This recipe is based on the one from King Arthur Baking. The pecans are a very nice touch and I recommend including them, even though I don’t always love nuts in pastries.
For the dough
- 1 1/4 C lukewarm—95–100°F (36–38°C)—milk, divided
- 2 1/2 tsp instant yeast or active dry yeast
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 3 1/4 C (390g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened (you can soften butter by beating it repeatedly with a rolling pin)
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 3/4 tsp salt
For the streusel topping
- 1/3 C sugar
- 1/4 C (28g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
For the filling
- 4 medium Granny Smith apples
- 1/2 C sugar
- 3 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 C chopped pecans
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Make the dough
- In a mixing bowl, combine 1/4 C flour, 1/4 C milk, the sugar, and the yeast. Let this sit for about 15 minutes to activate the yeast. It should become somewhat bubbly.
- Add the rest of the dough ingredients (the butter, the rest of the milk, the remaining flour, the lemon zest, the egg, and the salt) and mix well. (I did this by hand, which was fine, but you can use a stand mixer with a dough hook.) It should become smooth, but will still be quite sticky. You may even think it needs more flour, but chances are good that it does not.
- Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place it in a warm corner of your kitchen or, even better, in a proofing box. Some ovens even have a proof setting. Allow the dough to rise until it doubles in size, 1–2 hours.
While the dough rises, make the topping and filling
- To make the topping by simply combining all the topping ingredients in a bowl.
- Peel the apples, core them, and chop them finely. Toss the apples with the cornstarch, sugar, and ground cinnamon.
- Place the mixture in a large saucepan and cook over medium heat until the apples become somewhat tender (not mushy) and the starch gels, thickening the mixture.
- Remove the pan from heat and stir in the chopped nuts and vanilla. Cool before using.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (191°C)
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled surface. Cut the dough into small balls, about the size of a whole walnut, about 1 oz each. Shape them into the shape of a squashed ball—make a ball and flatten it some.
- Place each piece on a parchment-lined baking sheet, about 12 to a sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to proof in the same conditions as the previous fermentation step. Let rise until they poof up somewhat, about 35 minutes.
- Make a deep indent in the center of each dough, about 1″ wide. Fill each well with apple filling (about 1 Tbsp) and top with the streusel crumble.
- Bake the kolaches for 20–25 minutes, checking their internal temperature with a Thermapen at 20 minutes. If the internal temp is 180–190°F (82–88°C), they’re done! Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool for as long as you can stand it before eating them.
For make-ahead goodness, these can be stored in the refrigerator for a week. Reheat them in a 350°F (177°C) oven for about 5 minutes before serving.