You did it. You made the perfect turkey. You paid attention to the temps as you cooked, and it came out juicy and delicious. It’s not because you overcooked it that there is leftover turkey meat—that’s just par for the course. Same with the gravy, the potatoes, and the stuffing. Heck, there’s even some cranberry sauce (homemade or canned, either way) left over. What’s a cook to do?
The answer, I’m confident in telling you, is to make turkey dinner kolaches. We wrote last year about some amazing dessert/breakfast kolaches that are topped with apple and streusel. The dough here is the same, except for the exclusion of lemon zest and the inclusion of black pepper, but instead of piling apples in a dimple on top of the dough, these are full-on stuffed with all the Thanksgiving dinner leftovers you can fit in them.
When we made them here, one ThermoWorker said—and this is a quotation—”This is like what you want thanksgiving leftovers to be, but they never quite make it this far.” And that makes sense. In the end, don’t we all want to take the leftovers and put them inside a nice warm roll as a sandwich? Well, these kolaches are that idea taken to its fullest, best, logical conclusion.
This recipe is not hard. In fact, I almost whipped some up on a whim just yesterday. However, you do need to be particular about a few critical temperatures here. Leftovers must be properly heated to prevent foodborne illness, and the dough needs a little thermal care to be its best. A Thermapen® ONE makes that easy enough, though. Read on for those key temps and, quite possibly, the best Thanksgiving leftovers you’ve ever had.
Kolache dough temperatures
As with all naturally leavened breads, kolache dough needs the right conditions to thrive. For instance, it’s important to wake the yeast up in the right way so that it will perform optimally. Using milk that is 95–100°F (35–38°C) in the dough will get your yeast off to a good start (temp it with your Thermapen to make sure it’s just right).
Temperature matters with other ingredients, too. For instance, cold butter is a no-go. We don’t need to absorb all that nice warmth from the milk into chunks of fridge-cold butter. Let your butter sit on the counter for 10–30 minutes before you start mixing and you’ll have better dough.
And of course, there is the proofing. The doughballs for kolaches do not need to proof to double their original size, but they do need to have some time to get poofy. A warm spot in the kitchen, 75–80°F (24–27°C) will do nicely if you don’t have an oven with a proof setting. (A spot near the oven while the oven is preheating works well in my kitchen.) They need about 30 minutes to carry out enough fermentation for our needs.
Kolache doneness temps
The rich dough on these kolaches is done at 190°F (88°C), but that is not our primary concern, thermally speaking. Of much greater import is the proper cooking of the leftovers inside the bread.
Reheating leftovers, especially those that may have sat out on the table for a long time, calls for stringent temperature protocols. Leftovers can be exposed to things that we don’t worry about with raw foods, so cooking them all the way to 165°F (74°C) is a must. As the kolaches cook and brown, the innards will also heat, but we don’t want to take them out of the oven until those inside reach a full, safe 165°F (74°C).
Using a fast and accurate instant-read thermometer like Thermapen to verify that internal temperature will help you know that you’ve made something that is not only tasty but safe.
Make these. Not only is this a great way to use up those leftovers, but the dough smells like browning butter when it cooks, and its texture is light and wonderful. They are very tasty.
Plus, there are basically no limits to how you can do them up. You need some gravy to add moisture to the bun, and I do recommend not skipping the cranberry sauce (the acidity helps wake up all the other flavors). But sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, even some roasted Brussels sprouts are all welcome. Make the mix how you want in the filling, just be sure that the filling is cooked to a food-safe 165°F (74°C). Grab your Thermapen and give them a try. Next year, you might make extra turkey on purpose…Print
Savory stuffed kolaches, made with leftovers from your Thanksgiving feast. The dough is based on a recipe from King Arthur Baking.
For the dough (enough for 9 kolaches)
- 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
- 3/4 tsp fresh-ground black pepper
- 3/4 tsp salt
For the filling
- Leftover turkey
- Leftover stuffing
- Mashed potatoes
- Congealed gravy
- Cranberry sauce, homemade or canned (recipe below in notes for homemade)
- Any other Thanksgiving leftovers you want to be in there
Make the dough and form the dough balls
- Combine the sugar, yeast, 1/4 C of the flour, and 1/4 C of the milk (verify it is warm enough with your Thermapen ONE) in a small bowl. Set aside to allow it to activate for about 15 minutes.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the yeast/flour mixture and the remaining dough ingredients. Mix with the dough hook, kneading until the dough is smooth and supple.
- The dough will still seem sticky and somewhat slack. That is ok!
- Scrape the dough out onto an oiled surface.
- Using a scale, portion out the dough into 3-oz portions.
- Roll each portion into a ball on the countertop using a cupped palm.
- Set each dough ball on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Set the dough balls aside, covered, to proof and rest for 30 minutes.
Prepare the filling
How you prepare your filling is up to you. You can follow this guideline, which we found to be an excellent ratio, or change it up. I recommend warming up a small portion of the filling in the microwave to see how well it works and to adjust any seasonings or proportions.
- Remove any skin from the turkey as well as any non-edible bits of bone, etc., then chop it into ~1/4″ pieces.
- Combine about 1 cup of turkey with 1/2 C mashed potatoes, 1/2 C stuffing, and 3/4 C cold gravy. Mix it all up by hand, then warm a spoonful of it up to check for balance and seasoning.
- Have the cranberry sauce close at hand.
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (177°C).
Stuff and cook the kolaches
- To fill a kolache, take one ball of dough, and flatten it into a round, about 6-inches across.
- Spoon 1–2 tsp cranberry sauce into the center of the round and top with 1–2 Tbsp turkey filling.
- Pull two opposite sides up over the filling and pinch them together, then pull the two other sides up and pinch the whole thing together. Pinch and twist the seam together and set the kolache, seam-side down, back on the pan.
- Fill the remain in kolaches the same way.
- Put the kolaches in the oven and bake for 15–25 minutes. Set a timer to know when to check their temp. The wide window for the time accounts for how much filling you use as well as how cold that filling is. Cooking strictly by time won’t do!
- When the timer sounds, check the temperature of the filling with your Thermapen. If it hasn’t reached 165°F (74°C), continue to cook. If it has, and the kolaches are beautifully golden (they will be by this time), remove them from the oven.
- Allow them to cool somewhat, and dig in! You may want to serve them with extra cranberry sauce for topping or even extra gravy (warmed) for dipping.
Homemade cranberry sauce that you’ll love in your kolaches and should add to your Thanksgiving table every year.
- 1 lb fresh cranberries
- 1 large, juicy orange
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- ~1/4 C brown sugar (more or less to taste)
- Kosher salt, about 1/2 tsp, to taste
- Put berries, cinnamon, sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, and black pepper in a small saucepan.
- Use a veggie peeler to peel 5 or 6 strips of zest off of the orange—almost half the zest of the orange. Add them to the pot with the other ingredients.
- Cut the orange in half and juice it into the saucepan, too.
- Add enough water so that there is about 1/2″ or liquid in the bottom of the pan.
- Cook the sauce, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until all the berries have burst and the sauce becomes jammy.
- Check for sugar/salt balance. remove the cinnamon stick. You can remove the zest strips or leave them in.
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