Marco Werman: Time now to talk kolaches. For the uninitiated, a kolache is a tasty ball of dough about the size of a fist stuffed with a delicious filling of your choosing. It's a Central European snack especially popular with Czechs and with Czech immigrants, especially in Texas. Paul Ashey grew up in Texas. Now he and his new wife have launched Kolache Ko in Brooklyn. As part of our ongoing look at globally inspired chefs and taste-makers in the New York area, here's Paul.
Paul Ashey: Kolaches are everywhere. They are on every street corner in Texas and West Texas. There are a lot of Czech towns in Texas that have brought over this pastry which is kinda like a jelly sweet dough pasty, and then it got Texa-fied. They put sauces, they put cheese, the put jalapenos in it. I met my now wife, Sarah.
Sarah Morgan Ashey: Hi.
Paul Ashey: When I was taking Sarah to come visit the family during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, the whole family would go off on runs in the morning and me and Sarah didn't go because we had errands to run, but really the errands were just going to the kolache store and just eating kolaches in the car. Because it was like that was our chance to eat this.
Sarah Morgan Ashey: And we certainly weren't going to go on a bunch of runs.
Paul Ashey: Yeah.
Sarah Morgan Ashey: When the opportunity arose to go be sneaky and go get kolaches, you know, we were licking our chops. We decided to go and do that and I kinda fell in love with them.
Sarah Morgan Ashey: They are sort of the perfect food for New Yorkers. The way I would describe them is either a really fancy pig-in-a-blanket or a really fancy Hot Pocket. They're delicious and, unlike having a bagel with cream cheese, you know the moment you bite into it all the cream cheese just spills out, the special thing about kolaches is is it's totally enclosed, it's like a roll. So we kinda got to thinking that we should bring these up to New York City.
Paul Ashey: Yeah. It's this little ball of sweet dough that literally you can put anything inside of and make it your own. It's kinda the perfect adaptable comfort food because you can do that.
Sarah Morgan Ashey: There's a wonderful legend. It all started back in the 1700s. There was a mother and daughter. They were in the kitchen making bread and the daughter was kinda annoying and kept interrupting her mother until finally, to appease her daughter, she just said, "Here's a lump of dough. Do whatever you want with it." So the daughter sat at the kitchen table and started throwing a bunch of plums in the dough, rolled it up and then snuck it into the oven with her mother’s bread. And when her dad came in from tilling the field, he decided to try his daughter's dough. Unfortunately though, the plums that she had stuffed inside squirted out the side and scalded his hand, so she started kinda dancing around the table in a wheel pattern, you know, in circle. And of course the daughter, being kinda annoying, didn't really find sympathy for her father, so she just started cracking up and said in her native language, "Look, daddy's making a wheel. He's dancing in a wheel." So the word "kolache", and I'm probably going to butcher the pronunciation, but it comes from the word "kola", that's its origin, which means "the wheel". And so that's where kolaches came from. That's the legend.
Paul Ashey: You mom has a really amazing sweet dough recipe that we kinda incorporated into this mesh of our kolaches that we're making right now.
Sarah Morgan Ashey: When my mom would make baked treats around the house, she had this weird thing where whenever she would have yeast dough similar to our kolache dough, as it was rising you have to pat it down, she'll be like, "Time to spank the bottom." Spank the bottom. So that's something that we were doing the other day when we were making our dough. We were just spanking away.
Werman: That was Sarah Morgan Ashey and her husband, Paul Ashey. They're behind the just-launched Kolache Ko in Brooklyn, New York. They told their story to The World's Alex Gallafent. By the way, some purists say these aren't really kolaches at all. If they've got meat or cheese inside they're Klobasnek. Kolaches, Klobasnek, either way I'm hungry, and if you are too, wash up, put on your apron, we've put the recipe at PRI.org. This is PRI, Public Radio International.