Kolaczki are woven into Chicago food culture so deeply that it took me a while to realize that they were indeed a “foreign” cookie. Kolaczki dough is made with cream cheese, and it is traditionally folded (as below) over a filling of fruit – raspberry, plum or apricot usually – or sweetened cream cheese. Originally, the kolaczki is said to be from Poland (though its exact origin is unknown), and are popularly seen around the holidays. They seem to be just as popular in Cleveland, where we learned that they are known as Kiffles in Hungarian. This type of cookie is found throughout Central and Eastern Europe, with several variations, including a circular shape. Even more confusingly, there are many similarly-named desserts, including the Czech kolache, which is more like a yeast roll, and is most popular in Texas (post forthcoming)! Here is a recipe for apricot-filled kolaczki from American Heritage Cooking, another apricot from Cooking the Globe and one for cream cheese from All Recipes.
Photo by Kurman Communications
We have recently realized that we are big fans of Dobos Torte, a classic Hungarian cake composed of thin layers of cake and chocolate. After having a supremely delicious Dobos Torte at Ovy Bakery in Skokie, we were pleased to find out that there was a bakery that specializes in Dobos Torte right in our neck of the woods – Farkas Pastry Shoppe (2700 Lorain Ave., Cleveland, OH). Farkas is an old-school Cleveland institution that has been around for 50 years, not really changing much in the process (which in terms of a bakery is a good thing!). Farkas specializes in Hungarian and Eastern European cakes and sweets including Esterházy Torte (an almond and apricot layered cake), Nut Rolls, and Linzer Tortes. Another great pick at Farkas is the Kréme, a Hungarian take on a Napoleon, which is vanilla creme between two sheets of puff pastry.
However, we were there specifically for the Dobos Torte (pictured above), so we made a beeline to the cakes. There is a special case at Farkas specifically for cakes – and you can get either a whole or half Dobos Torte ($25 for a whole). We bought a half cake to bring to a friend’s house, and with 5 pre-cut slices, it was perfectly portioned for the occasion. The Dobos Torte was delicious, and a little different from the traditional formulation since it had a marzipan top layer instead of caramel. The cake was a big hit at dinner – and we were impressed by the flavors as well as the expertly even layers. If you haven’t tried Hungarian pastries or cakes yet, Dobos Torte is a perfect introduction!