Morning, everyone! Today I am happy to welcome Joy Preble, author of the The Sweet Dead Life. This
is the latest teen mystery to hit shelves from SOHO Teen. As an extra bonus, I have one copy to give away courtesy of the publisher, so be sure to read all the way through to the bottom to enter.
And now, I'll hand the reigns off to Joy!
Growing up in Chicago, I knew about kolaches. Living here in Texas I still know about kolaches. What I didn’t know until I wrote this book? That not everyone knows what a kolache is!
Which is a German/Czech/Polish originating yeast pastry, filled with fruit or cheese or sausage or some heavenly combo of the above and best eaten warm from the oven.
In THE SWEET DEAD LIFE, everyone eats kolaches. Casey’s angel boss Amber Velasco in particular loves them: she eats them, talks about them, and insists Casey and Jenna stop at her favorite kolache shop on 290 while in mid-mystery solving.
To quote Houston Chronicle food editor Allison Cook in her article from January 2013 about this variation on the sweet roll: “Maybe it's the growing aroma of the baking Czech pastries that cues them: butter, sugar and yeast in full primal bloom…golden orbs and oblongs, bright fruit preserves glinting from the crowns…a sacred Texas birthright - kolaches right out of the oven…hot and so meltingly soft as to seem like a pillow that's floated down from the heavens.”
I’m not sure how kolache eating wandered its way into TSDL. But wander it did. The landscape of the northern Houston suburbs lives large in this book and it informs the characters’ lives and philosophies to a certain degree. So I think the kolache presence began with characters stopping at the local donut shop. But Amber Velasco is a bossy sort – which is fitting since she is Casey’s angel boss, among other things. And her likes and dislikes and the aforementioned jonesing for the perfect kolache turned into her regular riff. At one point, Jenna asks Amber, “ What is it with those things? They’re like crack to you.” And Amber’s response, touching on what it’s like to be an angel and still be in this world is this: “It isn’t the big things you miss. It’s the little ones.” She says more about it, but I guess you’ll just have to read the book!
And when you’re done reading, go find a kolache! Or if they’re not available where you live, here is a recipe from the article referenced above, plus the link so you can read the whole thing and look at yummy pictures. Really, they are quite delicious!
Victoria Rittinger's Kolaches
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.
Read more: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/life/food/article/Meet-the-21st-century-kolache-4233482.php#ixzz2JUmQJjn
Huge, huge thanks to Joy Preble for being on the blog today and thanks to SOHO Teen for setting this up as well.
For more on Joy and her work, be sure to check out her website here.
And now for the giveaway. Simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before midnight, May 26. Open US only (no PO Boxes).
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