Here’s a riddle: What has less than half the calories and 1/8th the fat of a donut, yet is just as sinfully rich and delicious? The answer is a traditional Czech pastry called a kolache (pronounced “coal-AH-sh.”
Katie Riley grew up eating the kolaches her mother baked. “My mom’s grandparents were Czech,” she says. “She always made kolaches.”
“I grew up in a Czech community called Belleville in Kansas,” says Katie’s mother, Lynn Uhrich. “My aunt was the one who taught me to make kolaches. I thought everyone knew about them.”
Katie and Lynn are hopeful that soon everyone in the area will not only know what kolaches are, but want them. They have opened a bakery in Pooler called the Kolache Depot Bakery.
Sometimes, kolache is spelled kolace, kolach, or kolacky, from the Czech plural kolàče. The pastry is a bit like a Danish -- a baked pastry with different types of fillings.
As Czech immigrants came to the United States, they brought their favorite kolache recipes with them. Kolaches have become popular in several parts of the United States that have Czech settlements.
They are particularly popular in Texas, where several restaurants and bakeries specialize in kolaches and towns host kolache festivals. There are other Kolache Depots in Texas, but Katie and Lynn say theirs is the first one on the East Coast.
“We have a lot of people come in who originally came here from Texas,” Lynn says.
“Another place our customers come from is Chicago,” Katie says. “They get really excited when they’re driving by and they see our sign. We have a pretty steady customer base of people who came here from Texas and say they haven‘t had kolaches since they were in Texas one or two years ago.”
In addition to kolaches, there are all types of baked goods available for purchase, including cinnamon rolls that are positively decadent. There are even sugar-free pastries for diabetics, plus dinner rolls and hamburger and hot dog buns. “Everything is made with the same kind of dough,” Lynn says.
Breakfast rolls, made with ham, sausage, egg and cheese, are popular with customers. So are the apple fritters.
The bakery also offers specialty items that must be ordered 24 hours in advance, such as apple, peach, pumpkin and pecan pies, and cheesecakes. The cheesecakes come in New York, Oreo, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, eggnog and pumpkin flavors. “Our cheesecakes are becoming very popular,” Lynn says.
The kolaches come in an even wider variety of flavors: apple, apricot, Bavarian cream, blueberry, cherry, cream cheese, peach, poppy seed, prune, raspberry, strawberry, strawberry cream cheese, chocolate Bavarian, pineapple and lemon.
There also are sausage kolaches that come in mild or hot blend, with or without cheese. “They’re our version of pigs in a blanket,” Katie says.
Kolaches are the health food of the dessert world. One kolache has 110 calories, compared to 248 in a donut, and 2 grams of fat, while a donut has16 grams of fat. Only 20 percent of the calories in a kolache are from fat, but 58 percent of the calories in a donut are from fat.
Because there already was a cake bakery in Pooler when they opened, Katie and Lynn refused to compete. “We don’t make cakes,” Lynn says.
In addition to baked goods, the shop offers Barnie’s coffee. “Barnie’s is like the Starbuck’s of Florida,” Lynn says. “It has started to move up the East Coast.”
The bakery’s catering service has started to flourish. “We would really like to get into catering,” Katie says. “We do a lot of morning meetings and that kind of stuff.”
Currently, the bakery is open until noon, but Katie and Lynn are thinking about expanding their hours.
The bakery opened February 27, and already has its faithful regulars. “Most of our customers are repeat customers,” Katie says. “It’s a good feeling when they do that.”
The Kolache Depot Bakery is at 1014 E. Highway 80, Suite 200, in Pooler. It is open M-F from 6 a.m. to noon and Saturday 7 a.m. to noon. Call 748-4343.