Always Uttori 2 doughs 4 flavors. Third culture cuisine. Czech soul kolache and french seoul croissant/ new york roll.

Borderless: Embracing Third Culture Cuisine with Kolache and New York Rolls

One 2024’s most exciting food trend is the explosion of global flavors—think Spanish ham flavored chips and the rise of Asian flavors like sesame, ube, and milk tea. But what’s really capturing our culinary imagination is the evolution of fusion foods, driven by the rise in third culture identities. Today, we’re embracing this global flavor trend with some delicious third culture food mashups. First up, we have ‘Czech Soul’, where we’re blending the sweet, comforting taste of Czech kolache with heartwarming African American soul food fillings like buttermilk pie with a cornbread topping or peach cobbler with a streusel topping. Then, we’re cooking up some ‘French Seoul’—a fusion of classic French croissants and the rich flavors of Korean cuisine with fillings like Pat-ang-geum (red bean paste) or a sweet corn pastry cream.

Feeling hungry yet? We’ve got 2 doughs and 4 fusion flavors, let’s make some enchantment.

Click here to go to the Czech Soul section.

Click here for the start of the kolache recipe.

Click here to go to the French Seoul section.

Click here for the start of the New York roll recipe.

Watch the video version below.

Czech Soul

Peach cobbler kolache

The first dough we are making is the kolache dough. Kolache are near and dear to my heart. Back in 2018 I published an in-depth deep dive into the history of kolache here. To this day it’s still one of my favorite articles. I adapted the recipe from the Bohemian American cookbook, which I got from my great-grandmother. Although her roots were Scottish and Austrian-Hungarian, she was raised in a Nebraska town rich in Czech culture. Later, she married into the Czech community, so for me, kolache are a heritage food. And that’s why kolache are a perfect dough for soul food, a heritage cuisine for many in America, myself included. Buttermilk pie and peach cobbler are a tradition in southern cuisine and something we often enjoy during family celebrations, so it only seemed natural to incorporate them into a kolache filling, another celebratory dessert. The concept of Soul food comes from African American tradition, and is, in itself, a fusion of various African cultures and indigenous cultures merged with what was available in America. In fact, soul food is an excellent representation of third culture both as an identity for the displaced African diaspora, and as a fusion of cultures and cuisine.

What is Third Culture

At this point, you might be wondering what is third culture? Third culture is defined as the identity of a person who was raised in a culture other than their parents’ or the culture of their country of nationality. The term was coined in the 1950’s by anthropologist Ruth Hill Useem. While the term often applies to children, it can also apply to adults who live abroad for a number of years. These individuals have a cultural identity that is unique to them rather than the identity of their home culture or the culture of where they live. Often, they feel rootless, even though they are able to relate to and connect to aspects within many cultures, they don’t feel a sense of ownership, instead they find a sense of belonging with others that share a similar background. The phenomenon has continued to be researched over the years and has since expanded to include the various intercultural identities of those who walk between worlds. Third culture is interchangeable with global nomad and includes categories of children whose families worked globally in military, missionary, business, or foreign service positions. There are further subsets which can include domestic third cultures or kids who move between distinct cultures within a country, and educational third culture, kids who are distinguished through educational differences, like attending an international school. Additional research has suggested that third culture kids belong to a larger group of cross-cultural kids which includes multi-ethnic and multi-racial children, children of refugees, children of immigrants, children of minorities, international adoptees, children of borderlands, and others with similar backgrounds.

