Category Archives: cooking

Texas Sausage Kolaches

My maternal great-grandma was a wonderful cook.  She was bitter, stubborn, and half-blind most of my life.  She never lost her Czech accent even though she’s been in this country since age 17, but wow could she make a pork roast and some sad little root vegetables taste amazing.  Apparently, though I never ate them, she made lots and lots of kolaches.  My Mom and one of my uncles were very fond of her cheese ones.  There was a bakery in my home town where you could get quite good poppyseed kolaches.  There was a famous incident with one of my younger cousins smearing the contents of a poppyseed kolache around the side of the refrigerator as we babysat him one day when I was a kid.

When we moved to Texas, they had different kinds of kolaches.  They had a soft yeasted dough outside and were filled with little sausages and cheese.  I always loved these, but to my knowledge, you can’t get them outside of central to eastern TX.  I could never find a recipe either.  Until the other day, that is.  I was randomly thinking about how much I loved the little airpockets that occur between the dough and the sausage as they bake, and I decided to search for a recipe.

I found a very good one here, but I modified it below due to my inability to consume milk right now.

Texas Sausage Kolaches


Dissolve 3 tsp. yeast and 1 T sugar in 1/4 cup of warm water.  Allow to foam while you combine 3 T of sugar with 1 cup of coconut milk.  Heat the sugar and milk mixture until it is warm to the touch.  Add the yeast mixture to the milk mixture in a large bowl and add 1 3/4 cups of flour.  Stir 100 times in one direction with a wooden spoon.  Cover the sponge and allow to rest in a warm spot for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, add 1/4 cup of melted shortening, 1/4 cup of canola oil, 1/4 cup of coconut milk, 2 egg yolks, 1 1/2 tsp. salt, and 2 1/4 cups of flour.  Stir until combined.  Lightly flour a working surface and slap knead (this is such a cool technique–it’s worth watching the video for just so you can stare in awe), adding no extra flour until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Allow the dough to double in bulk which will take a couple of hours.  You can let it rise in the fridge overnight and just warm it up to room temperature on the counter or in the oven with just the pilot light on before you continue.

Divide the dough into quarters and roll each quarter into a rectangle about 1/8″ thick.  Divide the rolled dough into 9 smaller rectangles and place a small sausage (about 2″ long) or piece of sausage into the center.  Fold the dough over the sausage, pinching to seal.  Place the sealed side down on a lightly greased baking sheet and paint with an egg wash made with 1 egg and 1 T coconut milk or water beaten well together.  Preheat the oven to 400.  Allow the kolaches to rise for about 20 minutes before you bake them.  Bake them for 15 minutes or until golden brown. 


Make some!  They’re tasty!

I hope everyone had a very merry Christmas.

12 Days of Christmas Cookies, Day 12

Congratulations intrepid blog readers…you have made it to the end of the cookie-a-thon. 

#12 Alfajores

I’m always on the lookout for unusual cookies.  When I was researching my list last year, this was one I came across that was more different than any other cookie I had seen before.  And it should be–it’s Argentinian.  The recipe is from Nick Malgieri’s A Baker’s Tour, which I picked up at Ross one day for $4 (that was a good day).  The cookie itself is odd in that it contains a high proportion of cornstarch which yields a rather tender cookie.  It is flavored with a good bit of lemon zest and cognac of all things.  This in and of itself would be a good cookie, but it gets more interesting.  The cookies, which are rolled and cut are then sandwiched and coated on the outside with dulce de leche.  The sides are then dipped in coconut.  The combination of flavors was so different I thought that they had to be tried.  These were the dark horse of last year’s cookie fest.  First, I must express my love for dulce de leche.

In college, I had a friend whose Dad did a lot of business in Brazil, and he would bring back treats for her from time to time.  The one I always managed to convince her to let me have was arequipe, which is the Brazilian form of dulce de leche.  Many graham crackers were eaten in Brittany’s dorm room with this amazing stuff slathered on.  Thankfully, I found out you didn’t have to go to Brazil to get some of it.  It seems every Latin culture has some version of this delightful milk caramel.  It comes by different names–arequipe, cajeta, dulce de leche–but the idea is the same no matter what you call it.  You simmer sweetened milk to which a tiny bit of baking soda has been added and maybe some flavoring like a cinnamon stick down until it is brown and thick…you can use sweetened condensed milk to save some time, but I find it tastes like the can often.  Last year, I made it from the can per Nick’s instructions (which very much unlike him were rather fussy–involving baking the stuff in a water bath and stirring it at regular intervals and replenishing the water) with the sweetened condensed milk and while the end result was passable, I wanted to try the homemade stuff this year.

So about a week before we assembled the cookies, I made the cajeta.  Cajeta is made with goat’s milk which brings a little bit of tang that tempers the sweetness.  Yes, you have to simmer it for about an hour and a half, but really you don’t have to pay attention to it at all.  I think I overcooked it this time in my effort to get a deep caramel color…it spread kind of weird on the cookies.  No difference, though because they are still wonderfully delicious.


One last invitation from me: add your pictures of your Christmas cookies here.  It’s fun seeing what people make.

Nathan and I are in San Francisco for a couple of days.  He has a science conference here, and I tagged along to eat and shop (which sounds worse on both counts than it actually is).  I imagine I shall write about where we eat and any jiffy fabric places I may come across in the next day or so.  I’m so excited to eat dim sum on Saturday!

12 Days of Christmas Cookies, Day 11

#11 Bizcochitos

I have two links to New Mexican food…my sweet sister-in-law has some extended family from there originally and my friend Lisa and I took a culinary and artistic road trip through Santa Fe and Albuquerque a few years ago. 

