Yeast-free and Vegan Slovak Kolach
Dobrý deň! (That’s Slovak for hello or good day!) Growing up, my paternal grandmother Millie (Ludmila), always made us the Slovak version of kolach for special occasions and holidays. It was one of my favorite things as a child to the point that I can remember it’s taste today even though I haven’t had it in over 15 years.
Kolach is a very common dessert in Eastern Europe characterized mainly by it’s dough and filling. Each country has their own versions and names but they all follow the same basic recipe: a yeast-risen dough with a nut, seed or fruit filling. In Slovakia you have two popular types: orechovník, a walnut roll, and makovník, a poppy seed roll. Grandma made orechovník, but called it simply Kolach.
Last month she moved on from this Earth at the young age of 98. In thinking back on memories of her, I had kolach pop into my mind over and over. And then I got a craving for it that wouldn’t go away. So, I decided I must make it. Then I realized just how insanely allergy-UNfriendly it is. So, I decided I’d come up with my own recipe that removed all the allergens but was still similar in flavor.
I did a lot of research. Like two days worth. In my mind I had a very real mission and deadline: I had to perfect the recipe before her memorial so I could bring some for my entire extended family. It just wouldn’t be a family gathering without it and, really, what better way to remember our grandma.
I learned a ton about kolach. I might be able to write an entire book about it at this point. Apparently Texas is the kolach capital of the USA. It’s so popular they have their own Texas variation and have declared that it will be the next bagel and/or donut. Seriously. There is even a place called The Kolache Factory. It’s very different from a Slovak kolach but that’s because it is a twist on the Czech version. Read all about it here and here. Pittsburgh has it’s own special version, too, more similar to the Slovak version.
Anyway, whatever delicious version you may know, it definitely is not allergy-friendly. Kolach is full of eggs, dairy, yeast and sometimes treenuts. I thought the dough would be the hardest part about this and I was correct. Baking what should be a yeasted dough without yeast is just not the same in flavor or texture. Since we grew up on the nut roll version, that’s what I stuck with but changing the filling is definitely doable if you are allergic to treenuts.
It took a few attempts, but I ended up what I think is an incredibly similar interpretation of the original. After being tasted by a large contingent of my Slovak family, they all gave it a double thumbs up, too. And I know they weren’t just being nice to my face because both the rolls I served disappeared very quickly.
Allergy Note: this recipe is dairy-, egg-, yeast-, soy-, and peanut-free. It is not treenut- or gluten- free. To make this treenut-free, you can try making the poppy seed roll (makovník) instead: ground poppy seeds mixed similarly as the nut filling but add in some fat like solid coconut oil. To make this gluten-free, sub your favorite gf flour blend for the all purpose flour.
Here’s the great thing about my version: since it is yeast-free it takes way less time. There is no overnight dough rising period. Just gather your ingredients, whip it together, bake and eat. You only need 10 ingredients for this, too: flour, baking soda, salt, brown sugar, vanilla, coconut milk, lemon juice and aquafaba for the dough and walnuts, sugar, brown sugar, aquafaba and applesauce for the filling.
To get started, you want to make your filling. The aquafaba needs to be whipped into stiff peaks like egg whites. This takes some time (10+ minutes) so use your stand mixer. Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment then spoon the aquafaba into the bowl and turn it on high. While that is going grind up your walnuts in a food processor until they resemble chunky sawdust. Transfer them to a bowl with your sugars and mix well. Add half the whipped aquafaba to the mix and fold together.
The filling should be thick yet spreadable. If you need more aquafaba, slowly add more in. I ended up used about 3/4 of the whipped aquafaba and it made for the perfect consistency. (The applesauce will be used later on.)
Set the filling aside and begin your dough. Make vegan buttermilk out of the coconut milk and lemon juice and let sit for a few minutes. In a large bowl mix together brown sugar, baking soda, salt, vanilla and aquafaba (unwhipped). Add in buttermilk and mix again. Then slowly add in flour a cup at a time until a thick dough forms.
Transfer the dough to a floured surface. It will be pretty sticky so the flour is absolutely necessary unless you want half the dough stuck to your counter. Spend a minute kneading it then split it into two even pieces. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out the first piece into a large rectangle about 1/8in thick. Brush on a thin layer of applesauce then spread half the filling on top of that stopping 1/2in from the edges. Now we roll! Starting with the edge closest to you, roll away from your body in a tight spiral. When you get about 1/2 way through, fold in the edges like a burrito, then finish rolling until you have what looks like a log. Repeat this with the second piece of dough.
Carefully transfer each to a lined baking sheet. I like to use a silicon mat but parchment paper would work just as well. Mix together 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1/4 cup coconut milk then brush the tops.
Bake at 375F for 35-45 minutes. The tops should be golden and there might be a filling explosion or two. Let them cool on a wire rack for 15-20 minutes.
Before cutting and serving, dust the tops with powdered sugar. It doens’t add much flavor wise but it does make them look oh so pretty. Enjoy after dinner or with your afternoon coffee/tea. Or for breakfast, why not?!
- 3 cups flour
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 3 Tbsp aquafaba
- 1 cup coconut milk + 1 tsp lemon juice
- 2 cups walnuts, finely ground
- ½ cup cane sugar
- ⅛ cup brown sugar
- 4 Tbsp aquafaba, whipped
- ¼ cup coconut milk + ½ tsp vanilla
- Preheat the oven to 375F.
- To make the filling mix together ground walnuts, cane sugar and brown sugar. Fold in half of the whipped aquafaba. Add more as needed until a thick but spreadable consistency is reached. Set aside.
- To make the dough, mix together brown sugar, baking soda, salt, vanilla and aquafaba in a large bowl. Add in the vegan buttermilk (coconut milk + lemon juice) and stir. Slowly add in the flour mixing until a thick dough forms.
- Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead for 1 minute. Cut the dough into two even pieces.
- Using a rolling pin, roll out one piece of dough into a large rectangle about ⅛in thick. Spread a thin layer of applesauce on the dough leaving a ½in margin. Gentle spread half of the filling across the dough into a thin layer again leaving a ½in margin.
- Beginning with the edge closest to you, roll the dough away from you in a tight spiral. Stop when you've rolled half the dough and tuck in the edges like a burrito to seal the ends, then continue rolling the rest of the dough until you have formed a log. Repeat with the second piece of dough.
- Transfer each kolach to a lined baking sheet and brush the coconut milk and vanilla mixture on top.
- Bake at 375F for 35-45 minutes, until the top has turned golden.
Let me know if you’ve tried this recipe! Comment below or post a photo to Instagram and tag me @champagneandfrites #champagneandfrites.