Sweet Kolaches and savory Klobasneks from Batch Craft Beer & Kolaches (Photo by John Anderson)
Central Texas foodways are a mix of many excellent cuisines and dishes that have become staples. German immigrants brought the corn dog to Texas; Mexican immigrants brought the gordita with them, and our friends from El Salvador and Honduras introduced the doll. The Czechoslovak emigrants brought Kolachians with them who developed into Klobasnek, and it is worth investigating this somewhat misunderstood finger food and its evolution.
Czech immigration has had a major impact on Texas. If you grew up here, you were at least offered a kolache, and the hand-held yeast dough might even be a normal part of the diet. Czech-Moravian settlements (a western region of former Czechoslovakia) began in central Texas around the 1820s, but most of Czech immigration actually began to increase three decades later. Texas then had tons of land and a more fluid economic system that enabled poor Eastern European immigrants and workers to improve their quality of life. Polka, Kolache, Klobasnek, Klobasa, and Sauerkraut are some of the other long-standing, recognizable cultural contributions that our Czech émigrés have incorporated into what we now consider merely a Texan cause.
It is safe to say that if you are from Texas, especially Central and Southeast Texas, you have a good memory and affinity for the Klobasnek, but you have probably referred to it as the Kolache. And it is worth noting that the Klobasnek nomenclature began about 70 years ago, but has been briefly reviewed since its alleged introduction.
A Klobasnek has the same soft kolache batter outside, but instead of a filling made of semi-sweet fruit jam, cheese or steamed fruit, it is very hearty and typical of the type of pork. Most often the sticky, harmonious filling is combined with yellow American cheese. Do you remember your uncle passing one from the front seat on an early morning hunting trip? Perhaps your mother was handing something out when the family crossed the I-35 corridor between San Antonio and Dallas. Or maybe you just got introduced to the Klobasnek at one of the many restaurants in Austin devoted to the Tex-Czech development of the Kolache.
In Austin alone there are over 50 Kolache stores, donut shops, bakeries, grocery stores, restaurants, and convenience stores that repeat both types (including over a dozen stores with the company name “Kolache”). Maybe not as popular as tacos, pizza and burgers, but for a regional specialty, it’s safe to say that they’re ubiquitous.
The making of the Klobasnek supposedly begins in the now-defunct Village Bakery in the city of West, Texas, but of course, origins stories about any beloved food are difficult. Depending on who you speak to in the west, Slovacek’s (directly opposite the old village bakery) now carries the Kolache / Klobasnek torch. They have been making klobasneks and kolaches since the early 1960s, according to Charlie Green, owner and partner of Green’s Sausage House in Zabcikville, Texas (east of Taylor, about an hour from Austin).
“The sausage and cheese are probably the most popular. We make a lot of sausage and cheese and then a lot of jalapeño and cheese,” says Green. On a busy Saturday alone, Green’s pumps out over 100 dozen or more klobasneks and kolaches. Green’s owes in part to Kolache and Klobasnek. “That’s how we started years ago, in the early sixties. You know it was very small then, of course everything was much smaller then, now it’s pretty crazy.”
Dawn Orsak, Kolache guru and event planner and programmer for the Texas State Historical Association, claims in a 2017 Saveur article that she had a relative who doughed sausages many moons ago to give to workers on her farm to give. Orsak also acknowledges in the same article the widespread belief that the klobasnek comes from the village bakery.
It is safe to say that if you are from Texas, especially central and southeast Texas, you have a good memory and an affinity for the Klobasnek, but you probably referred to it as the Kolache.
Klobasnek and Kolache were reintroduced through the regional discovery of traditional foods by younger chefs and progressive restaurants. Batch Craft Beer & Kolaches (3220 Manor Rd.) Went above and beyond, offering both Kolaches and Klobasneks filled with local ingredients whenever possible, and using smoked meat from Micklethwait Craft Meats (1309 Rosewood). Little Brother Coffee & Kolaches (1512 S. Congress) also plays a big part in the game – this is the only food you can find at SoCo – and their versions are made by the skilled hands of Executive Pastry at Holdout Brewing Co. Chef Lindsay O handmade ‘Rourke and her team.