Buttermilk Pie kolache

Kolache Dough

Makes Approximately 21 Kolache

  • ¼ c lukewarm milk
  • 1 1/8 tsp active dry yeast
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • ½ c butter
  • ¼ c sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 egg whites beaten stiff
  • 1 c cream, milk, or half and half 
  • 2 ¾ c flour and more for handling/dusting
  • ½ a lemon for zest
  • ¼ tsp. of vanilla
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • Dash of salt

Egg wash:

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp. cream or milk

Directions

  1. Warm ¼ cup of milk until lukewarm (a few seconds in the microwave). Add sugar and yeast to the milk and let sit for about 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, separate the egg whites, putting the yolks in a small bowl and whites in a stand mixer. Whisk egg whites until stiff peaks form. Scoop into another bowl and set aside.
  3. Cream butter in a stand mixer. Add sugar and egg yolks one at a time until incorporated.
  4. Add the egg whites to the butter, then add the yeast mixture, cream/milk, vanilla extract, lemon zest, cinnamon, salt, and flour. Beat with a dough hook until the dough comes together and has an elastic quality but is still a bit runny. The dough is quite sticky, so you can coat your hands in flour and lift the dough from the bottom of the bowl and sprinkle more flour there then top the dough with a dusting of flour. You may wish to transfer to another bowl or leave it in the stand mixing bowl.
  5. Set dough in a warm spot to let rise for about 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
  6. While the dough is rising, make the fillings, streusel, (see below for recipes) and egg wash.

To make egg wash:

  1. Mix one egg yolk and 1 tbsp. of cream/milk together in a small bowl. Keep in the refrigerator until needed.

Kolache Cont.

  1. When the dough has doubled in size, flour your hands (I find it helpful to have an extra bowl full of flour to dip my hands into when needed) and take the dough out by the tablespoonful. Roll into a ball with your hands, then press into a cookie shape, using fingers to make an indent in the center of the dough. You can do this while holding the dough, or set the dough on a floured cutting board to do so.
  2. Place a layer of parchment paper on a baking sheet, or coat the baking sheet with cooking spray. Place the indented kolache with about ½-1 inch of space in between them. With a basting brush, coat the rounded edges of the kolache with the egg wash. This ensures that the dough has a beautiful golden-brown color.
  3. Fill the kolache center with either buttermilk pie filling or peach cobbler filling. Once all the kolache are filled, sprinkle with the corresponding cornbread streusel topping or plain streusel topping. Let the kolache rise for 30 minutes.
  4. While the kolache are rising, preheat the oven to 375F. When the kolache have risen, bake for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Optionally, you can lightly dust with nutmeg (buttermilk pie kolache) or powdered sugar immediately after taking out of the oven.
  6. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before enjoying.

*Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Buttermilk Pie and Cornbread Streusel Kolache

Buttermilk Pie Filling

  • ¼ c butter
  • ½ c buttermilk
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ¼ c sugar or ½ c sugar (raw)
  • 1.5 tbsp flour
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp pomelo extract or lemon juice
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • Dash of nutmeg

Directions:

Brown butter over medium heat. As the butter heats up it will begin to make a popping sound. Once the popping sound has lessened keep an eye on the butter and look for it to take on a brown color and nutty smell.  This should take 5-10 minutes. Take the butter off the heat. Let the butter cool to room temperature.

Once the butter is cool, mix the butter and the rest of the ingredients for the filling in a large bowl. The mixture may look a little curdled (this is normal). Keep in the refrigerator until ready to use. 

Cornbread Streusel

  • 4 tbsp finely ground cornmeal
  • Boiling water
  • 2 tbsp sugar

Directions:

Add 3 tablespoons of cornmeal to a small bowl. Fill the bowl with enough boiling water to cover the cornmeal. Let sit for about 5 minutes to let the cornmeal soften/precook. After 5 minutes have passed, strain the water from the cornmeal and return it to the bowl. Add the sugar and final tablespoon of cornmeal ( this adds some texture back without being too grainy). Mix and set aside until ready to use.

Peach cobbler kolache

Peach Cobbler Kolache Recipe

  • 1 c peaches, (frozen, fresh, or canned)
  • ¼-1/2 c brown sugar (adjust depending on taste and or sweetness of peaches)
  • ½ tsp lemon juice and optional zest of half a lemon
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • Optional 1 tsp of cornstarch
  • Dash of salt

Directions:

In a pot heat peaches, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt over medium heat. Cook until the peaches are thawed (if frozen), and sugar dissolved. The peaches should take on a jam like quality (about 5-10 minutes). Stir in vanilla extract. If your peaches are on the watery side, you can optionally add 1 tsp of cornstarch if you find the jam hasn’t thickened to your liking.

