It may take a couple of tries to get this cookie right, but once you do, it's so worth it.
Aunt Jan’s Kolaches
Credit: Katherine Polcari

If you walk into our kitchen in late December, you'll find my dad (and the floors, countertops, and dogs) covered in flour and melted chocolate with dozens of cookies cooling on the island. Besides our family staples like Italian rum balls and sugar cookies, he always lets me and my brother pick our own recipe. This has resulted in everything from intricate cookie sandwiches to stained glass cookies made out of crushed candy. Even with all of those options, my all-time favorite treat is my Aunt Jan's kolaches.

The recipe has been in our family for generations, and, to me, nothing screams Christmas more than Aunt Jan's signature holiday tin stuffed with baked goods. She doesn't waste space with liners, so all the treats get mashed together and the flavors mix in the best kind of way. There's something extra special about peeling a kolache off of a brownie or red velvet cookie after it makes the trip from Indiana to Tennessee. She even knows to pack extra kolaches to avoid fights over the last one with cream cheese filling.

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At this point, I doubt Aunt Jan even glances at the recipe, but it took me a couple of tries to get this cookie right. I learned that it's super important to prepare your work surface with a mixture of flour and powdered sugar. Don't be stingy; this dough is sticky! Once I started dousing everything with the flour-and-sugar mixture, it was a game changer. (And the extra sugar makes the dough that much better!) Also, since it has to be spread out so thin, I found that it's a lot easier to work in batches. The main star of the kolache is the filling, so a thin cookie is what tastes best. Even though I love them with cream cheese, you can always use store-bought fruit pie filling. And don't worry, picture-perfect presentation isn't important when they taste this good. You can take my word for it.