These cranberry and cream cheese kolaches are a sweet yeast dough pastry filled with cranberry jam or cream cheese and sprinkled with a crumb topping.
For the dough:
3/4 cup warm milk (not hot or cold)
1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
3 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 1/4 cups (about 1 lb) all-purpose flour, with more for flouring surfaces
1 egg yolk, white reserved
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
For the cranberry filling (will fill approximately 12 kolaches):
1–1/2 cups cranberries
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
For the cream cheese filling (Will fill approximately 16 kolaches):
4 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup powdered sugar
½ of a lightly beaten egg, the other half reserved.
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
For the streusel:
½ cup sugar
¼ cup flour
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons melted butter
To prepare the dough:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the warm milk and 2 teaspoons of sugar. Evenly sprinkle the yeast over top of the milk and allow the yeast to activate, about 5 minutes. The mixture should froth and foam slightly. You can stir it gently to make sure all the yeast has been moistened, but if the yeast does not foam, dump it out and start over. Once yeast has been activated, beat 1/2 cup of the flour in to the milk mixture using the paddle attachment. Once combined, add the remaining sugar, eggs, egg yolk, vanilla, and salt, and beat the mixture on medium speed until combined. On low speed, add the remainder of the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Once evenly combined, increase the speed to medium (I use speed number 4 on my Kitchen Aid stand mixer) and add the softened butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Scrape the sides of the bowl and then continue to beat on medium speed for an additional 4 minutes. The dough will be quite moist and sticky, and will hold together in long strands when you attempt to scoop it from the bowl.
Lightly grease a large bowl and place the dough inside, covering it tightly with a piece of plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rest until it has approximately doubled in size, about 1-1/2-2 hours. In the meantime, prepare the fillings.
To prepare the cranberry filling:
All of the ingredients in a small saucepan and place over medium low heat. Cook, stirring and squishing the cranberries regularly, until the mixture is thickened and bubbling, about 8-10 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.
To prepare the cream cheese filling:
Use an electric mixer to combine all of the ingredients. Set aside until ready to use.
To prepare the streusel:
Combine the sugar, flour, and salt. Stir in the melted butter until combined and sandy in texture. Set aside until ready to use.
To prepare the kolaches:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll out the risen dough to 1/2 “ thick. Use a 2” cutter to trim out rounds of dough. Lay them out on parchment-lined baking sheets and cover with a piece of plastic wrap or a tea towel. Set aside to allow the dough rounds to rise for approximately 60 minutes or until fluffy. When risen, use your thumb or a floured bottom of a tablespoon-sized measuring spoon to lightly until rounds into the center of the dough. You should leave about ¼-1/2” border around the edge of each round. Whisk the remaining half of the beaten egg with 1 teaspoon of water and use a pastry brush to lightly brush a thin layer of the mixture on top of each pastry. Fill the hole of each kolache with your filling of choice. Approximately half of them will be cream cheese and half will be cranberry. Sprinkle the undented edges of the pastries with the streusel generously. Bake in the preheated oven for about 18-20 minutes or until the pastries are golden and puffed. Remove from oven to cool slightly prior to consuming.
The cranberry filling is rather tart. You can add 1-2 tablespoons of extra sugar to sweeten it after cooking, if desired.