Throughout history, Croatia has been at the crossroads of many cultures and cuisines: from the Habsburg Empire with its layered pastries rich with cream, chocolate and custard; the Mediterranean with its figs and deep-fried treats; to the mystical flavours of the east filled with the aroma of heady spices. With so many influences it’s hard to determine which desserts actually originated in Croatia. However, we can be sure that the maraschino liqueur of Zadar is definitely one of our own contributions to the world’s great pastry shop.
In Croatia we like to save the best until last and, of course, every great meal needs its sweet ending. In this chapter, I have selected some recipes that my family makes at home and which are close to my heart.
The most popular dessert in Croatia is probably palačinke, or pancakes. These can be served many different ways, such as filled with plum jam or a walnut and cream mixture, or simply sprinkled with lemon juice and sugar. Fritule are small doughnuts that are always made for Christmas and Easter in the coastal areas of Croatia. These are often served as a welcome to the celebration along with a shot of rakija, a brandy made from wine or pressed grapes. Strudel and knedle (dumplings filled with cherries or plums) are also popular desserts, and walnut and poppy seed roulade is a much-loved classic often seen in Croatian households.
Many towns in Croatia have their own sweet recipe, which they treasure. Dubrovnik prides itself on its rožata, a version of creme caramel, while Hvar is famous for its paprenjaci, or spicy pepper biscuits. The beautiful ancient town of Trogir is known for its rafioli, which are similar to savoury ravioli in that they are small pockets of dough, but they are filled with a nut and spice-laced chocolate mixture.
Sour cherry liqueur
Liker od višnje
Croatians love their liqueurs and use them both for social occasions and also home remedies. They believe, although it is not medically proven, that each liqueur has its own purpose. My grandmother said sour cherry liqueur was good for the brain, curing nervousness, anxiety and stress. And even if the health benefits are nothing more than a placebo effect, you might as well give it a try!
Makes 2 litres (68 fl oz)
- 2 kg (4 lb 6 oz) sour (morello) cherries, washed
- 1 kg (2 lb 3 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
- 2 vanilla beans
- 1 litre (34 fl oz/4 cups) Grappa
Put the sour cherries in a sterilised 3 litre (101 fl oz/12 cup) glass jar with the sugar, vanilla beans and grappa. Give it a stir and leave in a sunny place for 40 days. After 40 days, strain the liqueur into glass bottles. It will keep for years and gets better with age.
More from Dalmatia:
Cover courtesy of Hardie Grant Books
Excerpted with permission from Dalmatia by Ino Kuvačić, published by Hardie Grant Books May 2017, RRP $40.00 hardcover.