The region north of the Croatian capital, called Zagorje, has always been known for its thermal spas, as well as cultural sights and natural landmarks. On their departure, tourists would always supply themselves with local, home-grown, groceries (like cottage cheese and sour cream, fruit and vegetables, poultry – the renown turkey – honey, and, of course, wine).
To all that, the local household farms would always serve a dish known as štrukli. Basically, it’s a pastry made of thin-spread dough made of mais and wheat flour, filled with a mix of cottage cheese and eggs, covered in sour cream and baked in a brick oven. Due to the constant growth of demands for gastronomic experiences and the influx of visitors to local restaurants, the traditional recipe for the mentioned dish was lost over time. In order to revive the traditional dish, to be prepaired accordingly in the future, a gremium of agronomers, gastronomers and local tourist boards, decided to promote štrukli as an original, local brand, that is to be promoted as part of a traditional cuisine of Zagorje.
To do so, the local community came up with an annual food festival, known as Štruklijada, with its primary goal to establish zagorski štrukli as an internationally recognizable brand. The festival doesn’t only attract a lot of tourists, but also local caterers, who want to demonstrate their own skills in preparing štrukli and win the title of the First štrukli of Zagorje.
In the past, it were the local housewives from Zagorje (which is mostly part of Krapina County), who were showing off their unique expertise in preparing štrukli, with some minor differences in preparation, throughout the rest of Central Croatia. Zagorje has always been known as a real treasure chest hiding unusual regales, which the poverty-stricken, yet ingenious local women, came up with, to nurish their large families. Štrukli can be prepared sweet or salty, they can be cooked or baked, they can be served in a soup, as a couvert, dessert, main dish or just a snack.
Every part of the Croatian northern region has its own version of the mentioned pastry. All variants consist of a thin-spread dough, which is filled with a mixture of cottage cheese, sour cream and eggs, then rolled, and (usually) put in a ceramic (clay) casserole and baked in a brick oven. The dish has been made that way for centuries, and as such isn’t known anywhere else in the world. Once the home-grown gourds and pumpkins come to ripe, the variant of štrukli known as bućnica (pumpkin roll) is made. There is also a variant including poppy seeds and sugar beet. Pending on the filling, the štrukli are called differently: sirni (cheese), bućini (pumpkin’s), makači (poppy’s) and z repom (beet’s).
How to make štrukli?
The ingredients are mixed as follows: one part bread flour is mixed with one part cake flour. Some lukewarm water with a spritz of vinegar is added, along with salt, one egg and two spoons of sunflower oil. All is well knead until the dough begins to separate from the bord. The dough is then cut into stripes, which are to be covered with a clean dishtowel or a rag, and left to rest for an hour. Then each stripe is to be spread with a rolling pin on a table cloth, then sprinkled with some sunflower oil, and finally spread by hand across the table. The thicker ends are torn off by hand. The dough is then filled from one curb, then sprinkled with some melted butter, margarine or oil (in order not to fall flat and stick) and then rolled with the table cloth to the opposite side. It’s then put into a buttered casseroll, and cut with a plate in wished length, before it’s put into the oven, or with a knife, after it’s baked. To make them sweet, a spoon of sugar is added to the filling.