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In the Kitchen with... Coaches Kolaches
By Carol McGarvey | Photography by Ben Lochard
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Coaches Kolaches
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Check out these recipes from Coaches Kolaches:

Prune Kolaches

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Kolache: kuh-la-chee, a sweet bun filled with savory sausage and cheese or pulped fruit.

Tradition? Well, it all depends on your background. Kolaches, sweet dough with a filling, might fall into the “Danish” category of a treat with a fruit filling, especially in northeast Iowa. If you’re from the South, though, they take on a savory twist and are filled with meat, cheese, and egg. They fit the category of runzas (meat and cabbage filling in a roll) in Nebraska and pepperoni rolls (pepperoni in dough, a handheld meal for coal miners) in West Virginia.

And while you might think “never the twain shall meet,” that’s not true. Brent Curvey grew up in Houston, Texas, and came north to play football at Iowa State University. Later he played for the Carolina Panthers, the Saskatchewan Roughriders, and then the Iowa Barnstormers. Along the way, he married Patrice, and they have four children.

“I likely won’t be going back to Texas, but I can bring the taste of the South to the Midwest,” he says of his and Patrice’s year-plus venture to bring savory kolaches to life at the Coaches Kolaches shop in Clive, just east of 86th Street and University Boulevard. “There are lots of people around here from the South who understand the savory side of kolaches and miss that taste.”

Perfecting the dough

Patrice worked for six months to perfect the slightly sweet dough and experiment with fillings and flavors. Coaches Kolaches offers ham and cheese; beef sausage and cheese; bacon, egg, and cheese; sausage, egg, and cheese; and the most popular one, jalapeño, sausage, and cheese for a little kick. One called the Big Play contains sausage, bacon, and ham.

Brent also has created a homemade hot sauce to go with the handheld delicacies. It’s a family affair for the Curveys; Patrice’s mother, Annette Graves, also works at the shop, as do two other employees.

The Curveys acknowledge the Iowa fruit-filled classic by offering some sweet ones, too, with flavors like cherry, apricot, lemon, blueberry, peach, and poppy seed, among others. Now that the Curveys’ kolaches are catching on, they’re doing more catering. Also, Patrice has adapted the dough recipe to create dinner rolls by special order.

Southern history

A feature last year in Texas Monthly magazine told the history of the Southern kolache varieties. Czech immigrants brought the fruit-filled versions to the South in the 1800s, just as with Iowa. The savory versions started to gain in popularity in the 1980s. Chains like the Kolache Factory started offering “on the run” foods in Houston in 1982.

Technically, the savory versions are called klobasnek (klobasniky for plural), but many people call all varieties kolaches. The mecca for kolaches is the town of West, Texas, just north of Waco, where the Village Bakery started creating meat-filled treats in the early 1950s.

Patrice and Brent Curvey are continuing to spread the good taste—and the tradition—in Iowa. They also tug at the tasteful memories of former Southerners that now call Iowa home.

Czech ’em Out: Iowa-Style Kolaches

For many Iowans, a trip to northeast Iowa calls for a sweet stop at Sykora’s Bakery in the Czech Village of Cedar Rapids. Row after row of many-flavored kolaches tempts visitors.

Other spots, too, help keep the kolache spirit alive. A number of churches offer “kolache clinics” to teach members how to make the fruit-filled variety.

One church, St. Ludmila’s Catholic Church in Cedar Rapids, has celebrated an annual Kolache Festival since the early 1970s, says Karen Billick, a baking chairman for 10 years. “We offer six flavors—cherry, strawberry, apricot, poppy seed, prune, and apple.” Each filled pastry is 3 inches in diameter.

“It’s all about volume,” Karen says. This past June church bakers made 5,000 dozen. That’s 60,000 kolaches! It’s a cash-and-carry operation, and the festival even offers drive-up window service. Some purchasers put them into the freezer; others ship them to family and friends. The kolaches sell for $12 a dozen. To handle that volume, church members have 10 baking shifts and even bake through the night.

“I’m not even Czech,” Karen points out, but it’s all about the nostalgia. “It’s important to pass on the tradition. I don’t want it to die.”

Joe Kucera of Des Moines grew up in Clutier, near Traer. “My mother mostly made prune kolaches, but I have experimented with apricot, poppy seed, almond, cherry, and chocolate chip,” he says. Joe uses an inverted wineglass to get the right size for his creations. His mother used a 13×9-inch pan with four kolaches per row for baking.

Joe has adapted a recipe from and uses a mixer with a dough hook, which works well for the time-honored tradition.

Friends and family encouraged Joe to make his kolaches to share at a monthly men’s breakfast at his church. His friends know a good thing. “Now they expect me to bring them every time,” he says.

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