That trip was so much fun, despite the fact that we learned a painful, yet important fact about culinary travel, which is that really spicy food plus a lot of fat that is partially used to tame the fire does not lead to happy times for one’s stomach.  It was Labor Day weekend, which means green chile time.  As we stopped to get our bushel of peppers roasted  with our friend we were visiting in Albuquerque, her husband ironically slipped off to get us some Alka-Seltzer.  If it wasn’t so painful, it would have been very funny.  It was a good trip despite that.  The Georgia O’Keefe museum in Santa Fe is about the coolest museum I’ve ever been to, perhaps barring the museums we went to in Florence.  We shopped at The Spanish Table where I bought a couple jars of awesome piquillo peppers and moscatel vinegar, as well as some olivewood utensils.  That’s just a fascinating store anyhow–they sell Paella pans that are literally 5′ across…I can’t imagine how many people could eat off of that much rice.  The other thing we discovered about Santa Fe besides an awesome farmer’s market where we ate these rock hard fresh pippin apples was how easy it is to make U-turns there.  I love u-turning!

But fond musings of New Mexico aside, apparently bizcochitos are a very famous New Mexican sugar cookie made with lard (they sure seem to use a lot of lard in their food), sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and flavored with anise seeds.  I found out about them soon after Lisa’s and my trip, but I’d been avoiding them because I’m not a huge licorice fan.  This year I figured I’d give them a chance this year because I can’t eat butter right now and I really love rendering my own lard (an odd fascination I picked up in learning to make tamales a few years ago).  If I had known what crispy, pastry-like flaky cookies they would have turned out to be, I would have started making them a long time ago.  These are one of those pastries that has multiple layers of flavor–you taste the crisp first, then the cinnamon sugar, then a faint bit of anise, and then the lard right at the end of the taste.  Bizcochitos were hands down the dark horse of this year’s cookie selection.  And the recipe (I modified it–this is not my favorite cookie book…good ideas, but the recipes don’t all work out right) makes about a million, so there are plenty of opportunities to take a couple without depleting the stash for all of the bags of cookies that I’ve made for people.


12 Days of Christmas Cookies, Day 10

#10 Las Lunas de Sevilla

My sweet friend Tamara and I created this cookie while she was taking a Spanish class a few years ago.  Her instructor was from Spain and she was given the task of bringing treats one night.  Wanting to make something that actually was Spanish, the two of us set about researching.  Tamara makes wickedly delicious flan, but she really wanted to make some kind of cookie.  What we discovered were very few cookie recipes in our research, so we decided to create something with Spanish ingredients.  We had 2 ideas: Seville orange marmalade–made from bitter oranges in the city of Seville and dark Spanish chocolate (we used Blanxart).  We then concluded that the best way to combine them was with a shortbread cookie.

The prototype was a circular cookie painted down the middle with chocolate and the marmalade on the other side.  They were delicious, but the marmalade was tacky to the touch and the flavors were seperate, not combined like we were looking for.  The solution was two very thin half-moon shaped cookies, sandwiched with the marmalade and striped with the chocolate.  A stunning cookie with delicious results.  It might seem weird to have two bitter flavors–the jam and the chocolate in the same cookie, but these actually balance each other quite well.  I’ve since added sweet orange rind in the shortbread dough to add a bigger and different orange flavor in the final cookie.


12 Days of Christmas Cookies, Day 9

It just occurred to me that this is a lot of cookies.

#9 Double Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

These taste a great deal like Oreos, but they have a finer texture and aren’t so cardboardy.  Dutch process cocoa seems to give things a very sandy delicate texture I’ve noticed.  Regardless, these cookies certainly make you want to grab a stack with a tall glass of milk (a delight I bitterly mourn as I write–I shall drown my sorrows in a cup of very overpriced Mariage Frere Casablanca green tea with bergamot and mint that I bought in NY in April…it takes away the sting of my milk loss).

You can still add pictures of your own Christmas cookies here.


12 Days of Christmas Cookies, Day 8

#8 Sour Cherry Hamantaschen

Okay, so really technically, this is a Purim cookie, but they’re really good and sour cherries are pretty Christmasish, right?  The filling is sour cherry jam and dried sour cherries and a little vanilla.  The recipe always makes more than it does cookies which is good for me because it’s awesome on toast.  This morning I had it on some spelt bread that I made yesterday from this recipe.


You can still take lovely pictures of your own Christmas cookies and post them here.

I’m working on another Secret Santa gift for a friend in my women’s group.  I only have until tomorrow to finish it (ack!), so I better get back to work…

12 Days of Christmas Cookies, Day 7

I can dig 7 swans, but anyway…

#7:  Florentines

My favorite Italian confection.  We had these cookies at our wedding baked by our favorite Italian place in town.  These had to be about the most fun “cookie” to make (it’s more like an almond nougat that you then bake)–you make the almond mixture and then put about a tablespoon of it on the baking sheet and 10 minutes later they pop become these enormous cookies.  I made them beforehand and we decorated them with chocolate on one side.  The surprise in them is this delicious candied orange peel I got from my favorite spice store.  This particular recipe is from one of my favorite cookbook authors, Nick Malgieri from his Chocolate book.  You can still add pictures of your own Christmas cookie creations here.


Some of my cousins and I are participating in a Secret Santa swap.  Here is my contribution for my person who shall remain nameless lest she or others read this and spill the beans.  I got the pattern here.  It was a pretty simple bag to sew except her directions were different for lining the bag than I’ve tried before, which wouldn’t have been a big deal except that I used a pretty heavy interfacing plus I interfaced the lining with a layer of canvas.