Kolache tradition creates Christmas memory.

My recent “retirement” from catering has provided opportunity to embrace simple Christmas pleasures I had long forgotten. My time is no longer consumed with menu planning, food preparation and employee schedules. For the first time in over a decade I am experiencing the holiday season with renewed spirit.

International foods and cultural traditions have always been a part of the holidays in my family. This year I want to refine my family’s kolache tradition by adding whole wheat flour to the dough and creating a homemade cinnamon apple filling.

Kolaches originated in the early 1700s in Eastern Europe and was often used as a traditional wedding dessert. The soft, yeasty roll was most commonly filled with apricots, prunes or poppyseed. Other traditional Czechoslovakian fillings include cheese and sausage.

My grandmother rolled the dough into small balls then flattened them with a rolling pin. After adding a dollop of cherry pie filling in the middle of each flattened ball, she pulled the edges up over the filling, allowed the dough to rise once again and baked the pastry until it was golden brown.

Others leave the flattened dough open faced with a dollop of fruit topping on top, similar to the Danish pastry. One of my Bohemian friend made kolaches with cookie dough balls.  After flattening the balls with her thumb, she added apricot jam.

No matter what the shape, size or filling kolaches bring the memory of Christmas Eve at my grandparents’ house. Aunts, uncles, cousins and neighborhood friends gathered for boisterous conversation. After a meal of chili and oyster stew everyone scrambled for the kolache tray. Some of us even managed to sample a bite before the soup was served!