- Sponge: 2 scant tablespoons active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz.) warm water, 95 to 115 degrees
- 1-1/2cups (12 fl. oz.) evaporated milk
- 3-1/3 cups (1 lb.) bread flour
- Dough: 3/4 cup (5.25 oz.) sugar
- 1 cup (8 oz.) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 3-1/3 cups (1 lb.) bread flour, plus more as needed
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup (2.5 oz.) golden raisins, or more to taste
Filling and Egg Wash
- 1/2 cup (4 oz.) cream cheese
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Egg Wash: 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon water
- Grease four 8-inch loaf pans.
- To make the sponge, in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a flat paddle, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water to soften. Add the evaporated milk and 3 cups of the flour. Mix at slow speed for 8 to 10 minutes. The dough should come away from the sides of the bowl. If necessary, allow additional mixing time or mix at medium speed for a few minutes.
- Cover and let rise until doubled in volume, 25 to 40 minutes.
- To make the dough, stir or mix the sponge with a dough hook to punch it down. Add the sugar, butter, eggs, flour, and salt. Pulse the dough with the on/off switch until the flour is absorbed so that it does not fly out of the bowl. Mix at slow speed for 8 to 10 minutes. The dough should come away from the sides of the bowl. If necessary, mix at medium speed for a few minutes. Additional flour can be added at slow speed, 1 tablespoon at a time, as necessary. Keep the dough fairly soft.
- Add the raisins and stir only for a few turns to avoid crushing them or knead in by hand. Cover with a cloth or plastic wrap and let rise until puffy, about 20 minutes.
- While the dough is rising, prepare the filling and egg wash. Mix or mash the cream cheese to soften; then add the sugar and mix until smooth. Blend in the egg and vanilla. Set aside. To prepare the egg wash, lightly beat the egg with the water. Set aside.
- Flour the work surface. When the dough is fully risen, turn out onto work surface. Punch down. Divide into four equal pieces for loaves.
- Roll up individual pieces jelly-roll style into a rectangular shape, flatten slightly. Cover and let rest for about 10 minutes. Flatten slightly and then roll again, jelly-roll style earlier. Place in the prepared pans, seam down. With your fingertips, make a deep depression down the center of each loaf along its entire length. Brush the loaves with the egg wash and then, using a pastry bag or a tablespoon, make a line of the cream cheese filling over the depression.
- Let rise until doubled in volume and rising above the rim of the pans, about 45 minutes. When touched very gently on the side with a fingertip, the dough should be soft and yield readily. Delicately brush once more with the egg wash and let dry.
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F/175 degrees C.
- Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F/165 degrees C and bake for 15 to 20 minutes more, until the top is evenly baked and the center springs back when lightly touched with the fingertips. Carefully remove from the pans to test sides and bottom. The sides should feel firm. The bread may be returned to the oven without the pans, placed directly on the oven rack for 5 minutes longer, if needed.
- Cool on a wire rack. Tightly covered, the bread keeps well at room temperature for several days; keep for a week or more in the refrigerator. The bread is good toasted. It can be frozen for up to 8 weeks.
- Large Round Polish Kolacz Variation: Grease one 10-inch round springform pan and line a half sheet pan with parchment paper, lightly greased. Prepare the dough and fillings and let dough rise as above.
- Flour the work surface. When the dough is fully risen, turn out onto work surface. Punch down. Using all of the dough, roll the large piece up, jelly-roll style, into a rectangular shape and flatten slightly. Cover and let rest for about 10 minutes. Flatten slightly and then roll again, jelly-roll style, into a round loaf. Place into the prepared pan, seam down.
- With your fingertips, make a depression in the shape of a ring two inches in from the edge of the loaf. Brush the loaf with the egg wash and then, using a pastry bag or a tablespoon, make a line of the cream cheese filling over the depression. Let rise again and preheat oven as above.
- Bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees F/175 degrees C and then 15 to 20 minutes at 325 degrees F/160 degrees C, until the top is evenly baked and the center springs back when lightly touched with the fingertips.
- Finish, cool, and store as above.
Author George Greenstein has a gift for teaching home bakers to think, work and bake like the pros with his evocative and tactile descriptions of baking. In A Jewish Baker’s Pastry Secrets (Ten Speed Press, 2015), he crafts master dough recipes for Jewish holiday baking and European classics, creating a comprehensive set of building blocks for both beginners and baking enthusiasts. The book also offers an in-depth guide to ingredients and equipment, including both professional and home ovens, as well as 40 basic recipes for fillings, icings, and glazes. With Greenstein’s steady guidance and familiar voice, home bakers and professionals alike will be encouraged to turn out flawless pastry creations for any occasion.
Babe Kruk is, in her own words, a wife, mother, baker, cook, maid, chauffeur, and so on. “A few traditions we should keep, and more than a few if we can!” she says.
Ms. Kruk is of Slovenian descent, and her husband, T.J., is Polish. T.J. says the correct Polish spelling for this bread is kolac. Ms. Kruk likes to form four loaves from one recipe. T.J.’s mother and aunt both made the same recipe into one large round bread. This is an adaptation of the Kruk’s kolacz.
More recipes from A Jewish Baker’s Pastry Secrets:
Reprinted with permission from A Jewish Baker’s Pastry Secrets by George Greenstein with Elaine Greenstein, Julia Greenstein and Issac Bleicher and published by Ten Speed Press, 2015.