These delicate prune buns are a mainstay of the Eastern European baking repertoire. If you’re not crazy about prunes, substitute dried apricots for the filling.
3 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees)
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 large egg yolks
3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
1/2 cup milk
2 cups water
2 cups diced pitted prunes
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
2 cookie sheets or jelly-roll pans lined with parchment or foil
- For the sponge, whisk the yeast into the water and stir in the flour. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside until the sponge is risen and bubbly, about 20 minutes.
- For the dough, beat the butter with the sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle on medium speed until well mixed, about 1 minute. Beat in the yolks, one at a time, beating to incorporate after each addition. Decrease the mixer speed to lowest and beat in about half the flour, beating until it is smoothly incorporated. Beat in the sponge and the milk and continue beating until smooth. Finally, beat in the remaining flour.
- Beat the dough on low speed for 2 minutes, then stop the mixer. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
- Increase mixer speed to medium and beat until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 2 additional minutes.
- Scrape the dough out into a buttered bowl and turn the dough over so that the top is buttered. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
- While the dough is rising, make the filling. Combine all ingredients in a 2-quart saucepan and place over medium heat. Bring to a boil and lower heat so that the filling simmers gently. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the filling is thick and has the consistency of jam. Cool the filling by spreading it on a plate and refrigerating it.
- To form the kolache, scrape the risen dough from the bowl to a floured work surface and flour the dough. Pat the dough into a rough rectangle, then roll it into a 12 x 18-inch rectangle.
- Use a floured 3-inch plain round cutter to cut the dough into disks. As you cut the rounds, place them on the prepared pans 2 inches apart in all directions. Cover the pans with towels or buttered plastic wrap and allow the kolache to rise until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.
- When the kolache are risen, set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
- Use the bottom of a small glass or another 1-inch-diameter vessel, floured, to indent the center of each kolache. Fill each indentation with a scant tablespoon of the filling.
- Bake the kolache for 10 minutes, then switch the pan from the top rack to the lower one and the pan from the bottom rack to the upper one, turning the pans back to front at the same time. Bake until the kolache are a deep golden color and feel firm when pressed with a fingertip, about 10 to 15 additional minutes.
- Slide the papers from the pans to cool the kolache on racks.