Streusel topping

  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp butter

Directions:

Mix until crumbly.

French Seoul

Researching 2024 food trends was the first time I encountered the term third culture identity and third culture cuisine, but once I started researching it, I couldn’t help but find that it encapsulated some of my own experiences. As a multi-ethnic kid born in Texas and raised in Minnesota, I grew up eating Tex-Mex (another third culture fusion cuisine) while my classmates ate hot dish and lutefisk. Being third culture in an overwhelmingly Scandinavian space led me to be interested in exploring other cultures. And what better way to express and celebrate unique cultural identities than with food? While Czech Soul is my heritage third culture cuisine, French Seoul, rather than being authentically third culture, is perhaps more fusion as it is my interpretation of two cultures.

While I can’t claim French or Korean heritage, I do have appreciation for their respective cultures. For this dough, I’m using the New York Times croissant recipe, but instead of making a traditional croissant shape, we’re going to shape the croissants into a New York Roll. Also known as a Cromboloni, or even a Supreme, this unique dessert was invented in 2022 at the Lafayette Grand Café and Bakery in New York. A mix between a French croissant and an Italian bomboloni, The New York Roll, is yet another food that could be considered something of a third culture food as it is a clear representation of American born Chef Andrew Carmellini’s Italian heritage, as well as his experience working in restaurants in Italy and France. In fact, Lafayette Grand Café and Bakery focuses on a re-mastery of French traditions with worldly flair. Since its invention, the New York Roll has spread in popularity globally, and can now be found in bakeries from Paris to Seoul. Speaking of Seoul, to fill our New York rolls, we’re going with a classic red bean paste, a common filling for many Korean and Asian desserts, or a sweet corn pastry cream. Sweet corn might seem about as American as it comes, and in fact, canned corn was introduced to South Korea by American Soldiers during the Korean War. Since then, it has become a uniquely Korean flavor, appearing in everything from sweet corn lattes and ice cream to Korean cheesy corn, and even as a pizza topping.

Fusion VS Third Culture

Now, you might be wondering why I said my take on the New York roll is more fusion food than third culture cuisine. It’s easy to confuse fusion food and third culture cuisine, of which there is a distinct but minuet difference. The difference really comes down to the lived experience and authenticity. Fusion food can have a negative connotation, sometimes coming across as culturally insensitive or even gimmicky when the proper research hasn’t been done. Because cultural foods are an important part of identity, it can feel disingenuous to mash flavors that don’t necessarily go together for the purpose of clout, to be edgy, or to make a profit. That’s not to say fusion food is bad. When done well thoughtful dishes can be created. But because of the importance of cultural foods to their communities, there are concerns about appropriation and authenticity, especially in restaurant settings. Further, because food is an intangible but important reflection of cultural identity and cultural traditions there can sometimes be resistance to change. Adaptations can come into conflict with the desire for preservation of traditions. But change is inevitable. As food travels, it changes. And as we travel, the food changes. And this is why third culture cuisine is more than the latest trend in food spaces. Instead, it’s a word that helps us describe the changes in identity and lived experiences as our world becomes increasingly global.

More than a Trend

Third culture cuisine isn’t exactly fusion because it is a personal interpretation of a unique lived experience. Recipe developer and cookbook author Hetty McKinnon puts it this way “It is easy to categorize third-culture cooking as simply fusion, but to do so erases how deeply connected these dishes are to people, place, and time. Unshackled of geographic certainty, this feeling of rootlessness is exactly what makes third-culture food so comforting to children who grew up teetering between two or more cultures. Existing in a third culture can often feel neither here nor there, but in food we can better understand the confluence of identity—how we can be a mixture of a lot of things, how we can still exist in harmony.” This distinct difference is important as cultural foods are an expression of that culture, so too is third culture cooking an expression of a unique identity. As more people who identify as third culture explore this identity through food, third culture cuisine has begun to take over the culinary scene through social media, cookbooks, and restaurants.

