It’s about time a quality kolache crossed the Sabine River.
Generations ago, Czech bakeries in central Texas popularized sweet and savory kolaches — pastries made with sweet yeast dough — and they took on a life of their own as a breakfast food staple.
These pastries — either squares of sweet bread with fruit in the middle or small rolls stuffed with sausage — are available across the Lone Star State.
A couple of years ago, a Houston native and LSU alumnus started the Kolache Kitchen and introduced sweet and savory kolaches to a mass Baton Rouge audience.
The Kolache Kitchen is consistently good, with a wide variety of flavors of both genres of kolaches plus breakfast tacos, empanadas and, at its new Jefferson Highway location, lunch items.
Purchased early in the day, the sausage kolache ($1.85) tastes fresh, with the sweet, soft outside complementing the savory sausage inside. While the kolache’s breading is thicker than many similar treats at bakeries in my native Texas, it is not overly chewy.
The two locations — one south of LSU on Nicholson Drive and another on Jefferson Highway — serve a variety of meat-filled kolaches, ranging from sausage and cheese to boudin, a nice south Louisiana variation.
Both locations serve a variety of fruit kolaches ($1.50). I have tried the strawberry, peach, apple, blueberry and cherry, and I have enjoyed them all. The small, 3-inch square pastries feature soft, sweet bread with a dollop of fruit with a consistency of jam placed in the middle. Some come with cream cheese.
Often the bread-to-fruit ratio is too high for me, and I end up pinching bread off the kolache to dip into the fruit on top. But that’s not a bad thing — the bread tastes great on its own.
By lunchtime, the fruit kolaches become a little crisp after sitting in a warmer all morning. A co-worker of mine — and kolache virgin — thought his peach and cream cheese kolache had become dry. I prefer them soft, not crisp, so I would stop by early in the day.
The Kolache Kitchen also serves a twist on the meat-filled kolache, the egg-filled ranchero ($3-$3.50). I tried an egg and bacon ranchero for breakfast one morning, and I was surprised by its heft. About the size of a quarter-pounder, the ranchero was plenty filling. While I enjoyed the bread exterior, the eggs were a bit dry.
The Jefferson Highway location of the Kolache Kitchen also serves sandwiches and tacos. On a recent visit, a guest and I tried two sandwiches. He enjoyed his kolache club ($7.79), a traditional club sandwich with a twist. It had plenty of turkey, applewood-smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato and American cheese, all on perfectly-toasted bread. It also had a very slight sweetness — from the chipotle mayo, perhaps — that served as an unexpected but nice counterpoint to the bacon and tomato.
“While it’s hard to rhapsodize about a club sandwich,” he told me, “this is one I’d order again.”
My selection — the Cuban ($8.79) — was good, but I don’t think I would order it again. It came dressed with tart mustard, Swiss cheese, ham, smoked pork and pickles. The pork was dry on this day, and I wished I had ordered the ham and Brie melt with homemade cranberry marmalade. It looked amazing.
While their sandwiches are worth stopping for, the kolaches are the stars of this store.
Do these kolaches resemble the traditional wedding pastry recipes that immigrants brought here more than a century ago? Probably not. But that doesn’t matter to me. The Texas kolache has evolved on its own, and I am glad it made it to Baton Rouge.