These filled cookies are another recipe including farmer cheese (tvaroh). The individual names only refer to the styles of folding the dough around their fillings – their shapes. The dough is the same for all. You can choose the filling(s) and mix and match between different folds/shapes. The main sweetness for the cookies comes from the traditional Czech fillings and later confectioner’s sugar dusting.
The exact origin of this type of cookie is uncertain. It is popular (especially one of the shapes) throughout Central and Eastern Europe. In Czech Republic, the cookie shapes are mostly called Psaníčka, Šátečky, Trojuhelníky, or Koláčky (literally Envelopes, Scarves, Triangles or Kolache). Poles may call a similar cookie in the scarf shape “kolaczki”, and in other countries either another cognate, or even “Kiffles”.
In Czech, “koláčky ” is a plural diminutive of the word “koláč”, which many know as the sweet round pastry with fillings (like a Danish). A general term, it can also be used for select other sweet pastries with fillings, regardless of their shape. The root Czech word is “kolo”, a Slavic language term meaning “wheel”. If you like, you can call all the cookies described in this recipe “koláčky”, regardless of the shape, but the one I label as such is a round one. The fold style most familiar to many, is more often described as “Šátečky” (Scarves) by Czech home bakers.
Recipes for the cookie fillings are at the end of the post. Or to save time, some grocery stores sell pre-made canned fillings in the bakery aisle. Since the cookies are small, I don’t recommend larger fruit pie fillings, but rather jam/preserves, with no or very small fruit bits.
Americanized recipes for the dough usually call for cream cheese (like Philadelphia brand). Here I use the jemný tvaroh (smooth tvaroh), which is creamier than more curd-like versions. Quark, in Germany or Austria is likely identical. The semi-coarse flour (polohrubá mouka) is not available in American supermarkets but can be found at ones mentioned in Finding Czech/Slovak groceries in the US/UK.
These cookies are best consumed within a week and a half max, while many of the other Christmas cookies on my blog last well much longer.
Trouble getting farmer cheese and/or polohrubá flour? Consider making blogger My Peppermint Kitchen’s easy and quicker version at Merry Christmas! Polish Kolaczkis. My dough below is a bit different than hers. You’ll see that in my recipe’s multiple folding and refrigeration procedure, which makes the dough more like a puff pastry.
- 250 g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 250 g smooth-style farmer cheese (jemný tvaroh) or quark, room temperature
- Pinch of salt
- 1 packet vanilla sugar (or 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons sugar) – Yes, that’s all the sugar in the dough.
- 250 g semi-coarse flour (polohrubá mouka)
If you can’t get the above flour and/or farmer cheese, try this recipe.
Filling options (recipes at the end of the post) –
- Jam/preserves (prune jam, apricot, raspberry, etc.), or
- Walnut filling, or
- Poppy seed filling
You’ll need approximately a full recipe of one filling for the cookies. Halve more than one recipe to include two fillings. Leftover filling afterwards? Try these easy and quick to make muffins.
For dusting –
- Confectioner’s sugar (or a combo that with vanilla sugar)
In a large bowl, cream together the softened butter, farmer cheese and salt for 10 minutes. Then add the vanilla sugar (or extract) and gradually add the flour. Using a rubber spatula, remove the soft dough to a large sheet of parchment or waxed paper. Form into one somewhat flat piece, and shape into a square. Wrap in the paper, and then wrap that with plastic wrap or foil, and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. If making fillings homemade, you can make them now or before working the dough (below) the next day.
After chilling, remove the dough. If very hardened, let sit at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes or so to make rolling easier. On a lightly floured surface (or large sheet of parchment paper), gently roll out the dough into a roughly rectangular shape, then fold it over lengthwise. Turn 180° and then roll again, gently, into the rectangular shape, and again fold it over again. Repeat the 180° and roll/fold one more time, then re-wrap and put dough back to chill for an hour. Meanwhile, prepare filling(s) if you haven’t already (recipes further below). Alternatively, buy pre-made. I like to make half batches of two or more fillings, for variety. After the hour chilling, remove dough, and repeat the folding process, again putting it back to the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes. Then you are ready to do the cutting, filling, and folding.
Preheat oven to 175° C (350° F). Prepare two large greased or parchment paper-lined sheets.
Roll out the dough a final time to a thin 4 millimeters (just under ¼ inch) thick. Now you must decide the shape/fold type you want to use. Czech cookies tend to be a bit smaller than American ones. Plus, the cookies puff up when baked. I’ve described shapes, recommended cutout sizes, and folding procedures (if applicable).
Do NOT use too much filling or it may ooze out or make dough sealing difficult. A little goes a long way. Consider dividing the dough into two portions, refrigerating some (and cutout scraps) while you work with the first.
1] Envelopes (Psaníčka) either closed or opened – Square cutouts between 5 and 6 cm. Put just under ¼ teaspoon filling in the middle of each square, then fold in either all four corners (closed envelope) or three (opened envelope) and press corners and much of the sides to seal in filling, also lifting ends slightly upward. See photo above left. Do seal them better than shown in the photo.
2] Triangles (Trojuhelníky) – Square cutouts ~4.5 to 5.5 cm. Put between 1/8 and 1/4 teaspoon in the middle of the squares, then fold over one end to the opposite to form a triangle shape. Fully seal the filled triangle either with the end of a fork or your fingers.
3] Two scarf corners meeting (Šátečky aka Koláčky around the world) – Square cutout ~ 4.5 to 5.5 cm. Put about 1/8 teaspoon filling in the middle, then press together securely two opposite corners. See photo above top right.
4] Round filled (Koláčky) – Circular cutouts 4 to 5 cm in diameter. Press an indentation in the middle of dough circles, then fill indentations with a dot (or max 1/8 teaspoon) of filling. This version looks like traditional Czech koláče pastries. See photo above bottom right, before the dot of filling was added.
Put all on a cookies on the baking sheets, baking in batches with similar size/fold cookies. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until they start to turn golden brown. Remove to a cooling rack. When cooled, dust with confectioner’s sugar (or combo with vanilla sugar).
These cookies stay at their best, covered, for about a week.
Use your favorite pre-made jam/preserves. Avoid ones that have big fruit chunks.
Walnut Filling Recipe:
- 100 grams unsalted butter or margarine, melted and cooled
- 125 grams finely ground nuts (usually walnuts)
- 75 grams granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons rum or milk/cream
Grind walnuts (if not pre-ground) with sugar, then add in the butter and rum (or milk/cream). The mixture will be thin. If needed, refrigerate for 30 minutes or more to thicken.
Poppy Seed Filling Recipe:
- 100 grams (3/4 cup) ground poppy seeds
- ¾ cup milk
- 80 grams (generous 1/3 cup) sugar
- 25 grams (2 Tablespoons) butter
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon grated lemon peel
- 1 Tablespoon honey or jam (like apricot)
Simmer pre-ground poppy seeds in milk, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Stir in sugar, butter, vanilla, cinnamon, and lemon zest. Simmer 5 minutes longer, stirring occasionally, adding a little more milk, ONLY if the mixture stops looking liquid on top (before stirs). Blend in honey or jam. Cool completely. This filling thickens as it cools and may be refrigerated to quicken the process.
Interested in other Czech Christmas cookies? Click Authentic Czech Christmas cookies and Sweet Breads.
The dough in this recipe (basically a type of puff pastry) could be used for other purposes. Keeping the vanilla in it works with many sweet applications. Without the vanilla (and perhaps a bit more salt) for savory ones.