Bohemian Koláče

At my childhood home in the States there are a few twiggy plum trees in the backyard, and just about now their whittled branches are swinging with clusters of small, begging-to-be-picked, deep-blue fruit. These little plums (technically Italian prunes), which easily fit in the hollow of your hand, are an iconic part of Bohemian* cooking. Plum dumplings, plum jam, and of course, plum koláče (pronounced "kohlachkee" and written "kolache" in American English).

Poppy seed and plum kolache were an essential part of my culinary upbringing; an edible reminder that I was Czech. I think there's something very great to be said about honoring your heritage via the food you make. And so, when Kasey and I phoned our Mom and Dad this past Sunday, and they started telling us about their great plum harvest, and how all the people nearby with a spot of Czech blood were asking with anticipation when they could come by to collect a treasured bag of fruit, and then, how nostalgically delicious the plum kolache was that they'd just made - well? Even with regular, shelf-ripened, Tesco "credit crunch special" plums at our disposal - how could we resist making a pan of our own?

While traditionally, "kolache" is a sweet yeast dough molded into individual rounds, then flattened with indentations to accommodate a filling, the root word "kolach" actually just means, generically, "cake." And since we got this recipe from my Grandmother, who never had qualms calling any number of traditional Bohemian baked goods simply "kolache," I believe we can authentically deem this particular creation "Bohemian Plum Kolache." As you can see from the picture of the half-demolished pan below... devoured by just Kasey and I... it's addictively delectable... Czech soul food, if you will. I'm sure we'll polish off the rest before the week is out. The recipe follows. Enjoy!

*History lesson: For those of you as confused by this reference to Bohemia as my Mom was when my Dad first introduced himself to her as a "Bohemian" ("What? Where's your black turtle neck and bongo drums?"), Bohemia was a region that found itself with enlarged borders and a new name when it became part of Czechoslovakia after the First World War - to date, the people who live in the area still very much identify themselves as "Bohemian."

Grandma Vi's Bar Kolache

For Crust:
1 1/2 Cups Flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp Vanilla
1/2 Cup Butter
1/3 cup sugar
2 T Milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all above ingredients together till dough is formed. Press down into a 8 1/2 X 12 to make crust. Prick crust and slightly brown in oven - about 15 minutes.

Plums... lots and lots of sliced plums. "As many as will fit." Kasey cut up six rather large plums, but in the end, didn't think that was enough. ("We should have made at least two layers of plums," she said.)


1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
(We also added about a teaspoon of cinnamon).

Once crust is slightly cooked, evenly spread out the sliced plums onto the crust, then sprinkle with streusel on top. Return to oven and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.


Dianne said...

I have two plum trees at the house just begging me to do something with their fruit. Thanks for another great idea!!!

anne spice said...

So glad that I'm timely and relevant! Yeah, just definitely use more plums than we did (so much easier when you have them growing in your backyard!) And I forgot to mention to grease the pan..