Czech baking

Prague local favorites: Simply Good

Prague local favorites: Simply Good

Our tours are sometimes tough. For instance, we were getting lots of visitors with Czech heritage from Texas, and they kept asking us where they could get the best kolachees in Prague. There was always an awkward pause and lots of hesitation. You see, we could not think of a place that would sell kolachees, yeast dough treats with various sweet fillings, the way we knew them from our family gatherings, the proper kolachees. And them Simply good opened. This little bakery in the Karlin district sold yeast dough kolachees, frgale, cakes with streusel and such so good we could not believe they were not done by Zuzi’s grandma in the Slovacko region of Moravia where Zuzi is from. No wonder they often run out of products early into the day as people from the surrounding offices flock by to sweeten their lives just a bit with something that tastes truly home-made. 

The heart and the soul of the establishment is Hanka, the lovely owner. Always busy but with a smile on her face, Hanka is really proud of what she does - and still retains a truly hands-on approach. She has no problem naming her favorite things in the shop and the story behind them. What we love about Hanka is her life philosophy: although she must have faced some challenges transitioning from her previous job to the career of a pro baker, she always looks at the bright side of life. Things will simply work out. It was a pleasure to stop by the shop and ask a few questions. 

Babovka - Bundt cake recipe

Sunday is the traditional day for cooking here in the Czech Republic. Moms and grandmas gather in the kitchen and start preparing the Sunday lunch because for the older generation, Sunday is the day for a home-cooked meal. From very early morning, you can hear the unmistakeable sound of meat being tenderized for the lunch schnitzels and smell the wonderful odors of hearty Czech comfort food. And because you need to finish your lunch with something sweet, baking is an indispensable part of the whole Sunday morning cooking tradition. And "babovka", or the bundt cake, is an undisputed Sunday lunch classic.

What to eat in Prague: Czech sweet buns

Today, we have a suggestion what you should try when you are in Prague. A true Czech classic. Only a few things remind us of our childhood more than a tray of hot, wonderfully fragrant buns prepared by our grandma. The magnificent bun is even embedded in the local mythology: whenever Honza, the smart popular hero of many Czech fairy tales, left the house to fight the dragon, break the princess' evil curse or do whatever was on the agenda that day, he always first ordered his mom to make a few buns for the road. One of the most common children's disputes was the favorite filling: plum jam? poppies? curd cheese? Our grandmas always preempted these disputes by making sure the tray included a few of each. A popular breakfast treat, the poor grandma had to wake up early in the morning to make sure the yeast dough was ready by the time we sprang out of bed. Luckily, you don't have to - you can simply stay in bed and go to one of the following places and buy them. Easy!

Simply Good: Yeast dough is really the specialty of this small bakery in the Karlin district. Buns with poppy seeds, plum jam or curd cheese is not where it stops - it's where it starts: you can have kolachees, the "Czech sweet yeast dough pizza", or wonderful cakes with streusel, which is also their forte. The owner, a former corporate executive, is a great lady. This is the place we go whenever our grandma is not available for service :-)

EMA Espresso Bar: You know what is better than a great, tasty bun? A bun with a cup of great coffee! And that's exactly where EMA excels. EMA's baristas are living proof that you don't have to be a bearded hipster with inked forearms to prepare a cup of tasty coffee. Just don't sit on the bench near the entry - that's our spot! 

Café Lounge: EMA's older sister also serves the Czech buns. Although they may serve other sweets, we always keep coming back to the classic.    

Sisters: Sometimes you can find the sweet buns on the menu of this cool and lovely bistro that focuses primarily on the modern versions of the "chlebicek", the classic Czech open-faced sandwich. A perfect ending to their daily soup and one or two sandwiches. 

Bistro 8: For those visiting the National Gallery or the National Technical Museum, this popular hipster hangout in the heart of the Letna district is a must. Recently expanded, they may now have more space and time to bake the Czech buns more often!

One word of caution: sweet buns are highly addictive. But don't worry - even when you leave Prague, you can get your fill wherever you live with the recipe we have adapted for you. Sadly, our grandmas passed away before they could share their secret recipes with us. Luckily, we have found a perfectly good substitute: a recipe published by our friend and popular food blogger, Lucka of the Chez Lucie fame. If you wish to get a taste of what Lucka does, you must visit Café Lounge where she works as a pastry chef now that she's left her corporate job for her true passion. Alternatively, EMA Espresso Bar, Cafe Lounge's sister, gets the same products. So, without further ado, here's the 

Czech sweet buns recipe

For the dough:
- 600g all purpose flour
- 100g caster sugar
- 80g butter or lard
- pinch of salt
- 3 large eggs
- 250ml lukewarm milk
- 30g fresh yeast
- 1/2 vanilla pod or a teaspoon of vanilla extract
- zest of one lemon
For the fillings:
- 250g full fat creamy farmer’s cheese
- 50g powdered sugar
- 1 yolk
- juice and zest of half a lemon
- handful of raisins, previously soaked in rum
- 300g plum jam
- ½ ts cinammon
- 3 tbs rum
- 3dl milk
- 60g caster sugar
- 200g ground poppy seeds
- 3 tbs rum
To finish:
- 1 tbs melted butter
- 2 tbs rum
- icing sugar

How to make the buns:

  1. Always take all ingredients for the dough out of the fridge about 2 hours before you make the dough.
  2. First, prepare the starter: in a small bowl I mix the fresh yeast with a teaspoon of sugar, 3 tablespoons of lukewarm milk and a tablespoon of flour. Cover the bowl with a tea cloth and leave the dough to raise for about 30 min.
  3. In the meantime, mix other ingredients in a big bowl and when the yeast is ready, mix it in. 
  4. Now comes the hard work - kneading. But don’t worry – there’s a shortcut. It’s called the kneading machine. I just like kneading the dough with my hands, I’ve always found it relaxing. Whatever way you choose, work the dough really well and let it rise for about an hour under a tea cloth in a warm place.
  5. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3 and prepare the fillings. For plum jam or farmer’s cheese fillings, I simply mix all the ingredients together. For poppy seed filling, I put the milk on the stove until it’s warm and then add all the other ingredients and cook the filling until it thickens. I put it aside and let it cool down.
  6. When the dough is ready, roll the dough on a floured board into about 1cm think dough. Cut the dough into squares (about 7x7cm – 3x3 inch) and put different fillings into the center of each square. Then wrap each square together into a small bun. Put all the buns on the baking tray one next to the other and then butter them with melted butter mixed with rum. Let the buns raise for about 10 min and then put them into the oven and bake them for about 30 minutes until golden brown. 
  7. When you remove the buns from the oven, butter them with butter and rum once again. When we have visitors, I usually also sprinkle them with sugar. 

Wherever you have the buns out or at home, enjoy! We know you will.