Adapted from the recipe of Katy Brandl of Hungerford
Makes 4 dozen
2 packages yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup warm water
1 cup sour cream
1 cup whole milk
8 cups flour, divided use
½ cup melted butter
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoon salt
½ cup melted butter for brushing
Your favorite preserves or filling
Instructions: Combine yeast with 2 tablespoons sugar and warm water directly in mixing bowl and allow it to proof until foamy. Mix in the sour cream and milk. Measure out two cups of flour and add just enough to get a pancake-batter texture. Mix in melted butter, eggs, sugar and salt.
Then, either mixing by hand or with a countertop mixer's dough hook, add just enough of the remaining 6 cups of flour to achieve a texture that changes from sticky to slightly tacky to smooth.
Pat the dough to feel it as you go. When you've got it right, the dough should feel smooth and satiny. (Caution: it's better to add too little flour, which can be supplemented, than too much, which toughens the dough.)
Let the finished dough ball rise in a buttered bowl, brushing it with butter and covering it with a tea towel. It can proof nicely in an oven with its light turned on. It should proof about an hour and a half, or until doubled in bulk, depending on the ambient temperatures and humidity.
Butter the cookie sheets, or bacon-grease them if you like. Punch down the dough ball. Break off pieces of dough to make 1½-ounce balls, weighing them on a kitchen scale covered with plastic wrap.
For fruit kolaches: Shape the balls into smooth rounds with seams on the bottom. Place on greased cookie sheets, brush with butter, cover with a tea towel and allow to rise until double in size. Then take each ball of risen dough and use your thumb to make an indentation in the center, turning, tugging and shaping the circle until the depression is big enough to hold several tablespoons of filling.
Line up unbaked kolaches shoulder to shoulder on greased cookie sheets and fill with mixtures of choice. Brush with butter, cover with a tea towel and set aside to rise again until they regain the size they reached previously.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees if it's conventional, 350 degrees if it's convection
Note: During these final risings, for either the fruit or sausage versions, you can mist the kolaches with a spray of olive oil intermittently to keep a crust from forming on the dough. When the kolaches are puffy, brush them with butter again and bake them for 10 minutes in the preheated oven, then rotate the pans and bake 5 minutes more until golden brown.
Caution: it's better to undercook than overcook. Brush with butter one final time when the kolaches come out of the oven.
For sausage kolaches: Break off dough into 1½-ounce pieces, roll into balls, then use a rolling pin to stretch the balls into oblongs. Place cut-to-fit sausage in the center of each oblong, pinching the sides up along its length and turning the seams to the bottom.
Line up closely on greased cookie sheets. Brush with butter, cover with a tea towel and set aside to rise for 90 minutes or until doubled in bulk.
Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes; then rotate pans and bake 5 minutes more until golden brown. Brush with butter one last time when they come out of the oven.