Sunday, January 3, 2016

All hail klobasniky!

Pan sausage, American cheese and jalapeño klobasnek. © Ryan Schierling

There are a few hearty breakfast handfuls that I've come to rely on that just don't exist outside of Texas. Living in Seattle, I never saw a breakfast taco. There were such curiosities as breakfast burritos, but they occupied a space that was an afterthought to most carriers of A.M. comestibles. The closest you could come to a klobasnek is a piroshky, and while delicious any time of day, none were dedicated to breaking the fast. The latter – klobasnek, klobasnik, kolache if you don't know any better – are a Czech savory morsel with the same slightly-sweet dough used for kolaches. Klobasnek filling is usually a little oblong sausage like a pig in a blanket, but Texans have taken to putting all sorts of things inside that luxurious, pillowy dough. My favorite is a piece of pan sausage (breakfast sausage), pickled jalapeño and a nice melty American cheese, which is a klobasnek that's not too hard to find at kolache shops in Austin.

But a beef summer sausage, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut klobasnek? I had to make this combination myself, and recipe testing was not a problem. I think I ate three dozen over the course of a week before I was satisfied with the end result. Hell, I was satisfied with the first round, I just had to keep making them because they're irresistible.

Summer sausage, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese klobasnek. © Ryan Schierling
The dough is key, and most recipes are fairly similar. It makes for a light, sweet bread that's got just enough tooth to it when you take a bite. Spoon some fruit preserves, sweetened cream cheese or a traditional poppy seed mixture into a dimple on top and you've got a kolache. Put anything savory inside and it's a klobasnek.

Klobasnek or Kolache dough

1 cup whole milk
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 egg yolks

Klobasnek filling – Breakfast sausage with jalapeño

1 pound bulk breakfast sausage, shaped into 2-inch round patties, cooked through
(You can also use pre-cooked sausage patties, or a vegetarian sausage option.)
6 slices American cheese
24 pickled jalapeño slices, drained

Klobasnek filling – Summer sausage with sauerkraut

12 1/2-inch thick slices of summer sausage
1 cup of drained sauerkraut, all brine pressed out
6 slices Swiss cheese
Pinch of caraway seeds

In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk and 4 tablespoons of butter to where the butter is melted and the milk is no warmer than 130 degrees F. Anything over and the yeast reaches its "thermal death point," which sounds like a cool band name, but will not make good dough. Remove from heat. In the bowl of a stand mixer, using a whisk attachment, mix milk and butter with sugar, salt, yeast and 1 cup of flour until you've got a sticky, frothy dough mixture. Remove the bowl from the mixer, cover and let it rest for 30 minutes. Whisk together the egg yolks and oil. Put the dough hook on your mixer and add the eggs and oil to the dough. At low speed, let the mixer work the dough as you add the remaining 3 cups of flour until the dough is soft but not sticky. You may not end up using all three cups, or you may end up using just a slight bit more. Sometimes baking is weird like that. Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured cutting board and and hand knead until the dough is smooth and nicely pliable, about 5 minutes.

Clean out the stand mixer bowl, lightly oil it and place the kneaded dough into the bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. 

While the dough is rising, prepare your fillings:
For Breakfast Sausage with Jalapeño – cook your sausage patties and let rest on paper towels. Drain your jalapeño slices. 
For Summer Sausage with Sauerkraut – remove casings and slice the sausage. Press the juice out of the sauerkraut using a colander and your fist.

After the dough has risen, press it down, turn it back out onto the cutting board and gather it into a ball. Julie has informed me enough times that literally punching down dough is not necessarily a good thing, and though it would also be a good band name, no one wants to be labelled a "dough puncher." Beating the crap out of it toughens the dough. All you want to do is gently release carbon dioxide and redistribute the yeast and the food for the yeast. Pinch off pieces of dough about the size of a golf ball and using your palms and flatten them into 4-inch rounds. 

Preheat the oven to 375-degrees F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. 

If you're using the pan sausage filling, go ahead and put down two jalapeño slices in the center of the 4-inch round. Fold a piece of American cheese in half, then in half again. Place two of the quarter slices on top of the jalapeños. Put a slice of pan sausage on and pull/pinch the dough up to seal around the sausage. Flip it over and put the pinched side down on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the filling. 

If you're using summer sausage, the filling order is Swiss, kraut, summer sausage. Pinch/pull the dough up, flip the whole thing over and put it on the baking sheet.

Cover the klobasneks with a kitchen towel and give them a secondary rise for 30 minutes.

Warm the remaining 4 tablespoons butter and brush the klobasneks before they go into the oven. You could also make an egg wash with the whites from the eggs used for the dough if you'd like, which gives them a little shinier exterior. I kind of like the butter wash better. If you're going the summer sausage route, top the klobasneks with a sprinkle of caraway seeds after the warm butter.

Bake klobasneks for 15 minutes, or until golden brown on the outside. Serve immediately.

Makes 1 dozen.

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