Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Dreaded Expiration Date: Peach Kolaches

For years before I became so knowledgeable about food (ok well, kind of sort of knowledgeable about some food) I collected spices like some people collect decorative spoons.  I had all types of spices, herbs and roots just in case I ran across an exotic curry or something that I just had to prepare at the spur of the moment. I even had some spices in my cupboard that were aged five years or more.
Then one day I read that every six months you should purge your stale spices and buy new.   If that wasn’t bad enough I noticed that a new box of baking soda I had just purchased was only good for 3 more months. You’ve got to be kidding me!  We’re not the Kennedys!  I can’t afford that, so I refused to conform.  Ok, I’ll be honest I must admit that there is nothing like the taste of fresh cinnamon, but I still just can’t bring myself to throw away that ground thyme that I bought the week before my son was born sixteen years ago.
Nowadays “The Man” puts expiration dates on EVERYTHING.  Before, I always trusted the sight, smell and taste test to see if my ancient can of green beans was still good.  Really, we never used to even think about canned goods or dried noodles going bad.  If the can wasn’t rusty, moldy or puffy, we called it dinner.  Those were the days boy.
It kills me to admit it, but I finally succumbed to this expiration date peer pressure a few years ago.  I hate to think about all of the food that I have thrown away because of these menacing dates, mumbling all the while about how ridiculous it is, but better safe than sorry.
If you're like me and don't really know what to think, click here for more information about the shelf life of the foods we eat, and decide for yourself whether or not you should eat that two year old canned ham in your cupboard.  I’ll tell you what; you just might be surprised at the answer.
What caused me to get on my soap box you might ask?  Well, I recently helped a neighbor can some peaches which reminded me of some preserves that I canned last year.   Out of curiosity I Googled food safety guidelines for home canned goods and realized that if I don’t use my preserves within the next 2 days, they will probably kill my family.  Ok, I’ll get cooking, but I still don’t know if I believe it.
So, how to use 3 half pints of peach preserves is the question I now find myself searching to answer.  In my opinion, the answer is obvious, peach kolaches.    Brought to south central Texas by Czech immigrants, these soft doughy pastries are great for breakfast, with coffee or for dessert.  Akin to open face jelly doughnuts, but far superior by comparison, these pastries are a great reason to use up any ingredients with a looming expiration date.




Kolaches

1 - .25 ounce envelope fast acting dry yeast
1 cup of warm milk
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter (5 – 1/3 tablespoons), melted and cooled
1 egg, beaten
3 – 1/4 to 3 – 1/2 cups all-purpose or bread flour (I used 2 cups all-purpose and 1-1/2 cup of bread flour with great results)
1/2 pint jar peach (or your very favorite) preserves

Cinnamon Streusel Topping (recipe follows)

Sprinkle yeast over the warm milk in a large bowl or better yet, the bowl of a stand mixer that has been fitted with a dough hook.  Let sit for 5 minutes or until foamy.
Add the sugar, salt, butter and egg to the milk mixture in the bowl and stir until the mixture is combined.  Slowly add the flour, one quarter at a time until it is completely mixed in and dough pulls away from the side of the bowl.  Knead for 5 minutes.
Spray a large bowl with non-stick cooking spray.  Place the dough in the bowl and spray the top with more cooking spray.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a cotton towel.  Place in a warm, draft free space and let rise until double in size, approximately 1 hour.
Roll dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Divide into 16 equal portions.  Roll portions into balls and place in a greased baking dish (you may have to use 2 pans to fit all the dough).  Don't worry about crowding them just a bit as they will bake together, making soft edges that my family loves.
With the back of a tablespoon or your fingers, make an indention in the middle of each ball of dough.  Fill each indention with a heaping teaspoon of preserves.  Sprinkle the tops with Cinnamon Streusel Topping.
Cover with additional plastic wrap and let rise again for 30 minutes. 
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place risen kolaches in the preheated oven and bake for approximatey 20 minutes or until light golden brown.
Makes 16 nice size kolaches


Cinnamon Streusel Topping
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons slightly softened butter
Combine the flour, sugar and cinnamon in a medium size bowl.  Cut in the butter with a fork, pastry blender or your hands.  The mixture will look like coarse sand.   Sprinkle over the top of the kolaches.  Freeze any unused topping for use later.
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