Tamara Novacoviç with step by step photos of how to make the traditional Croatian dish called strukli.
By Tamara Novacoviç
After all the holiday (over)eating, this is a great meal: nothing stewy and soupy, yet light and comforting.
Strukli (also called Zagorje strukli, because the dish originates from the Zagorje region of Croatia) is a traditional Croatian dish. They are a Croatian brand and an example of how simplicity can be attractive. There are 2 types of strukli: boiled and baked. I like them baked. I add a bit of grated cheese on top (although it’s not used in the traditional recipe).
Strukli are made of only a few ingredients. Ingredient that is most important is fresh cottage cheese: it has a fresh, slightly acidic taste and a refined taste of milk that is only really began to ferment.
You can take a look at this lovely video of how the traditional strukli are prepared by an expert (it’s not in English, but the preparation is really interesting and helpful).
My grandma taught me how to make strukli. I loved baking sessions with her. I would always get a piece of dough which I would knead and form myself. Then you would have her delightful creations and my “pieces of art” baking together. I remember being so proud of my first home made bread and buns.
Well, it took me a long, long time to make strukli myself. I was literally afraid of making this dough. And once again, my fear proved to be unreasonable. This dough is fun to make, you just need to be a bit more careful when handling and stretching it, but it’s not mission impossible, for sure. It’s not that tricky either. There are a few tricks of the trade in preparing the dough for strukli (and sweet version called strudel). The most important rule is to make it almost paper thin, without breaking. However, if it happens to break, don’t fuss about it, just continue stretching it. Here are step by step photos, which I hope will encourage you to give this dish a try, because it’s great!
When kneading the dough, you can make it easy and putt it all in your stand mixer which will do the work. However, I wanted to show you our traditional, old-school way of making it: Sift flour onto clean working surface (I don’t always sift it), make a well in the middle and pour egg in that well. Then add the rest of the ingredients and using a fork form the dough. It’s important to knead the dough very well, in order to make it more elastic (it will stretch easier).
When you form the dough, divide into three parts, oil and let rest covered with warm pots.
You then take a clean tablecloth and dust with flour. Roll out each part of the dough with rolling pin as thin as possible. Then set it aside and start using your hands-with the bottom of your palms you pull the dough toward yourself, starting from the middle of the rolled out dough (not from ends). You can oil the dough, in order tho make the stretching easier. Ensd will be thicker, but you will cut them out when you finish stretching. Do it gently and gradually, go in circles, repeat until the dough is thin, something like this:
Prepare the filling and put it over one half of the stretched dough.
Then roll it, using the tablecloth: take edges of the tablecloth and start rolling in the dough with it. You then divide the dough into equal parts using your palms. We do this to seal the edges.
Take a plate and cut the edges with it, in order to secure the filling inside.
This is the final product, which you can cook and make something resembling a stew, or bake like I did (I really like them baked). The same process and dough is used when making sweet strudel dessert.
Here is a piece of baked strukli:
- 4 cups (500 g) all purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp vinegar
- some lukewarm water (about 0.4 cups or 100 ml)
- 20 oz (600 g) fresh cottage cheese
- 3.3 oz (100 g) butter, softened + 2 tbsp
- 4 eggs
- 0.4 cups (100 ml) sour cream
- sour cream
- grated cheese
- some butter
- Make the dough: this is the traditional way, but you can make it with your stand mixer too: Sift flour combined with salt onto clean working surface and make indentation in the middle. Put one egg into that indentation, add oil and combine all ingredients using fork. Mix some lukewarm water with vinegar and gradually add to the dough, until it all comes together. Knead the dough with hands until it's smooth-it should be smooth and elastic, not too soft and sticky. Divide dough into three equal parts, brush each with oil and cover with warm pot. Leave for 30 minutes.
- While the dough rests, prepare the filling: Mix softened butter with fresh cottage cheese, add eggs, sour cream, salt and pepper.
- Take a clean tablecloth and dust with some flour. Put 1 part of the dough onto it, roll out with rolling pin until thin and then begin stretching it with your palms. Be gentle and patient, stretch it from the middle. Don't stress out if it breaks. The dough should be thin, but for strukli you don't need to make it too thin (like when making strudel). Cut out thick edges. It's good to leave the dough for 15 minutes to dry slightly, but you can skip this step if you're in a hurry. Then sprinkle it with some melted butter. Brush the filling over the dough-brush only half of the dough. Roll it, using tablecloth-take a look at the video in the link above for this. Using your hands, separate the dough into equal parts and cut them with a plate. We do this instead of using knife in order to firmly seal the edges and ensure the filling doesn't pour out of strukli.
- Take a baking pan, brush it with some butter and assemble strukli in it.
- Preheat oven to 200 C.
- Make the topping: combine sour cream with some salt and pour it over strukli. Place a couple of cubes of butter on top and finish with some grated cheese. Bake for about 40 minutes, until nicely golden. Let cool slightly and serve warm.