Maybe you don’t fall into the definition of third culture kid, but I think that there’s something relatable about it for everyone. We all have our unique lived experiences and identity beyond culture or ethnicity, and food has always been an expression of that throughout history. So, while third culture cuisine is having its time in the limelight, it’s really something that has been with us since the beginning of time. As long as humans have been migrating and moving, our food has adapted and changed with us. That doesn’t mean third culture cuisine isn’t special in its own right, it deserves to finally get its chance to shine as a recognized food style, one that is unique to the experiences of the individual.

Croissant / New York Roll Dough

Makes 11 croissants

This recipe takes 1-2 days to make.

  • 4⅔ cups / 605 grams all-purpose plus more for dusting
  • ⅓ cup / 66 grams granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus ½ teaspoon / 12 grams kosher salt
  • 2¼ teaspoons / 7 grams active dry yeast
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons / 214 grams room temperature water
  • ½ cup / 120 grams room temperature whole milk
  • ¼ cup / 57 grams chilled unsalted butter

Butter block

  • 1½ cups / 340 grams unsalted European or European-style butter (3 sticks), chilled
  • All-purpose flour, for rolling

Directions:

  1. Fit a stand mixer with a dough hook. In a bowl, add the flour, sugar, salt and yeast.  Stir to combine, then make a well in the center. Pour the water and milk into the well. Mix on low speed until the dough comes together, about 5 minutes. Cover the bowl with a towel and let rest for 10 minutes.
  2. Begin mixing the dough on medium-low speed and add the butter. Mix until the dough forms a smooth ball that is stretchy, about 10 minutes.
  3. Using your hands, form the dough into a ball and place it seam-side down back into the mixing bowl. Use a knife to cut two deep slashes, making an x shape. This helps us to roll the dough into a rectangle later. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until the dough is about 1½ times its original size, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. After this rise, move the dough to the refrigerator and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  4. Make the butter block: tear a large sheet of parchment paper measuring around 17 inches long. Fold in half and line the butter side-by-side in the center of the sheet. Fold the sides of the parchment to form a packet and use a rolling pin to lightly roll or beat the butter into a flat layer (about ½-inch-thick). Make sure the butter is fused together. Unwrap the butter and fold the parchment paper cleanly to make an 8-inch square. Fold the edges so the butter won’t leak out and roll the butter out into the shape of a square. Transfer the butter block to the refrigerator.
  5. After the dough has chilled for 4 hours or overnight, remove it from the refrigerator. Prepare two pieces of plastic wrap that are about 16 inches in length each. Place the plastic wrap perpendicular to each other. Next, deflate the dough and place it on your work surface. Use the four points from the cut cross to stretch the dough outward a into a rough square. Try to keep the square around 8 inches. Transfer the dough to the plastic wrap. Cover the dough and roll the dough into an 8 inch square. Freeze for 20 minutes.
  6. After 20 minutes, remove the dough from the freezer and the butter from the refrigerator. Unwrap the dough and place on a lightly floured surface. Save the plastic wrap for later.  Roll the dough out to 16 inches long and 8 inches wide, dusting with flour as needed. Once the dough is rolled out, if there is excess flour on the dough, remove with a pastry brush.

