If you are starting here, I invite you to read the blog post related to this recipe - all about a sweet grandmother who was a Kalács Queen! The recipe comes directly from America's Test Kitchen. They called these "Kolaches" and attribute them to Czech immigrants, but as I said in my blog post - these kinds of sweet breads seem to exist in so many European cultures - who is to claim the origin?

This recipe puts another notch in my battle to conquer "yeast phobia". As with some other recipes I have tried, the yeast is added to the dry mix, thus reducing the possibility that I will "kill" the yeast while trying to activate it. 

From start to finish it takes about 4 hours. I have made no major changes to the recipe and offer a few Tips (see bottom).

Getting ready - you'll need:

  • a large bowl for the proofing stage
  • vegetable spray
  • stand mixer with a dough hook
  • two baking sheets lined with parchment
  • find a cup that measures 2 1/4 " across the bottom - this will be used to indent the dough balls for the ricotta filling
  • to figure out the timing
  • bring eggs (4) and milk and cream cheese to room temperature
  • a loaf pan (and boiling water when the time comes)

1 cup whole milk  
10 TB unsalted butter, melted  
1 large egg plus 2 large yolks  

3 1/2 cups (17 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour  
1/3 cup (2 ounces) sugar  
2 1/4 tsp instant or rapid-rise yeast  
1 1/2 tsp salt 

Dough. Using the vegetable spray, grease a large bowl. Whisk the milk, melted butter, and egg and yolks together in 2-cup liquid measuring cup (butter may form clumps).

Whisk the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Fit the stand mixer with the dough hook, add milk mixture to flour mixture, and knead on low speed until no dry flour remains - about 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium and knead until dough clears sides of bowl but still sticks to bottom, 8 to 12 minutes.

Transfer the dough to the greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions. Place the dough on the lower-middle rack and place the loaf pan on the bottom of oven - fill it with 3 cups of boiling water - this moisture will help in the proofing stage. Close the oven door, and let the dough rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

6 ounces cream cheese, softened  
3 TB sugar  
1 TB all-purpose flour  
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest  
6 ounces (3/4 cup) ricotta cheese  

Cheese filling. Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat cream cheese, sugar, flour, and lemon zest on low speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add ricotta and beat until just combined, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic, and refrigerate until ready to use.

2 TB plus 2 tsp all-purpose flour  
2 TB plus 2 tsp sugar  
1 TB unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces and chilled

Streusel. Combine flour, sugar, and butter in bowl and rub between your fingers until the mixture resembles wet sand. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until ready to use.

After first proofing stage. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Punch down the dough and place it on a lightly floured counter. Divide into quarters and cut each quarter into 4 equal pieces. Form each piece into a rough ball by pulling dough edges underneath so the top is smooth. On an un-floured counter, cup each ball in your palm and roll it into a smooth, tight ball. Arrange 8 balls on each prepared sheet and cover loosely with plastic. Place sheets on the oven racks. Replace the water in the loaf pan with 3 cups boiling water, close oven door, and let dough rise until doubled, about 90 minutes.

Getting ready to bake. Remove the sheets and loaf pan from oven. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour the bottom of a 2 1/4-inch-diameter drinking glass. (To prevent sticking, re-flour the bottom of the drinking glass after making each indentation.) Make a deep indentation in the centre of each dough ball by slowly pressing until cup touches sheet. (Perimeter of balls may deflate slightly.) You can see from the photo that I gave the glass a wee twist.

Beat together 1 large egg with 1 TB milk. Gently brush the buns all over with egg-milk mixture - even inside the indentation. Divide the filling evenly among buns (about 1½ tablespoons each) and smooth with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle streusel over the buns, avoiding the filling.

With a baking sheet on each oven rack, bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Let the buns cool on the pans for 20 minutes. Serve warm.

Notes and Tips...

  • Egg whites -  don't forget that those two leftover egg whites can be frozen and saved for other cooking
  • Flour - for baking, it is always ideal to weigh the flour - easy with a digital scale
  • Yeast - be sure to use yeast labeled "instant" or "rapid rise"; a packet usually contains 2 1/4 teaspoons - exactly what you need for this recipe
  • Mixer : Kneading - I have a heavy duty mixer, but was surprised that even at medium speed the mixer "traveled around' a bit on my counter; keep an eye on this to ensure the whole thing does not tumble to the ground. The recipe says that if the dough doesn't clear the sides after 12 minutes, you can add up to 2 TB of flour - but only 1 TB at a time. I did not find that I needed to do this.
  • Ricotta - For sure, do not use nonfat ricotta cheese in this recipe. Full fat ricotta can be purchased in tubs, but I have come to like Santa Lucia Ricotta - an Award Winner in Canada's Cheese Grand Prix. it comes in a 500 gram package (16 ounces), and while the recipe calls for only 6 ounces, I use half the package - thus 8 ounces.
  • Quantity of buns - I made 8 x 2 balls as advised, and they baked up to a 4-5" diametre. I think next time I might make these a wee bit smaller - and then will have to adjust the bake time a bit.
  • Make ahead? If you want to speed this up a wee bit, you could mix the dry ingredients the day before. You will have time to make the filling and streusel while the dough is proofing, but technically you could also make that the day before.
  • Freeze - 16 buns, that remind me of my grandmother - yup I could have eaten a shocking amount in one sitting, but... I shared, yet still had too many leftover. I wrapped them in waxed paper, put them in a freezer bag and found that they were lovely thawed and  reheated - especially when done in an oven.
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