Štrukli (Croatian Cheese Pastry)

strukliŠtrukli is a cheese pastry typical to Zagorje, the region of Croatia just above Zagreb–although it is also found in other “kaj” areas (kajkavski is a dialect of Croatian), including where my family is from and Slovenia, as well.  There are a few variations in toppings and two ways of cooking it: boiling or baking. I prefer to bake it because its easier and a little crisp on top, but both methods have delicious results.  And of course if you are making it for soup (the way my baka almost always made it and the subject of a future post), then you would just boil it. This dish works well as an appetizer/snack, main course, and for breakfast the next day (which is a good way to use up the leftovers)! For a toppings variation, you can substitute the bread crumbs with leftover cheese filling or combine an egg with a cup of sour cream and simply pour on top, which will result in this. The next time I make this, I’ll try to take more photos to show everything step-by-step and upload them.

  • A little over 3 cups of flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of oil
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • salt
  • lukewarm water
  • 3 cups of farmers or cottage cheese (in Croatia we use svježi sir, which is like the farmers cheese you can buy at Central and Eastern European grocery stores, but cottage cheese works as an alternative. But make sure to drain the liquid/whey and omit the salt the recipe calls for)
  • 5 tablespoons of sour cream
  • melted butter (1 tbsp for the filling + more to brush the stretched dough with + 8 tablespoons for the topping)
  • 1/2 cup of plain bread crumbs, plus more as needed

In a large bowl, add the flour and stir with a fork to sift it (a little trick I picked up along the way, after frustratingly throwing out an old rusted sifter). Create a well and add one egg, oil, vinegar, and a few shakes of salt. Next add the lukewarm water, a little at a time, as you gradually stir the flour into the now forming dough. Add just enough water to incorporate all the flour. Knead the dough until smooth (note: this is very important! You want to make sure that the dough rolls out nice and thin). Divide into 3 or 4 equal pieces, place on plates, and coat with a little oil (this will prevent the dough from drying out). Set aside to rest.

Prepare the filling. In a large bowl mix the cottage cheese, 2 eggs, sour cream, 1/2 tsp of salt, and  1 tbsp of melted butter.

Next roll out the dough VERY THIN. Literally paper thin. What I do is usually roll it out into a decent sized square and then stretch it out with my hands the way my baka taught me to make apple strudel–the same way shown in this video. As long as you kneaded the dough properly, it’s really not that hard. The weight of the dough basically does all the work for you. You just need to have a gentle touch and if it stretches too thin and a hole forms, just pinch it together again. Practice makes perfect!

Another tip: Place the stretched out dough onto a clean tablecloth (or tea towel depending on the size of the dough. A tea towel usually works for me for this recipe) sprinkled with a little flour. This will facilitate the rolling later.

Brush a little melted butter all over the dough. Next, spoon and spread out the cheese filling, leaving an edge of about half a finger around each side except one, which should be a a bit bigger (This is totally eyeballing it. I could give you measurements in cms or inches, but it doesn’t really matter). Fold the horizontal sides in, basically to the point where the filling is, and pick up the cloth starting from the side with a smaller edge and roll the dough like a jelly roll. Seal the ends of the dough by brushing a little bit of water on the seam. See how easy that is! The dough is very fragile, so be careful when picking it up. I usually use the towel to carry it to a cutting board to rest while I prepare the rest of the dough balls. At this point you can also cup them into little rectangles. The traditional and easiest way is to use the side of you hand to make the cut (this helps to stretch the dough down so that the filling doesn’t come out) and then finish the cut with the side of a plate.

Next, prepare the topping. In a pan over medium heat, melt 8 tablespoons of butter. Incorporate a tablespoon of sour cream, then add the breadcrumbs to brown a little. If they are soggy, you can add a bit more bread crumbs., if too dry, add more butter. Set aside. Honestly, I usually just throw a bit of butter and bread crumbs into the pan and eye ball how much I might need based on the amount of  štrukli. Trust me, you can never have too much. The stuff is addictive.

To bake it: Preheat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius or 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Arrange the štrukli in a pan and brush with a little bit of butter, then sprinkle all over with the bread crumb (or other variation) topping. Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.

To boil: Put a large pot of water to boil. Add the štrukli a few at at time, making sure not to overcrowd the pot. They will be done when they float to the top. Remove immediately and roll in the bread crumb topping.

Serve with dollops of sour cream.

Enjoy!

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