Hot dogs stuffed into sweet, yeasty buns, make for a unique Texas wiener presentation
Sausage, Cheese & Jalapeño Kolache from Old Towne Kolaches in Houston, Texas.
Unless you’re from Texas, you’ve probably never heard of Kolaches, a delectable breakfast snack as common in the Lone Star State as bagels and cream cheese are in New York. Traditional kolaches (pronounced KO-LA-CHEESE) are sweet, flat yeast rolls filled with fruit jam, poppy seed paste or soft cheese.
Kolaches are said to have been introduced stateside by Czech immigrants in regions like Eastern and Central Texas. The term has also come to refer to a savory variety stuffed with items like mini-sausages, cheese and jalapeño. The slightly sweet roll is best eaten warm, with the gooey cheese melted all around the salty sausage.
Some believe this non-sweet adaptation on the pastry that is widely popular across Texas, to be the result of Americanization. Others maintain that the correct term for the variety is Klobasnek, a distinct albeit similar item whose name translates in Czech to “Pig in a Blanket.” Most call it a good excuse to eat hot dogs for breakfast.
Kolaches (aka TX breakfast hot dogs)
There was a time when your faithful Pirate had not heard of these wonderful one-handed breakfast treats. I KNOW…Captain Peter was equally incredulous when I asked “what are these kolaches?” that I was reading about. “YOU’VE NEVER HAD TEXAS BREAKFAST HOT DOGS. ” was his response. We met and married late, so we occasionally discover these inexcusable gaps in each others’ upbringings. Having sampled my first in a freeway fast food joint between Austin and Kilene, I knew I could do even better, and broke out my go-to Parker House rolls recipe — a versatile yeast dough that I use for cinnamon rolls, hot cross buns, dinner rolls, etc. These are GREAT offshore food — a grab and go, handheld, complete breakfast or snack that, if you’re not in a position to make a homemade yeast dough, can be made using pre-made pie crust or crescent roll dough as well.
The Case for the Humble Breakfast Hot Dog
I&aposm from Chicago, have roots in the South, and thanks to my grandmother, I grew up eating hot dogs for breakfast. Though my hometown has its own style of wiener that it&aposs known for, I&aposm not referring to Chicago-style hot dogs in the a.m. (I wouldn&apost necessarily turn my nose up at one, either.) I&aposm talking about the humble hot dog that would serve as a stand-in for your more standard breakfast meats at my family&aposs table.
Sometimes there was bacon and other times we had sausage, but hot dogs were served with some frequency. Most often they would be saut whole in a skillet with some vegetable oil and served alongside home fries, scrambled eggs, and buttered toast. (At my parents&apos house they tended to be of the standard variety, whereas my grandmother usually opted for turkey franks.) These three itemsompanied by the meat du jour—is what I tend to associate with the breakfasts of my childhood.
When I think of hot dogs for breakfast, I picture sitting at my grandmother&aposs dining room table with a plate of sweetened rice and a griddled wiener or two. I&aposm sure she made other things for breakfast, but this salty-sweet combo is the meal that comes to mind immediately. I remember my grandmother preparing it those times I was sick from school and my mother dropped me off at her house, or after I would stay the night for one of our grandmother-grandson sleepovers.
Though part of the reason I enjoyed spending time at her house was because she had cable, looking back, I realize I also enjoyed just being in her company. Like the archetypal black grandmother, mine is strong, loving, and wise. I could feed off of her presence alone, hoping at least a portion of her wisdom would permeate my psyche. The lessons she instilled began at a young age, but is something I&aposve become more astutely aware of with over the year, especially as she approaches her 90th birthday in a few short weeks.
My family&aposs story is similar to that of many African-Americans who have been in this country for generations. My father&aposs mother grew up in rural Arkansas before partaking in the Great Migration in search of greater opportunity and racial equality. Despite leaving the Jim Crow South and the improvements that came with it, the fact remained that many African-Americans were (and are) still poor.
I brought up the question of why our family ate hot dogs for breakfast with my father, uncle, and grandmother, and my uncle burst in with a response before I could finish my sentence: "Hot dogs are a cheap way to feed a bunch of kids." My grandmother is one of six and she herself had seven children, so when it comes to feeding a family the size of a small army, breakfast hot dogs are much more economical than bacon.
