So, several years ago I bought a copy of Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads (actually my copy looks to be an older version than this one) for my birthday. I have used several recipes from the book, but there are sooo many recipes in this book that I have barely scratched the surface. So, I decided that I would make something from the book for this event. I wanted it to be something pretty, but also something I knew my whole family would want to eat.
I settled on a recipe I found in the “Festive Breads” section of the book. One of the main things I like about Mr. Clayton’s book is that pretty much every recipe has a little bit of background or story to preface the recipe. For this bread, called “Kolach” Mr. Clayton talks about this being a very rich bread that the “Circle of Serbian Sisters” in Milwaukee reached back to homelands in the Balkans for the recipe. It also said that the bread is traditionally served on one’s patron saint day.
I liked the idea of a long heritage and tradition behind this bread, and the photograph of it on the front looked lovely, but not too terribly difficult to do. I decided to do a search on Kolach and found out that it is really just a term for cakes or breads, usually filled. So, while perhaps that isn’t the really exact name for this bread, that is the name on the recipe. The original version was more simple, with lemon zest and juice and pecans studded on the top.
Though his version looked and sounded lovely to me. I wanted to experient and see what I could come up with, so below is my version of a Kolach. And far as having this on my Patron Saint’s day, since I’m not Catholic, I don’t actually have one. However, because I think it is a great thing to celebrate people that did wonderful things, I decided to see if there was a Saint for the day I made this and there was. What I love about this coincidence (or is it?) is that this it was a wonderful woman who cared for lepers. She reminds me very much of a close friend of mine who also does a lot of incredibly giving and good work around the world and especially in Africa, including caring for those stricken with leprosy. She is amazing and does so much for me and my family. So, it is for these two amazing “PheMOMenal” women that I dedicate this humble loaf. I hope they would approve. My adaptation is shown below. I think it hits a whole new level with a few little tweaks by changing from lemon to orange and adding the dark chocolate – a killer combination.
PheMOMenal Kolach with Pecans, Chocolate and Orange
Makes 1 Fat Loaf
For the Bread:
3/4 C unsalted butter, room temperature
2 egg yolks
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp minced orange zest (original recipe used lemon)
1 Tbsp orange juice (original recipe used lemon)
1 1/4 C hot milk (120 to 130 degrees F)
3 3/4 C bread or all-purpose flour, approximately
1-pkg dry yeast
FILLING & TOPPING:
1/4 cup pecan halves (for topping)
Egg Wash Glaze for before baking:
1 egg yolk, beaten, mixed with 1 Tbsp milk
For Glaze after Baking:
2 T honey
1 T unsalted butter, melted
1 T orange juice (if you want a stronger orange flavor use 1/2 tsp orange extract)
Combine well in a small bowl.
1/3 C toasted, finely chopped pecans
1/2 C bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 C dark brown sugar
Dash of kosher salt
1 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 tsp orange juice, fresh
Baking Sheet: 1 large baking sheet with Silpat or lightly buttered parchment
In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer with the flat beater attachment, combine the butter, egg yolks, sugar, salt, orange zest, and orange juice. Mix the milk into the butter and egg yolk mixture. Measure in 1 cup of flour. Add the yeast. Stir to blend well.
When the batter is smooth, add the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and each time stir vigorously. When the dough has formed a mass that can be lifted out of the bowl and placed on the floured work surface, the dough is ready to knead. Or, if you want to knead in the stand mixer, switch to the dough hook attachment. Add sprinkles of flour if the dough continues to be sticky during the kneading period.
Knead the dough with an aggressive push-turn-fold motion or under the dough hook for 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. At this point it should not stick to the work surface or to the sides of the mixer bowl.
Butter the insides of a large bowl and place the dough, turning it over to coat all sides, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Put aside at room temperature to double in bulk, about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling mix by placing all the ingredients except butter into a heavy-duty (like quart-sized freezer) zip-top bag and shaking the contents until well combined. Next pour in the melted butter and massage until it forms a kind of paste texture.
When the dough has risen, turn onto a floured work surface and divide into 3 equal parts.
Flatten each part into a long rectangle (approximately 4″ x 20″).
Fill with the filling mixture by shaking the filling contents into corner of the bag and snipping a small hole off of the corner to use the bag as a piping bag. Pipe a small amount into the center of each strip, leaving about 2 inches on each end of the rectangle. Brush the top edge of the dough with the egg wash glaze and roll the dough over around the filling and seal well on all sides so that each portion creates a filled rope.
Braid the 3 filled ropes together. Place the braid on the baking sheet and coil it, tucking the end of the braid into the coil so that it doesn’t break loose as the dough rises. With your hands, gently push the coils into a symmetrical shape.
Cover the coil with parchment paper or a cloth and put aside at room temperature until the dough doubles in bulk, about 50 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F about 20 minutes before baking.
Brush the loaf with the egg-milk glaze, and carefully push the pecan halves into a pattern over the top of the loaf.
Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake until golden, about 1 hour. Turn the loaf over and if it is browned and sounds hard and hollow when tapped with forefinger, the loaf is done.
Remove from the oven and brush all over while still hot with the honey orange glaze. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before lifting with a metal spatula and place on a metal rack to cool before serving.