A large portion of my mom’s side of the family immigrated to America from Poland in the early 20th century. We are fortunate that many of their traditions have been preserved through the decades, including the tradition of making kołaczki cookies at Christmas. Regardless of whether you’re using the Polish pronunciation (ko-WASZ-ki) or anglicization (ko-LACH-ki), a dish of these cookies will surely enter the clean plate club at any family gathering.Jump to Recipe
Not to be confused with the Czech donut, kołaczki are tiny, delicate envelopes of deliciousness that fall in the nebulous realm between pastry and cookie. The dough is yeasted and flaky, but these fruity envelopes are so small and delicate that it’s hard not to eat a dozen in one sitting. Traditionally, the dough is made with cream cheese, but my Mom’s recipe utilizes sour cream to provide the same tang.
A few hours before you start baking, take 2 sticks of butter and 4 tablespoons of sour cream out of your fridge. This recipe will work best if these are at room temperature when you start.
Once everything is ready to go, dissolve the yeast in your sour cream before mixing in your sugar. Add the egg yolk and softened butter. Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, combine on medium speed until the mixture is completely homogenous. It may look slightly grainy, but that’s okay.
Mix in the flour. Continue mixing until it is completely combined, and resembles cookie dough.
Divide your dough in half. Wrap each half tightly in plastic (or your favorite eco-friendly alternative) and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. This dough will stay fresh in your fridge for a few days, so if you want to have a kołaczki-making party, I recommend pre-portioning the dough ahead of time. The real work is still ahead of you.
Once the portioned dough is cold, roll out on a floured surface until it is ⅛” thick (or even thinner). The thinner the dough, the more delicate the cookies — but the thinnest cookies can be tricky to fold. Cut the dough into squares that are 1.5″ – 2″ on each side. Place approximately 1 teaspoon (or half of a soup spoon) of the pastry filling into the center of each square. Some people use jam for their filling, but I find it too watery. Our family traditionally uses Solo brand pastry filling; our favorite flavors for this recipe are apricot, prune, raspberry, and poppy seed. The recipe as listed here will use almost an entire 12 oz. can of filling, but since we usually double (or triple) the recipe, our batches of kołaczki usually feature many different flavors.
Once the filling is portioned out, wet two opposing corners of each square, either using water or extra pastry filling. Fold each of these corners to the center, making a little envelope. You may need to also wet the floured surface of the cookie when you press down the second corner, as it may not want to stick. Press down gently to ensure the envelope is sealed. Repeat this rolling-cutting-filling-folding process with the remaining dough.
Once your kołaczki have been folded, you can either prep them for baking, or — if you want to get a head start on your holiday baking — freeze them in an airtight container. These should stay fresh for several months if wrapped in an airtight container and frozen; just make sure they have thawed to room temperature before baking.
Place the kołaczki on a parchment-lined baking sheet, sprinkle with powdered sugar for added sweetness, and bake at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes. It’s okay to place the cookies fairly close together; the yeast will cause them to raise slightly, but they should not spread laterally while baking.
Allow to cool on the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool. Sprinkle with another layer of powdered sugar just before serving. These cookies are traditionally served at room temperature, but you have not experienced true bliss if you haven’t eaten one (or two, or seven) of these buttery, flaky gems fresh out of the oven.
Kołaczki (Polish Envelope Cookies)
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast (or 1 envelope)
- 4 tablespoons sour cream room temperature
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 cup butter room temperature
- 1 can pastry filling (I prefer Solo brand, but any pie/pastry filling will work)
- Powdered sugar for garnish
- Dissolve yeast in sour cream. Mix in sugar.
- Add egg yolk and softened butter; mix on medium speed until completely combined.
- Add flour; mix until homogenous.
- Divide dough in half; wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- On a floured surface, roll out one section of dough to ⅛" thickness (or thinner). Cut into 1.5" squares.
- Place 1 teaspoon of pastry filling in the center of each square. Wet two opposing corners of each square and fold them to the center. Gently press edges of corners down to seal.
- Repeat process with remaining dough. Any edge pieces not used can be combined and rolled out again, until all of your dough is gone.
- Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes; allow to cool on tray for 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool.
- Sprinkle with another layer of powdered sugar before serving.