Croatia

I never had an urge to go to Croatia until I started reading about the geography and biodiversity of this country. There is mainland Croatia, and then there are over a thousand islands and islets, 48 of which are inhabited.  There are roughly 7,000 caves that I have no doubt my husband would want to go spelunking in. 44% of the country is forest lands, and a good portion of the rest of it is on the Mediterranean Sea. Put me in a sailboat and let me explore. This place sounds incredible. The pictures make this land look irresistible. I normally give you a map, but you can Google where Croatia is if you need to. Here is an image from the coastal town of Dubrovnik.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Everyone talks about Italy and Greece, but I’ve changed my dreams. Sign me up for a Croatian vacation. 

Bread dough resting on a wooden cutting board

Colin and I are making a traditional cheese strukli. The first thing I did was to make the dough so that it could sit and rest for a bit before being rolled out. This was fairly straight forward. Mix up flour, salt water, vinegar, and a bit of oil and knead until it is smooth and elastic. One thing that always amazes me about dough is how much it can change just with the pressure applied to it during the kneading process. I am often skeptical when I start out that a wet sticky ball of dough will turn into something smooth, pliable, and not at all sticky. Something about the gluten and the way that it responds to pressure can totally transform the mixture. I think this is a pretty good metaphor for our lives too. Sometimes it is hard to see how we can make a drastic change, but then when we apply some pressure and work hard, we can become something we never thought we could be. Pretty neat. 

Dough on a cutting board being kneaded by floured hands.

While the dough was resting, I mixed up the filling. Cottage cheese, sour cream, salt, and pepper…that’s it. As I mixed it I was thinking about how these ingredients would need to go through some magical change in the cooking process for me to find this an appetizing meal. I am not a fan of cottage cheese. It’s the texture, it’s the taste, it’s the whole idea of the nasty little curds…but I know that I like some other dishes that involve cottage cheese so I’m giving this one a go, too.  

Dough for Croatian Strukli being stretched by hand

The dough stretched and rolled much how the recipes I referenced said that it would. Strukli requires a giant square of thin dough. We rolled the dough out onto an old table cloth so that we could use the cloth to stabilize the dough and help us roll it once the filling was in. You have to just keep rolling and stretching until it is translucent and maybe on the verge of tearing, but don’t let it tear. A tear is a bit like needing stitches, you can suture it up and it will come back together but it will leave a scar and never be quite the same as if you’d avoided the injury in the first place.

Child's hand helping to stretch dough on the counter

Spread your filling mixture along the long edge and start rolling the dough around the mixture into a long log with the help of the table cloth. We actually lifted the table cloth up little by little to help roll it into a log. It’s a technique I had never heard of before, but will definitely use again.  It did get the tablecloth a bit stained from the butter, so be sure to use one you don’t care about.

Rolling Strukli with the assistance of a tablecloth

Next the recipes said I should cut the giant cheese filled log with a plate. The idea is that the blunt edge of the plate will seal the edges We tried but instead of sealing like they said it would, sour creamy cottage cheese poured out of the little pockets. It could be that our plates have too sharp of edges. I tried to seal them with my fingers but it wasn’t entirely successful. Before you cut, use your hands to push the filling away from the area you’ll cut.  If you can get a spot that is essentially ‘filling free’ then the plate cutting method did work, sealing the strukli into neat little pillows. 

Croatian cheese strukli being plated

We had read that you could boil them like gnocchi, pan fry them, or bake them. We boiled one and it was gross. It was slippery and slimy and entirely unappetizing to me. Luckily we only boiled one, we spread the rest into a baking dish and covered the top with asiago cheese and panko bread crumbs. We let them bake for 30-45 minutes and the result was worlds better. It had a distinctive taste, but it was a bit like lasagna. The rolling creates layers of a noodle/gnocchi texture mixed with layer of cheese. It firmed up and allowed us to cut a hefty slice like lasagna. 

Cheese Strukli sliced and plated.

I think I’ll call this meal cultural comfort food. When choosing a meal to make, we often choose something that we think sounds or looks amazing.  Sometimes though, we choose recipes that sound weird and complex to stretch us and teach us new things. Strukli stretched us in learning about Croatia, creating a new dough and figuring out the best cooking method for this type of dish, but the finished product makes me believe this is traditional croatian comfort food. It’s warm and gooey and is perhaps what croatians bring to each other after the birth of a child or the loss of a loved one. If you are not a lover of cottage cheese, I can attest that it loses a lot of it’s ‘cottage cheesyness’ in the baking process. 