Lamination

  1. By this point, the butter should have warmed slightly so that it’s a similar firmness to the dough. If it’s stiff or brittle, let it warm some more and if it’s too pliable, chill it some more. Unwrap the butter so the top is exposed and then place it face side down on the center of the dough. Make sure the butter is parallel to the edges of the dough then press gently into the dough and remove the parchment paper.
  2. Bring one side of the dough over the butter towards the center, then do the same on the other side encapsulating the butter. The dough doesn’t need to overlap but should meet in the center. If it does not, gently stretch the dough until it does. Pinch the dough together along the center and side seams so the butter won’t leak out. Lift the dough block and add a but of flour underneath, then rotate the dough 90 degrees, so the center seam is oriented vertically.
  3. Roll the dough out again to measures out to be about 24-inch-long and ¼-inch-thick. Be careful to push the dough away rather than applying downward force to avoid the butter merging with the dough too much. Also try to keep the sides of the dough as straight as possible. If air bubbles appear while rolling out, you can pop it with the tip of a knife or a skewer. Once you’ve rolled the dough out, use a sharp knife or wheel cutter to trim the short edges. Cut where the butter doesn’t extend all the way and any excess dough. Make sure the corners form right angles.
  4. Once you’ve evened out the dough, take the side of the rectangle furthers from you and fold it into the middle. Press slightly so the dough sticks together then repeat with the other side, leaving a small gap (around 1/8 inch). Fold the slab in half along the gap you left. The dough should now resemble a book that’s four layers of folded dough. Wrap in the leftover plastic wrap and freeze for 15 minutes. After freezing refrigerate for 1 hour.
  5. After refrigerating, let the dough warm up for about 5 minutes. Unwrap and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll out in the same way as step 9 (24 inches long, being careful push dough out rather than press down).
  6. Once the dough is rolled out, fold it into thirds like a letter. By this bring one side of the dough over, then overlap the other side over the top of that. Gently press down so the layers adhere then wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for 15 minutes, then refrigerate for 1 hour.
  7. Let the dough sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes, then unwrap and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough out but this time aim for 14 x 17 inches. By this point, you may find the dough it mor resistant to rolling out, but try to get it as close to those dimensions as you can. Once it’s rolled out, slide onto a baking sheet or cutting board and cover with plastic wrap (you may need to fold part of it over if it’s too long. Freeze for 20 minutes, then refrigerate overnight (8 to 12 hours).

Prepare for Baking

  1. Now would be a good time to focus on the fillings (recipes below) and to make the molds. Because we are doing a New York roll shape, we need some circular molds or pastry rings to help the rolls keep their shape. The mold size should be at least 4 inches but can vary in size. if you have large cookie cutters, English muffin molds, or even mini spring form pans all will work as a mold. If you don’t have a mold, you can make them out of aluminum foil. Measure a piece of aluminum about 8 inches long. Cut down the middle so each piece is about 4 inches wide then fold both pieces in half. Connect the edges by folding over. You will need around 11 molds.
  2. The next day- boil some water and place in a skillet in the bottom of your oven for proofing. If you have a proofer, you can also use that. I used that and found I had best results with the steam method.
  3. While the steam warms the oven, remove the dough from the refrigerator and let warm up for about 5 minutes. In the meantime, line two or three baking sheets with parchment paper, place the prepared pastry rings/molds and set aside. Next, place the dough on a lightly floured surface, double check the dough measures 17 x 14 inches. If it has shrunk roll it out to the correct dimensions again. Use a wheel cutter or sharp knife and ruler to trim any uneven edges and to square off the dough.
  4. You can save the scraps if you want to make crescent rolls (the butter layers aren’t as pronounced and the texture feels more like a crescent roll. Or you can cut up the pieces and toss with some brown sugar and bake in muffin tins (an idea I got from Thea’s kitchen on YouTube.)
  5. To shape the dough, spray or flick water onto the flat surface of the dough (this keeps the dough from unraveling while rising and baking. Starting at the end closest to you, begin to roll the dough away, in the manner of a cinnamon roll. Roll until you reach the other end. Measure inch sections on the roll and mark with a knife by indenting. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for 20 minutes. Once you’ve reached the end of the roll, cut the roll into the 1 inch thick rolls.
  6. Place the rolls into the pastry rings on the prepared trays and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Place the trays in the steamed oven. The temperature should be around 70-75 degrees, any hotter and the butter will melt. Let the croissants proof until they’ve doubled in size, about 2-2 ½ hours. They should be very puffy and jiggle a little when shaken. Be careful, if you are making smaller rolls with scraps, they may over proof, so check them sooner than the larger ones.
  7. Once the croissants have proofed, take them from the oven and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Remove the skillet from the oven, and heat the oven to 375 F.

