Sometimes I’m amazed at the taste memories that stick with me long after I travel. Some of them are expected: fish and chips in London, Peking duck in Beijing, tapas in Barcelona.
Other times, I’m caught by surprise when I’m still thinking about certain foods months or years after tasting them. These Czech gingerbread kolache are an example of just that.
The shop, like much of Prague, is picturesque and fairy-tale like. Run by two sisters-in-law, the bakery is putting forward their best effort to revive Prague’s gingerbread tradition. They offer authentic gingerbread made with just nuts, honey, butter, and plenty of spices. Perníčkův sen serves different regional varieties of gingerbread and is especially known for their poppy seed kolache (the round cookie on the plate of cookies pictured below).
As I often find with European pastries, the cookies were simple and showcased the pure taste of the high quality ingredients. The deep, savory flavors of the nuts and spices were not dumbed down with a bunch of sugar, as I sometimes find in American cookies.
All of the cookies I tried were delicious but the poppy seed kolache were the standout. I’m not sure why, but we don’t use poppy seeds very much in American baking. Sure, you’ll see them in the occasional muffin or in salad dressings, but poppy seeds are much more abundant in European baked goods. I fell in love with these kolache and the contrasts of the spicy gingerbread base, flavorful poppy seed filling, and sweet streusel. This is the kind of cookie that leaves you craving another bite and that’s what many chefs consider the indicator of a quality baked good.
As soon as we left the shop and headed to our next tour stop, I immediately regretted not buying some cookies to take with me. I tried to make it back (it was less than a two minute walk from our Airbnb!) but they were closed by the time I returned and we had an early train to Vienna the next morning.
I haven’t stopped thinking about the Czech gingerbread kolache with the poppy seed filling so I decided to do my best to replicate the recipe. I started with my favorite gingerbread recipe (a bit softer than what is traditional in Prague), filled each cookie with a simple poppy seed filling (recipe provided by my wonderful tour guide Jan), and sprinkled some streusel on top.
Czech Gingerbread Kolache Recipe
A few tricks and tips…
I started by making the gingerbread dough and then made the poppy seed filling and streusel while the dough was resting.
Any flavor of jam can be used in the poppy seed filling recipe, but plum is traditional.
Penzey’s is my favorite resource for quality spices and large quantities of poppy seeds.
If you’re planning a trip to Prague, I highly recommend taking a Prague food tour with Eating Prague tours. My time spent with them was the highlight of my stay in Prague. I learned about Czech cuisine and history, ate so much delicious food, and had an absolute blast.
Use code “Jan” at checkout for a 10% discount.
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Thank you so much to Eating Europe Tours for sponsoring this post. I had a wonderful time on their food tours in Amsterdam and Prague. Be sure to check our their food tours if you’re visiting Prague, London, Rome, or Amsterdam.