KOLACHES - Marie Hotovy (left) and Betty Smith are pictured teaching Faith and Mary Bohaty during one of the kolache-making classes they offered at the annual auction for St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Seward. (SNR photo)
SEWARD (SNR) - Parishes across the diocese must rely on various fundraising efforts to make ends meet. Many have developed creative ways to bring in income.
Each spring, St. Vincent DePaul Parish in Seward hosts a dinner and auction. What makes this auction extra special is the way parishioners share their “time and talent.”
A number of men who excel at woodworking produce beautiful items to sell. Ladies who quilt or embroider make exquisite handcrafted items.
Last year, Father Randall Langhorst, pastor, thought of another great idea. He is partial to kolaches – the poppy seed variety in particular. So, he approached a pair of the best bakers in the parish to see if they would be interested in offering a kolache-making class as an auction item.
Betty Smith was surprised at the idea. However, Father Langhorst’s suggestion that younger people would pay for the opportunity to learn how to make good kolaches was interesting.
Her cousin and friend, Marie Hotovy, was equally intrigued.
“I’m 85,” she said. “At my age there isn’t always something that comes along that you can do to help the parish.” For both women, kolache baking is a family tradition rooted in their Czech heritage.
“I learned from my mother, and Betty learned from her mother, too,” Mrs. Hotovy said. “It was just something that was passed on down the family.”
The ladies agreed to try Father Langhorst’s idea and made the class available at the 2009 dinner and auction for $35 per person. They were pleased when seven people signed up. In 2010, they had 11 participants and hosted two classes. Father Langhorst had offered the church kitchen for the class, but the ladies demurred. At age 79, Mrs. Smith didn’t want to haul supplies and materials to the church. She and Mrs. Hotovy decided it would be easier and more comfortable to work in Mrs. Smith’s kitchen.
As if they had been teaching kolache baking for a lifetime, Mrs. Hotovy and Mrs. Smith worked out an effective system. At home, Mrs. Hotovy prepared the first batch of dough, which she brought to Mrs. Smith’s house.
Mrs. Smith, with her table expanded so all the students were seated comfortably, began the class by demonstrating how to prepare the dough in a bread machine – a wonderful convenience that takes the chore out of mixing and kneading. Then, while that batch of dough is rising, the ladies teach the students how to shape kolaches with Mrs. Hotovy’s dough.
It’s a bit of a time-consuming process to get it right. First, the buns have to be shaped.
Then the dough must rest before an indentation is made to house the filling – which is a bit trickier than it looks. It’s all too easy to poke one’s finger through the dough or to leave one side so shallow that the filling spills out. This is why kolache making is a skill passed down in person from generation to generation. Just handing somebody a recipe wouldn’t work very well.
As each student learns to work with the dough and make the right shapes, the rolls are filled with all sorts of different homemade and purchased fillings and set to rise again before baking.
Mrs. Smith keeps her oven going with a steady supply of kolache-laden pans while Mrs. Hotovy continues to coach the students.
“It’s a two-man show,” Mrs. Smith said.
“I wouldn’t have wanted to do it myself,” her cousin agreed.
By the time Mrs. Hotovy’s dough is used up, the batch made in class is ready to go. Rapid-rise yeast helps reduce the total time required to get a tender, airy dough.
A few hours later, 80 or more kolaches are cooled and ready to sample. Each student receives a dozen to take home, plus the recipe and lots of good advice for making their own.
Both ladies are pleased to be able to help their parish by using the skills that God has given them. Mrs. Smith said she’s glad to have another way to contribute to the parish on her tight budget.
“I’d like to finance the church more, but there is no way I can,” she admitted.
The kolache-baking class proves that giving time and talent is just as beneficial as giving money.
“It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you do something to help the parish with their fundraising,” Mrs. Hotovy said.