Bake

  • Remove the croissants from the refrigerator and take the plastic wrap off. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Once 20 minutes has passed, remove from the oven and take the molds off. Use a spatula to flip the croissants onto the other side. The bottom should be a deep golden brown and crispy. Cook for an additional 5 minutes after flipping. The other side will not be as deep a color as the bottom side, but flipping helps to add color and create crispiness. You can choose which side you wish to display. Additionally, I haven’t tried it, but placing another baking sheet on top may help to cook the croissants on both sides at the same time. however the molds sort of block the tray from making contact, so some more experimenting could be done on this front. Finally, if you don’t wish to flip, the top of the croissant will brown lightly, and is passible. I did some testing, and found that flipping helped to keep the croissants more flat, as they tended to rise from the center of the croissant and also made them look more uniform overall. 
  • Let the croissants cool until room temperature before filling.

Filling

Red Bean Filling

  •   1 cup dried adzuki beans
  •   Water for soaking and cooking
  •   3/4 cup sugar (adjust to taste)
  •   Pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Soak the adzuki beans overnight in water.
  2. Drain and rinse the beans, then place them in either in a pressure cooker or a pot with fresh water, covering the beans by an inch.
  3. To cook in the pressure cooker: Cook for about 40 minutes or on the bean setting if your pressure cooker has one).
  4. To cook on the stove: Simmer over medium heat until the beans are soft and tender, about 1 hour. Add more water if necessary during cooking.
  5. Drain the beans and return them to the pot. Add sugar and salt, and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the beans form a thick paste.
  6. Mash the beans in the pot or use a food processor for a smoother texture. Let the paste cool before using.

Sweet Corn Pastry Cream

  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch 
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 ¼ cup whole milk
  • ¾ c corn frozen or fresh
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions

  1. Whisk cornstarch and egg yolks in saucepan until smooth. Whisk in sugar.
  2. Separately warm milk the microwave for a minute or so until the milk isn’t hot, but warm to touch.
  3. Slowly add milk to eggs whisking constantly to avoid lumps.
  4. Heat on medium whisking constantly until the mixture boils. Let boil for about a minute until it thickens, then take off the heat. Whisk in butter and vanilla extract. Put in a bowl, cover and chill until needed. 

Fillings and Toppings

  • Compound chocolate -Milk chocolate and white chocolate flavor
  • Black sesame seeds
  • Yellow sprinkles
  • Other toppings of choice

Directions:  

  1. To fill the croissants, use a skewer or knife to poke a hole in the top of the croissant. Move the skewers around so that the inside of the croissant is pushed down enough to be filled and so that the hole is big enough to put a piping bag tip in.
  2. Place the fillings into a piping bag or plastic baggie with the tip cut off. Pipe the custard into the hole of the croissant until it comes to the top. Place upright. There may be some spillage. Do the same for the red bean paste but use a large tip or just a piping bag.
  3. Melt down the milk chocolate compound chocolate or white compound chocolate according to your package instructions. Place it in a bowl. I used white for the red bean filled croissants and chocolate for the sweet corn croissants.
  4. Cover the top hole with the chocolate. Cover the white one with sesame seeds. Cover the chocolate one with yellow sprinkles. Let set for 10 minutes, then enjoy.
  5. The croissants are best kept in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Our Lived Experience

Maybe you don’t fall into the definition of third culture kid, but I think that there’s something relatable about it for everyone. We all have our unique lived experiences and identity beyond culture or ethnicity, and food has always been an expression of that throughout history. So, while third culture cuisine is having its time in the limelight, it’s really something that has been with us since the beginning of time. As long as humans have been migrating and moving, our food has adapted and changed with us. That doesn’t mean third culture cuisine isn’t special in its own right, it deserves to finally get its chance to shine as a recognized food style, one that is unique to the experiences of the individual.

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