If you are unsure about making a dough like this, just think of how you can grow if you allow yourself to try something new. You might just find that you are capable of a lot more than you thought possible.

Cheese Strukli

Yields1 Serving

For the Dough:
 4 cups Flour
 5 tbsp Oil
 1 ½ cups Warm Water
 1 tbsp White Vinegar
 1 tsp Salt
For the Filling:
 2 cups Cottage Cheese
 7 tbsp Melted Butter
 ½ cup Sour Cream
 Salt
 Pepper
For the topping:
 ½ cup Asiago cheese [Grated]
 ½ cup Panko Bread Crumbs

1

Make the dough. Mix together the flour and salt and then pour in warm water, vinegar and oil. Knead the dough [I started it in the bowl of a stand mixer with the bread hook attachment, but if you dont have a stand mixer you can do the entire process by hand]. Knead until it reaches a smooth and elastic consistency adding flour as necessary to get the desired consistency. Dough should not be too sticky.

2

Place the dough in a clean bowl, brush with a bit of oil, cover with a towel and let rest for 30 minutes.

3

Make the filling. Mix the sour cream, cottage cheese, salt and pepper. Set aside.

4

Set a clean tablecloth out and dust with flour. Roll the dough with a rolling pin until thin, then stretch with your hands until it is so thin you can almost see through it. Try to stretch it into a very large rectangle.

5

Brush the melted butter all over the dough. Spread the filling along the long edge of the rectangle in a line.

6

Use the tablecloth to help you roll the dough into a log. Try to roll it somewhat tightly.

7

Using your hands separate the filling so that there are 6-8 equal sections. Try to press the dough together before cutting the sections apart to help seal the filling in. Use a plate to cut the log into sections.

8

Place each of the pockets into a baking dish. Cover with asiago cheese and top with bread crumbs.

9

Bake at 400 Degrees for 20-30 minutes until the cheese is golden brown.

Ingredients

For the Dough:
 4 cups Flour
 5 tbsp Oil
 1 ½ cups Warm Water
 1 tbsp White Vinegar
 1 tsp Salt
For the Filling:
 2 cups Cottage Cheese
 7 tbsp Melted Butter
 ½ cup Sour Cream
 Salt
 Pepper
For the topping:
 ½ cup Asiago cheese [Grated]
 ½ cup Panko Bread Crumbs

Directions

1

Make the dough. Mix together the flour and salt and then pour in warm water, vinegar and oil. Knead the dough [I started it in the bowl of a stand mixer with the bread hook attachment, but if you dont have a stand mixer you can do the entire process by hand]. Knead until it reaches a smooth and elastic consistency adding flour as necessary to get the desired consistency. Dough should not be too sticky.

2

Place the dough in a clean bowl, brush with a bit of oil, cover with a towel and let rest for 30 minutes.

3

Make the filling. Mix the sour cream, cottage cheese, salt and pepper. Set aside.

4

Set a clean tablecloth out and dust with flour. Roll the dough with a rolling pin until thin, then stretch with your hands until it is so thin you can almost see through it. Try to stretch it into a very large rectangle.

5

Brush the melted butter all over the dough. Spread the filling along the long edge of the rectangle in a line.

6

Use the tablecloth to help you roll the dough into a log. Try to roll it somewhat tightly.

7

Using your hands separate the filling so that there are 6-8 equal sections. Try to press the dough together before cutting the sections apart to help seal the filling in. Use a plate to cut the log into sections.

8

Place each of the pockets into a baking dish. Cover with asiago cheese and top with bread crumbs.

9

Bake at 400 Degrees for 20-30 minutes until the cheese is golden brown.

Strukli

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. This looks amazing!!! Maybe I’ll try it during spring break. Croatia is a great place for a beach holiday 🙂

  2. Let’s go sailing in Croatia! Loved the tablecloth roll!! 💗

    1. Yes please! We may need to really up our sailing skills before we’d ever be ready to cross an ocean though!

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