Apricot Kolaches are a traditional Hungarian Christmas cookie. A flakey cream cheese pastry dough is rolled in sugar then filled with an easy apricot filling! These Apricot Kolaches are sensational! These two-bite Hungarian Christmas Cookies (Apricot Kiffles / Kolaches) are sweet, crispy and addicting. The apricot filling is just the right amount of sweet to set off the flakey, buttery pastry.
Before I posted this recipe back in 2013 I made dozens of batches to get the perfect texture and filling ratio. Some were too thick, some too thin, but all had that delicious sugar crust on the bottom. That is the secret to making the best apricot kolaches.
The sugar caramelized on the bottom and the resulting flavor combination is something I’ve never experienced. They are truly something special, which is probably why these little cookies along with their cousins The Hungarian Walnut Rolls are two of the most popular recipes on CLF.
I made a traditional Hungarian apricot filling from the Paprikas Weiss Traditional Hungarian Cookbook, but next time I’m going to try apple and cherry (in addition to apricot, obviously)!
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Frequently Asked Questions: Kolaches
Kolaches pop open in the oven when they have too much filling, the dough was chilled before baking, or they are not properly sealed. A firm press to seal should do the trick but others swear by a little bit of water or egg wash. This dough is flakey and if chilled, it will puff excessively like puff pastry in the oven. Sometimes this is desirable, but here we want those cookies to stay shut!
Apricot Kiffles and Apricot Kolaches are a cookie by many names. Multiple Eastern European cultures lay claim to these cookies and they each call them something different. In the Czech Republic and Slovakia kolaches are a type of sweet bread some of which are yeasted. Hungarian kolaches or kolachy are cookies made with a sweet pastry dough and a variety of fillings. In other parts of Eastern Europe and some parts of Hungry call these same cookies apricot kiffles. By any name they are delightful!
Yes! You can freeze fully baked apricot kolaches for up to three months. I layer mine between parchment paper or waxed paper inside a ziptop bag. You can also layer them between waxed paper in a cookie tin like my grandmother, RoRo, used to do.
- All-purpose flour: All-purpose flour has just the right amount of gluten to make a flakey, tender apricot kolaches.
- Kosher Salt: Kosher salt is lass salty than table salt and a teaspoon weighs less than other finer ground varieties. . It heightens the flavor here and will keep your pastries for tasting dull or flat.
- Cream Cheese: I use original Philadelphia Cream Cheese for all my baked goods. Working the cream cheese into the dough adds fat and a little bit of tang. Cream cheese does not behave the same as butter when baked and will create a soft, tender cookie.
- Butter: I use unsalted butter for baking, because you want to control the amount of salt you are adding. Every brand is different and it makes adjusting the recipe a challenge.
- Granulated Sugar: Rolling out the dough in granulated sugar will add a bit of sweetness and crunch but it will also caramelize on the baking sheet for added complexity of flavor.
- Dried Apricots: I use sulphered dried apricots because they have that beautiful color. Un-sulphered will be dark brown. I use Turkish Apricots because they are plump, sweet and generally have more retained moisture than other varieties.
- Granulated Sugar: Granulated sugar sweetens and thickens the filling. You could reduce it by half and still have success with these cookies. The sweet filling balances the savory pastry for the perfect bite.
Substitutions for Apricot Kolaches
- Cream Cheese: The cream cheese is the only moisture in this dough, so if you omit it or reduce it, add water to make a cohesive dough. This will change the consistency and texture of the final cookie. Reduced fat cream cheese can be used but not whipped. Be aware that these changes will affect the final results.
- Dried Fruit: You could certainly use a different dried fruit for the filling. You might need to adjust the amount of sugar or water you add in order to get the necessary consistency.
Variations on the Apricot Kiffles
- Pastry Cutter: Use a fluted or a straight edged cutter for a different look. A fluted cutter makes a ruffled edge that is very festive without any additional work!
- Change the Size: You could make these apricot kiffles larger without much adjustment beyond the bake time. I would not suggest making them smaller, because the smaller the kolaches, the more likely to pop open.
- Change the filling: Apricot, cherry and poppyseed are three of the most popular traditional fillings. You could also make the walnut filling from my Hungarian walnut rolls as well!
For the Pastry:
- 2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 1 cup unsalted butter (softened)
- ½ cup granulated sugar for rolling
For the Apricot Filling:
- 1 lb dried apricots
- 1 cup sugar
To make the Apricot Filling:
- Place dried apricots in a small saucepan and pour in just enough water to cover the apricots. Boil until the apricots are soft. Do not let all the water evaporate. Add a little bit more to keep the filling from burning.
- Add the sugar and continue to cook until thick.
- Either puree in a food processor or with an immersion blender in a bowl. If the filling is too runny, return it to the sauce pot to continue to cook.
- You can make the filling ahead of time and freeze it until you are ready to use it. Just thaw at room temperature when you are ready to use.
For the Pastry Dough:
- Sift flour and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.
- Beat the cream cheese and butter together with a stand mixer or a hand mixer until completely incorporated and creamy (3-5 minutes).
- Reduce the speed of the mixer and slowly add in the flour. I used 5 additions and completely mixed in the flour each time. The dough will be soft but not sticky.
- Divide the dough into 4 equal parts and flatten each to ¾” thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until hard, at least 2 hours.
Assembling the Kolaches:
- Pre-heat the oven to 375F. Move the oven rack one setting higher than the center.
- Take one of the disks of dough from the refrigerator and lightly flour both sides. Spread granulated sugar on your pastry board or work surface. Place the dough on top and roll out pastry to 1/16” to ⅛” thick. Most recipes say ⅛” but my Husband remembered them being thinner.
- With a pastry wheel or sharp knife, trim the dough into a square and then cut the square into 16 smaller squares. My dough never rolled out into a perfect circle so I would just cut as many 1 ½ “ squares a possible, saving the scraps for later.
- Place a dollop of filling into the center of each square. I used ½ teaspoon to ¾ teaspoon for each.
- Gently grab two opposite corners and fold one over the other, gently pressing down to try and seal them together. Gently move it to a parchment covered baking sheet. Repeat with all remaining squares.
- Sprinkle the middles of the kolaches with just a touch of granulated sugar.
- Placing the kolaches no closer than 1” apart.
- Bake 12-14 minutes or until the bottom edges are a golden and you can smell them. Let cool slightly on the pan on a wire rack and then move them gently to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Repeat with all remaining dough. Refrigerate and re-roll your scraps. Amazing.
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