In a quest to see if this delicacy is shared outside of my kin, I took to Facebook with a poll. Though some were appalled simply by the idea, 37% of the 111 respondents said that they too had eaten hot dogs for breakfast. While a couple of my friends just really love hot dogs and eat them any time of the day, I also learned that they are very common in Mexican and Filipino breakfasts. Huevos con weenies is a standard dish for Mexican kids featuring scrambled eggs and ketchup, and the sausages are commonly served with eggs and rice in the Philippines. Others mentioned cooking them in an omelet sautéing sliced frankfurters with onion, barbecue sauce, and ketchup to be eaten alongside a piece of toast and enjoying hot dogs used as part of the kolache filling in Texas doughnut shops.
Perhaps it is shame, related to being poor, that has prevented people from exploring the idea of morning wieners in depth until now. Or the fear of being labeled strange has discouraged others from proclaiming their love for frankfurters at dawn. Shame, class, and food are so tightly intertwined and can manifest themselves in a variety of ways, but it seems that, though there is still much work to be done, there is some improvement that&aposs been made on this front. In the age of organic this and all-natural that, it&aposs thanks to respected publications and prominent figures proclaiming their love for cheap, processed foods—such as Velveeta, instant ramen and Spam—that the tides are turning on what is cool, or even just acceptable, to consume.
Though I&aposm sure most would love to eat a diet primarily consisting of organic, free-range, artisanal, GMO-free, and locally-sourced food, the fact remains that doing so is unattainable for a large swath of the population. When we neglect to share stories about what countless people are actually eating in order to focus on sensationalist tales of mouth cooking and breadfacing, we are inherently making a value judgement. Eating hot dogs for breakfast should be the least of our worries.
RECIPE: Texas-Style Kolaches
I’m a good cook and a better baker but my borderline unhealthy obsession with dining out tends to keep me out of the kitchen. I absolutely love discovering new restaurants and devouring all the best they have to offer. Here I’ll share my best finds and hopefully hear yours, all in an effort to add to my ever-expanding-and-contracting culinary bucket list.
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W ell, at least we no longer have to explain what a kolache is: interest in our beloved Czexan confection has been rising like a ball of warm dough. Last October a treatise on the pillowy pastry made the pages of the New York Times. If you need further proof that our favorite roadside delicacy may be the new Cronut, it is now possible to procure a kolache in Portland and Brooklyn and quite a few places in between. And among the many purveyors carrying the torch here at home is Houston’s Revival Market, whose immensely popular Kolache Saturdays have fans lining up for decidedly unconventional variations like smoked turkey sausage and Texas pecan with cream cheese. Kolache fever is nothing new in Texas, which has been home to a considerable Czech community since the mid-1800’s. We can thank them for the Kolache Triangle, where motorists regularly and not so mysteriously disappear from the highways that connect San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston and reappear at one of the dozens of longtime vendors that dot the area. A fresh-baked kolache, nestled in a sheet pan and exuding butter and sugar and warm fruit, is no mere off-ramp diversion: it’s a golden ticket back in time to Grandma’s—or Babička’s—kitchen. As is this classic recipe from West’s Little Czech Bakery, featured in Denise Gee’s Sweet on Texas.
12 ounces dried apricots
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 /2 teaspoon almond extract
1 /2 cup sugar, or more to taste
1 tablespoon sugar, plus 1 /2 cup
2 1 /4-ounce packages or 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 /2 cup warm water (110° to 115°F)
2 cups milk
1 /2 cup shortening
3 teaspoons salt
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
6 1 /4 cups bread flour, sifted
6 tablespoons ( 3 /4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 /3 cup all-purpose flour
1 /2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
To make the filling: In a medium bowl, cover the apricots with boiling water to rehydrate. Cover the bowl and let them sit overnight or at least six hours. Drain excess liquid.
In a medium saucepan, warm the rehydrated fruit with the butter, almond extract, and sugar over low heat. Use a potato masher to soften and mix the cooked fruit. Once softened, remove the filling from the heat and let it cool completely. (For a smoother texture, you can purée the filling in a food processor.)
To make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large mixing bowl, if you don’t have a mixer), combine the 1 tablespoon sugar, the yeast, and the warm water set aside until yeast starts to bubble, about 5 minutes.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk until it registers 98° to 105°F on a candy thermometer. Stir in the shortening until just melted, then remove the mixture from heat and let it cool slightly (about 5 minutes). Add the salt, egg yolks, and remaining 1 /2 cup sugar and whisk well.
