix up. It was incredibly wet, but a stand mixer gets over that hurdle, and in any case it was clear that once the melted butter cooled, the dough would firm up.
The big question was, will it rise?
And, to be honest with you, the answer was NO.
I spent a happy 12 hours away from my dough during its first prove, imagining the plump, shiny ball of dough I would return to. Oh, the many and varied sweet dough buns I would make now I had cracked the enriched sourdough. The stollen. The babka. The cinnamon buns. I was inspired.
And then I returned to look at my dough. And it was, as my mother would say, as flat as a pancake. Maybe there had been a little spurt of growth, but no more than 10%. Doubled in size? No chance.
So, I put it in the fridge for another 12 hours and crossed my fingers.
Not 1mm had it grown. Not a smidge of an increase.
Not one to want to throw away shiny, glossy dough, I thought I’d press on and see what happened.
The shaping was nice and easy, and the dough was a lovely texture to work with. I rested them, squidged holes into them, dolloped fillings in them, covered them up and dumped them by the radiator and crossed my fingers. And, surprise surprise, after 2 hours they were looking markedly plumper. I could even double check by comparing to my before-proving picture. Yep, plumping had occurred.
So, into the oven they went. And plumped up some more, into lovely, pillowy little buns, encasing their delicious fillings.
Maybe I have cracked it after all?
I went for two fillings for my kolaches – raspberry jam, and sweet ricotta. All topped with an almond streusel. I used about half my dough to make 12 buns, and the other half I used to make a Chelsea-bun shaped affair, filled with the sweet ricotta, streusel and pine nuts.
I can now go to bed and dream happily again of all the lovely enriched buns I can make over Christmas, without a packet of yeast in sight.
237ml sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
112g butter, melted
30ml lukewarm milk
2 large eggs
410g flour (half strong, half plain)
180g active 100% starter
1 tablespoon vanilla essence
Sweet Ricotta (1 tub of ricotta, 2 tablespoons caster sugar, 1 egg, 2 tsps vanilla)
80g ground almonds
80g soft brown sugar
60g melted butter
Heat the sour cream and the butter until the butter is melted.
Mix all the dough ingredients on a slow speed in a stand mixer until combined (approx. 2 minutes). It will be very liquid, and seem too runny. Cover and leave for 10 minutes.
Mix on a medium-high speed for 3 minutes. Cover and leave for 10 minutes.
Repeat. By now, the dough should be glossy and elastic, and much less wet.
Cover and leave on the counter for 12 hours. After 12 hours, place in the fridge for another 12 hours – this will firm the butter up, and make the dough easier to work with. The dough rises only fractionally during this 24 hours – do not panic!
After 24 hours is up, shape the kolaches. Flouring your hands, break the dough into 50g lumps, shape into balls and flatten to 3 inch discs. Place in a baking dray (on baking paper) leaving about 1cm between them. The dough will make 24-30 of these.
Cover and leave to rest for 10 minutes. In the meantime, make the sweet ricotta.
With the whisk attachment, beat the egg and sugar on high for 5 minutes, until it forms a thick mousse. Add the vanilla and the ricotta in thirds and beat well until mixed.
Take a wooden rolling pin and dip the end lightly in flour. Push the rolling pin firmly into the centre of each dough ball, and twist round to make a decent-sized indentation.
Spoon the fillings into the dips. Each will take about 2 tsps filling.
Cover and leave somewhere warm for 2 hours. This time, the buns should be noticeably plumper by the end of the time.
To make the streusel topping, mix all the ingredients until it forms a breadcrumb-like mixture.
Sprinkle the streusel on top of the plumped-up buns. Bake in an oven at 180c for about 30 minutes, until lightly golden brown. Oven spring will be excellent, and the buns will be plump and will join at the edges.