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Linda D. Cifuentes, Mahomet, Illinois
Kolačky are a Czech cookie. They consist of a round base, usually made with cream cheese and butter (lots of butter). Then the cookie is topped with the baker’s choice of topping. This is where family traditions are established; and vary. I will discuss that later. And finally a Kolačky is dusted with powdered sugar.
Home rnade Kolačky always have a thin base. I mention this because when you buy Kolačky from a Bohemian bakery, the base is thick and quite doughy. When I was a little girl growing up in Berwyn, there were Bohemian bakeries at least every block or two. Alas, due to the changing times, Vesecky’s Bakery on Cermak Road in Berwyn is the only one left and you can still get Kolačky there.
My memory of Kolačky is an early one. My Babi, (grandma in Czech) always had Kolačky on the table. These cookies were not just for the holidays. Babi, Agnes Holas, came to the United States through Ellis Island around 1920 with her husband Anton Holas I. They raised seven children, my dad Anton Holas II was the oldest son and third in line. He had 2 sisters ahead of him. My Babi made everything from scratch: bread, noodles, canning, and of course baked goods. My Babi and Deda (grandfather in Czech) lived in a typical Berwyn bungalow—you always entered through the back door and you could go upstairs (no one did) or downstairs. There was a full kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms, and living room in either direction. If you came Babi on a holiday or any day of the week, and you walked down the stairs you always knew you would find Kolačky sitting on the table. Babi Only made three different flavors: apricot, prune, and poppy seed. At an early age I realized I did not like poppy seed. One day I took a Kolačky, thinking it was prune and to my dismay it was poppy seed. I put the Kolačky back on the plate but I got caught by my dad. His rule was if bit into something you had to completely finish it. I struggled for over an hour to finish that kolačky; I never made that mistake again. When I was at my Babi’s house after that I always to apricot Kolačky.
Now let’s talk about my mom; Helen Brezinsky Holas; another great Kolačky baker. My mom married my dad Anton (Tony) Holas II in 1951. They had four children and lived on the south side of Chicago for 14 years. Then they moved back to their home town, Berwyn where they lived for the next fifty-four years.
I was the oldest of the four children and have very fond memories of cooking and baking with my mom. She was an incredible baker. I believe Kolačky were the first cookies I ever made with my mom. She rolled out the dough and my job was to cut out the cookies. My mom always used the glass container that held shrimp cocktail (it was the perfect size). I remember how difficult it was to cut out the Kolačky. I would try to pick up the dough/base and it would break. It took forever to make that batch of Kolačky but my mom didn’t mind. I remember how much fun we had. She let me put the filling on top of the base. My mom always made apricot and prune. My favorite part of the Kolačky making was after the cookies were baked and I got to dust/sprinkle them with powdered sugar. Me and the table were covered in powdered sugar; and oh yeah some got on the Kolačky.
Now you probably are thinking next I will probably talk about how I carried on the Kolačky tradition. The plain and simple truth is pure laziness. Kolačky are very time consuming to make and I never forgot my original struggles with cutting out the Kolačky. Because of the amount of time needed to make the Kolačky I passed by the recipe card in my file box time and time again.
Fortunately the story does not end here. My brother Anton Holas III (Tony) carries on the family Kolačky tradition. My brother Tony is next in line after me and is an excellent cook and baker. He married Lori Motycka when they were both 20 years old. When Lori was forty-nine she had a bleed in her brain that caused her to be paralyzed on the left side and wheelchair bound. Nine years later Lori had a large stroke that took her life at the age of fifty-eight. Tony and Lori did not have any children and Tony was alone except for his siblings. Through the years Tony occasionally made Kolačky and brought them to holiday festivities. The first Christmas without Lori I found myself in Tony and Lori’s kitchen on December 24th in the morning. We didn’t want Tony to be alone. He said he was going to make Kolačky for Christmas. I was there to help! The family joke though, is that Tony is very neat especially when cooking and his big sister; yours truly, IS NOT!! Quite the opposite! He called our sister Cindy and had her tell me I better not mess up his kitchen. When I arrived, I was handed two towels and an apron. I told Tony I couldn’t wait to let the powdered sugar fly just like at Mommies when I was a little girl. That resulted in another call to our sister Cindy. However, I was just kidding by lightening things up. We made two batches of Kolačky for Christmas. Tony took one batch to Lori’s family (also Czech) and one batch to Cindy’s house. I must say that I had a really good time with Tony and there was only a minimal mess.
Tony continues to make Kolačky for all our family holidays/get -togethers. Tony is retired and can take his time making the Kolačky. Tony has been making mostly red Kolačky; strawberry, raspberry or cherry. He sometimes makes apricot in honor of our mom but sorry Babi, he never makes poppy seed.
I bet you are wondering about those beautiful little girls in the pictures. Those are Cindy’s granddaughters. Cindy was the only one of the four Holas children who was blessed with a child. Anton Holas IV (Tony) when Tony was 16 he was adopted by Cindy’s husband and officially is Anton Holas Petriw. Tony married Katie Barnes in 2007 and they have these two amazing girls; Carolyn Paige and Ashlyn Kellie. As of right now they both love to eat Kolačky. You might be thinking that the one who is daintily nibbling (Carolyn -the oldest) would be our next generation Kolačky maker. But, you would be wrong! The little wild one with her mouth wide open (Ashlyn) is more likely to take over the tradition. Whenever I bake or can I ask the girls if they want to help and Carolyn says “I have no desire.” It’s the little one who always jumps in to help cook in any way she can. Every December Cindy brings the girls down to my house (they live in Pingree Grove) so we can ride the Santa train in Monticello. This year I think maybe we will make the Kolačky for Christmas and I will let the girls pick their flavors. Wanna bet if poppy seed is picked??
****I tried to find prune filling but no one had it—I was told it was seasonal. I did make poppy seed, apricot, raspberry, and cherry. I hope you enjoy them!!
Linda D. Cifuentes, Mahomet, Illinois
½ pound butter; softened
1 package cream cheese; 8 ounces
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 cups flour
Mix all together to make dough. Roll out dough on floured surface. Use small juice glass to cut put circles for cookie base. ( my mom used shrimp cocktail jar)
Place dough on ungreased cookie sheet, make a thumb print in the center and top with filling of your choice.
Bake at 350F for 20 minutes
Just before serving sprinkle with powdered sugar
2 cans of filling for 1 recipe.