Add the milk-egg mixture to the yeast mixture and stir to combine. Add the bread flour, 1 cup at a time, and work with a dough hook (or wooden spoon) until a soft, moist, glossy dough forms (about the time it begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl).
Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in size, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
After the dough has risen, punch it down to remove any air in the dough. Lightly flour a work surface.
Use a tablespoon to remove small portions of dough and drop them onto the floured surface, rolling them into egg-size pieces using the palms of your hands. Place them on greased baking pans in rows of 4 across and 5 down (about 1 inch apart) for a pan of 20. Brush the dough balls with the melted butter. Place them back in a warm, draft-free area, covered with tea towels, to let rise for 20 minutes more.
To make the topping: Combine the all-purpose flour, sugar, and butter in a food processor and pulse until crumbly. (The topping can be made ahead and refrigerated until ready for use.)
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Make a deep, round impression in the center of each ball of dough and fill it with 1 to 2 teaspoons filling. (Be careful not to press through the bottom of the dough, or the filling will ooze out while baking.) Let the kolaches rise again for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Sprinkle the kolaches with the desired amount of topping. Bake until golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes.
Adapted from Sweet on Texas, by Denise Gee. Published by Chronicle Books.
Kolaches: A Love Letter to Texas Breakfast
Back in Feburary 2013 I wrote about Texas’ obsession with kolaches and breakfast hot dogs. The novelty of the kolache has worn off at this point, not in a bad way, but I definitely wouldn’t say I’m surprised by them anymore. Sausage in a sweet bun? Been there, done (eaten) that. (And don’t read too much double entendre into that, please.) I guess after almost three years in this state, nothing surprises me anymore, especially where meat is involved.
Well, I guess almost nothing. I heard that one of my favorite restaurants in Austin, Foreign & Domestic, was hosting a kolache pop-up a couple Sundays ago. I’ve been to their previous bake sales and knew firsthand how legit delicious they are, so obviously I couldn’t pass up this one. While F&D was hosting the event, the kolaches themselves were from Rebecca Masson of Houston’s Fluff Bake Bar (but made fresh that morning in the F&D kitchen).
These were no run-of-the-mill kolaches. We sampled sweet: peach & bourbon caramel, apple & miso butterscotch, coconut lemongrass and savory: local sausage, Cubano (ham, swiss cheese, and pickle – crazy good) and everything bagel. Weirdly, that last everything bagel flavor turned out to be my favorite, full of cream cheese, onion, and poppyseed flavor.
I guess all I’m saying is, don’t take your city’s local favorites for granted, because the best chefs and restaurants will always find ways to surprise and delight you. Also, next time you’re in Texas, hit up Foreign & Domestic or Fluff Bake Bar.
Sausage and Cheese Kolaches
Seattle has been my home for about two years now, and after being here, there are certainly a lot of things I don’t miss about Texas (the long commutes to get anywhere, summer mosquitos with more bloodlust than Patrick Bateman), but there are also things I miss every waking minute of every day. Okay, I exaggerate, but I do miss easy parking, wearing sandals for 90% of the year, and my Monday morning kolaches.
Kolaches are a Czech soft yeast pastry that’s kind of like a soft dinner roll, and traditionally they’re filled or topped with fruits or cottage cheese. The Texas kolache is a variation of this, filled with sausage, cheese, and a slice or two of pickled jalapeño. Most bakeries and donut shops in the Lone Star State sell kolaches just as regularly as they sell burnt drip coffee.
It was very much a routine to grab a donut (or two) and a kolache (or three) to kick off my Monday mornings — I liked to think of it as a “starting another work week” treat. To my dismay, since moving to Seattle, I’ve discovered that kolaches just aren’t a thing here. The closest thing to a kolache I’ve been able to find are pirozhki (Russian hand pies), and while also delicious, they’re still not kolaches.
So what’s a homesick Texan to do? Why, see if the Homesick Texan herself had ever made kolaches, and good news! She has! I can find no fault with the dough recipe, so the only modification I made was to change the filling from sweet to savory for my version. Yummm.
I whipped these up in the morning before work and enjoyed my first morning kolache in months — this time, accompanied by a damn good cup of coffee, thanks. I brought the rest to the office (still warm from the oven!) where within minutes of setting them down, my co-workers swarmed and devoured them. How’s that for an endorsement?
