Since we moved to Texas almost fifteen years ago, we have really enjoyed exploring the state. With terrain ranging from the lush Piney woods of East Texas to the desserts out West, flat coastal land along the Gulf of Mexico and rolling hills inland, and mile after mile of highways in all directions, there always seems to be something new to discover. Last week, we drove to Waco for the first time to drop our older son off at golf camp for a week. The drive winds through farm country before hitting College Station (home of Texas A and M) and perhaps the largest concentration of McDonald's we've ever observed. After that, there is little to see (or eat) before arriving in Waco almost two hours later. The one exception is the Kolache oasis we discovered along the way.
We had never heard of Kolaches before moving to Texas. Correctly pronounced KOH-lahch (although many say koh-lahch-EES), these sweet yeast pastries were brought to Texas by early Czech and Slovakian immigrants. One hundred and fifty years later, kolaches can be found all over Texas, offered by every doughnut shop as well as chains with names like Kolache Factory and Old Towne Kolaches. Although extremely popular for breakfast here in Houston, these mass-produced kolaches have never caught our fancy.
More interesting are the kolaches made by bakeries found in many small Texas towns now populated by descendants of the original Czech and Slovak settlers. These bakeries often use a recipe brought from the old country by their ancestors. We've had excellent kolaches in Fredericksburg, Boerne and New Braunfels to name just a few. But last week we discovered the best yet -- Zamykal Kolaches. Located in Calvert, a tiny town on the National Registry stretching just a few blocks along Highway 6 about an hour south of Waco, the bakery is in a restored building from the mid-1800's. The smell was divine when we walked in, and the front counter was loaded with freshly-baked kolaches in over 20 flavors.
The owner/chef, Jody Powers, stuffed us with samples and named every single flavor before we had the difficult task of selecting a few to take home. We decided on two chocolate varieties for the kids, and for us, we ordered a strawberry cream cheese and a pecan. The pecan was our hands-down favorite, tasting like a combination of pecan pie and sweet brioche, but nothing disappointed. We also picked up a jar of home-made wild grape jam, and some tasty chocolate fudge to give as a gift.
Calvert is charming, but probably not worth the trip unless you're already in the area. If you want to give Jody's kolaches a try without making the drive, though, Zamykal's will ship anywhere in the U.S. If you're then inspired to make your own kolaches, we've had good luck with this old Czech recipe from Texas Monthly. We particularly like these kolaches with a peach filling, perfect for this time of year here in Texas.