The pastry chef Augusta Passow, an import from Montana, now runs one of the most central and innovative restaurants in Austin, Barley Swine. She worked at Uchi, Uchiko and Old Thousand before settling in her role at the acclaimed Burnet restaurant. “For me, a Kolache is all about the dough,” she explains. “It’s so specific in my opinion. Soft and fluffy, but able to withstand any filling you choose. There’s also something so Texas about a Kolache that I would be so brave [as] To say more than crickets, “she writes. While some may question that statement, she’s right: you won’t find klobasneks and kolaches in Oakland, Memphis, or Charlotte, but you can definitely find crickets.
In early March, Passow and the Barley Swine team hosted a Kolache cake sale that benefited the Texas Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association in response to the devastation caused by the winter storm. “I’m really excited about the support we had. I think the cake sale was sold out in about an hour and we were able to collect over $ 1,700,” writes Passow. It’s testament not only to the deliciousness of their specific version of the pastry, but also to its popularity in general.
The Kolache / Klobasnek situation has an appeal, and it remains a mystery even to those deep in their creation. “The first time I did kolaches at home, I did some research and learned the difference [between a kolache and klobasnek]. However, I’m still at a loss as to whether all savory buns are defined as klobasniky or whether it’s specifically the closed style with sausage or the closed style in general, “says Passow.
Barley Swine “started making Kolachians due to COVID and our need to switch to a takeaway menu. We have been making takeaway for a year and frankly the Kolachians have been the most successful product we have on our menu,” says they . “I really think that speaks for the comfort that a Kolache offers many people.”
Look for exciting Kolache / Klobasnek-related stuff up the pipeline of the Barley Swine, Odd Duck and Sour Duck trio. “We actually started the conversation about making sausage in-house for a Klobasnek. I really would love to see this come to fruition. I’m also looking forward to berry season to work on some fun flavors along with some classic combinations “, writes Passow.
A Kolache becomes a Klobasnek, a “Kolache”. If you’re not a philologist, you probably might be less interested in how to properly name something, but we all agree that Klobasnek’s are transcendent finger foods that have stood the test of time during their Tex-solving.
Batch Craft Beer & Kolaches
3220 Manor Rd., 512 / 401-3025; www.batchatx.com
Little Brother Coffee & Kolaches
1512 S. Congress Ave; www.littlebrotherbar.com/s-congress
Better half coffee & cocktails
406 Walsh St., 512 / 645-0786; www.betterhalfbar.com
Holdout Brewing Company
1208 W. Fourth, 512 / 305-3540; www.holdoutbrewing.com
6555 Burnet Rd. # 400, 512 / 394-8150; www.barleyswine.com
1201 S. Lamar, 512 / 433-6521; www.oddduckaustin.com
Sour duck market
1814 E. Martin Luther King Jr., 512 / 394-5776; www.sourduckmarket.com
Lone Star Kolaches
Six locations in Austin; www.lonestarkolaches.com
2207 and Cesar Chavez, 512 / 412-5588; www.kerlinbbq.com
5313 Manor Rd., 512 / 926-6094; 4410 E. Riverside # 108, 512 / 433-6104
Mrs. Johnson’s Bakery
4909 Airport Blvd., 512 / 452-4750; www.mjbakery.com
Round rock donuts
106 W. Liberty Ave., Round Rock, 512 / 255-3629; www.roundrockdonuts.com
3706 N. Lamar, 512 / 467-2253; www.kolachefactory.com
2300 S. Lamar # 102, 512 / 462-1302; www.moonlightbakery.com
Austin Kolache & Koffee
7113 Burnet Rd. # 112, 512 / 551-3115; www.austinkolache.com
11005 Burnet Rd., 512 / 837-9221; www.donut7austin.com
Over a dozen locations in the greater Austin area; www.shipleydonuts.com
615 W. Slaughter # 112, 512 / 292-8558
KC Donut Store
8106 Brodie, 512 / 282-1977
2406 W. Parmer, 512 / 873-7195; www.nstardonuts.com
Chappell Hill Bakery & Deli
8900 Hwy. 290 E., Chappell Hill, 979 / 836-0910; www.chappellhillbakeryanddeli.com
Hruskas shop & bakery
109 Hwy. 71 W., Ellinger, 979 / 378-2333; www.hruskas-bakery.com
Green’s sausage house
16483 SH 53, Temple, 254 / 985-233; www.greenssausagehouse.com
214 Melodie Dr., West, 254 / 826-4525; www.slovacekwesttexas.com
2247 Hwy. 71 W., La Grange, 979 / 968-9413; www.weikels.com
Original Kountry Bakery
110 Kessler Ave., Schulenberg, 979 / 743-4342; www.theoriginalkountrybakery.com