Sausage and Cheese Kolaches
From Homesick Texan, with a filling adjustment
Prep Time: 2 ½ hours
Cook Time: 15-18 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours (including proofing time)
For the dough:
3-4 cups all-purpose flour
1 packet instant yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup milk (I used 2%), warm to between 100-115 °F
2 large eggs + 1 egg for egg wash
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp salt
For the filling:
9 bun-sized hot dogs or sausages of your choice, cut in half to make 18 pieces
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
pickled jalapeños (optional)
Combine 1 cup of flour with the warm milk, yeast, and sugar in a mixing bowl. Let it stand (covered with plastic or a damp dish towel) until doubled, about 45 minutes.
In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, salt, and melted butter. Add this to the yeast mixture and whisk thoroughly.
Either with a spoon or with a paddle attachment on a stand mixer, stir in the rest of the flour 1/2 cup at a time until the dough feels soft and just barely tacky, but not sticky.
Put on the dough hook and knead the dough on medium speed for about 20 minutes or until it passes the windowpane test (tear off a piece and stretch it until it’s thin enough for light to pass through — when it can do this without tearing, it has passed the windowpane test). Add in more flour if needed, a little at a time. You can also turn it out on to a floured surface and knead by hand for about 10-15 minutes until it passes the windowpane test.
The resulting dough should feel soft and pillowy, but it shouldn’t stick to your fingers or the bottom of the bowl.
Collect the dough into a ball and put it in an oiled bowl covered with plastic or a damp dish towel and let it rise at room temperature for an hour, or until doubled in size.
As the dough rises, fry the cut sausages with a bit of olive oil until they have a nice sear on the outside and ends. Drain on a paper towel.
Once the dough is done proofing, punch it down and divide the dough into 18 even pieces, or just pinch off egg-sized pieces one at a time. Each piece should be about 50 grams each.
Roll each piece into a ball, and then gently stretch it out into a small rectangle shape with the short end facing you. In the middle of the rectangle, place a generous heap of cheese. Top this with a slice or two of jalapeño (if using), and then top that with a sausage. Fold the top flap of the dough rectangle down and gently roll the entire thing towards you so that the sausage is encased. Pinch the ends shut a bit if you’d like. Repeat until you’ve formed all of your kolaches and put them all on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment.
As you let these rise (covered with plastic) for 30 minutes, preheat the oven to 375°F.
After this rise, make the egg wash by beating one egg together with a splash of milk. Brush the kolaches with egg wash. Bake them for 15-20 minutes, or until they’re nicely browned and your kitchen smells heavenly. Let them cool a bit on a wire rack and serve warm.
Croque Madame Breakfast Hot Dog
Hot dog of your choice (I may be making this insane triple-meat creation, but I’m still somewhat of a hippie at heart I buy Applegate “Super Natural” uncured turkey dogs)
Good quality ham and turkey deli meat
Swiss or gruyere cheese, thinly sliced
Croissant dough (you can make your own, but I can’t front, I was lazy and got some store-bought stuff)
This is easy. Take your hot dog and wrap a few slices of cheese around it. Wrap that in two slices of turkey, then wrap that in two slices of ham. Then take that big ol’ meat and cheese log and wrap it snugly in croissant dough. Place your P-in-a-Bs on a greased baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes at 350°. They should get golden brown and melty around the edges, but not toooo brown.
In the meantime, cook your eggs over easy (1-2 eggs per dog, depending on your level of egg cravings. The more runny yolk the better, I always say.) As soon as your dogs are out of the oven and have cooled on the sheet for a few minutes, slide one onto a plate, shred more cheese over it, and top with just-cooked eggs.
If you wanted to get reaaaally crazy, you could top the whole thing with a true mornay sauce instead of just more shredded cheese.
Houston’s 7 Best Hot Dogs
Once a popular food truck, Good Dog Houston parked itself in a permanent brick-and-mortar location in the Heights in November 2013, where it quickly became an equally popular restaurant. Long lines often form here on the weekends, with patrons seeking house-made dogs on fresh-baked buns, local beer, and chilly milkshakes. The condiments, too, are made in-house, including the Sriracha ketchup and “short bus” mustard that top the hand-dipped corn dogs. Our favorites are the Guac-a-Dog slathered with guacamole, jalapeños, cumin, and lime and the unusual Sunshine Dog, which pairs pickled red onions and dill relish with cream cheese and mayonnaise. Yes, it totally works.
Tucked into a converted bungalow on the bustling White Oak thoroughfare, Happy Fatz has the distinction of being the only place we know of to serve a breakfast hot dog. It’s called The Clucker, and we promise there’s a hot dog under the hash browns, bacon, and fried egg. At lunch, try the Texas Chili Dog made with Shiner Bock chili, cheddar cheese, and Fritos, or the St. Louis, which tops its frank with baked beans and basil-garlic mayo. Save room for dessert, because Happy Fatz also bakes its own cupcakes, cake balls, and more.
The Hot Dog Shop
You can’t get a breakfast hot dog here, but you can get breakfast—including waffles, omelets, and burritos. But, of course, you’re here for the hot dogs. Why not go all out and get the foot-long The Hot Dog Shop is famous for? The all-beef dog comes with your choice of four toppings, or you can simply ask for the foot-long “Chicago style.” For even more Windy City inspiration, grab a Maxwell Street Polish or a spicy Chicago Fire Dog.
Moon Tower Inn
Though the menu has expanded to offer hamburgers and even fancy meat-and-cheese plates since Moon Tower Inn first opened in 2010—back when it resembled nothing so much as a glorified backyard cookout—the hot dogs, served until at least 2 a.m. most nights, are still the biggest draw. The wild game dogs come in a variety of meat options, from rabbit and duck to elk and buffalo, and are served up in soft pretzel buns. Tell the kitchen to top the dogs as they see fit it’s easier than trying to pick the toppings yourself. Select your beer from one of the 66 beers, mostly Texan, on the tap wall.
Memorial City Mall is home to the first Houston location of Nathan’s Famous—the New York City hot dog chain known for serving everyone from Al Capone and Franklin Roosevelt to the king and queen of England. The classic hot dogs still only come with a handful of topping choices—chili, cheese, sauerkraut, red onions, and, curiously, salsa—but now you don’t have to travel to the Big Apple to get a bite.
Sammy’s Wild Game Grill
Sammy’s may call them “wild sausage dogs,” but we call them some of our favorite hot dogs in Houston. In addition to the standard buffalo, venison, and pheasant dogs, there’s a constantly changing rotation of other wild-game dogs ranging from antelope to kangaroo (the latter is grassy, buttery, and altogether irresistible). Sammy’s also stocks killer sauces, like a peppery Cajun remoulade and a fruity-spicy ghost pepper sauce that’s surprisingly addictive given its heat level. On the side, we recommend the french fries topped with python chili, though if you’re on a diet you can always get a wild game salad. We hear the llama is great.
So, I have to run something by you guys. Apparently, in Texas, hot dogs are classified as a breakfast food. Usually in the form of pigs in a blanket. Don’t get me wrong, they’re also welcome at tailgates and evening barbecues, but if you want to start the morning with a dog, it’s all good down here. What is this?! Have y’all heard of this? I really thought I was being tricked at first.
I first heard of this phenomenon from my boyfriend, Rob, a born-and-bred Austinite who wanted me to make lil’ smokies for brunch one morning. I thought he was just being a funky meat-loving dude, but turns out he was onto something, because a few weeks later, someone brought a pastry box into work and told everyone to help themselves to breakfast. I assumed it was a box of doughnuts, so imagine my surprise… pigs in a blanket! So the stories were true! Rob explained (after a respectable amount of “I-told-you-so” banter) that Czech kolaches are quite popular in Central Texas. I still had my doubts (and had actually never heard of kolaches before moving here) but the Internet confirmed his story. Kolaches started in eastern Europe as a sweet, fruit-filled pastry, but over here they’re more likely to be stuffed with sausage and/or cheese (Wikipedia calls savory types klobasnek, but they’re all called kolaches here.)
Okay! Now you know how I learned to stop worrying and love the morning hot dog. It didn’t take much effort to accept it– in fact, I wanted to embrace it wholeheartedly and really kick up the breakfast aspect. One of my favorite, most indulgent brunch dishes is also bread stuffed with meat and cheese: the croque madame. Why not combine Czech with French to make the ultimate cheesy, meaty masterpiece? Thus, my monstrous hot dog creation was born. Kolache expert (and fellow croque madame lover) Rob gave it an A+, so I figure I must be onto something.