Bučnica: Croatian cheese and pumpkin strudel

This tasty and healthy dish is very popular in continental Croatia.
I have always made it with store-bought phyllo dough, but it just doesn’t taste the same as the one made with homemade pulled dough.
I never tried making the dough myself as it seemed very hard and demanding. Until now.

My mother-in-law visited us for Easter.
I succumbed to peer pressure and “gentle encouragement” and decided to give it a try with her mentorship. Bučnica turned out very delicious, and I was so proud 🙂

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Armed with this new experience, I have to practice some more to get a better grip of it 😀
The adventurous ones among you can try the craft of making homemade dough, and you will definitely be rewarded with an authentic taste, provided you don’t mess it up 😛

How this post works

We’ll split it into the part for the adventurous and part for the impatient.

If you are adventurous…

…follow instructions under Homemade pulled dough.

If you’re impatient…

…just use 500 g of store-bought phyllo pastry sheets (12-15 sheets) and skip to filling.

Which will it be? Tan-tan-tan!

Tools you need

  • Baking pan so you can twist your bučnica to perfection 😉
  • Mixing bowls. Perfect thing to make your Bučnica filling in (and the homemade dough if you dare to make it 😉 )
  • Measuring spoons to, you know, measure things with them.
  • Measuring cups to, you know, same.
  • Kitchen scale because baking is a fine art and perfection is a little bit more reachable when you quantify things
  • Peeler to peel the pumpkin. Doh.
  • Liquid measure cup helps you measure liquid ingredients easier, like water and oil.
  • Grater because it’s one letter away from being great, and you also need it to grate the pumpkin.
  • Kitchen mittens. Things get hot in the oven. ‘Nuff said.
  • Kitchen towels to cover your dough while it’s resting.

Homemade pulled dough

Ingredients

  • 500 g (3 3/4 cups) all purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 5 tbsp oil
  • 300 ml (1 1/5 cup) of lukewarm water
  • some oil for coating dough

Preparation

This is for the adventurous. Proceed at your own risk. 😉

We won’t be using any machines. This is a manual process, so roll up your sleeves. You’ll use your hands and your senses. This can be an almost meditative experience. Or so I’m told…

  • Put flour, salt, egg and oil into a bowl.
  • Start kneading with your hand and gradually add water.
  • Continue kneading until the dough doesn’t stick to the bowl and the consistency is as soft as an earlobe. Secret tip from my mother-in-law’s book.

It sounds simple. It is simple. It needs feeling.

After you knead the dough, let it rest for half an hour covered with kitchen towel. Meanwhile, prepare the filling.

To pull the dough properly, you need a large area, like a dinning table or a kitchen island. Use a clean sheet to pull the dough on.

Pulling the dough is an art in itself. Like kneading, it requires feeling and finesse. Pull it gently with your hands. Be extra careful not to create holes. Sounds simple. Is simple. Requires finesse.

After you pull the dough, sprinkle it with oil and then oil the edges.

Spread the filling like in the photo above.

Roll the dough by lifting the sheet the dough is on and let the dough roll over itself. You might need to help it with your hands if it doesn’t start rolling on its own. Don’t worry if it doesn’t make sense right now, you’ll know it when you see it. And don’t worry if it doesn’t look perfect, it’s not supposed to.

Twist the snake-shaped roll into a greased baking pan to fill it tightly, like in the image below.

Coat with oil and it’s ready for the oven!

Filling

  • 1 small grated pumpkin or zucchini (about 500 g)
  • 500 g (2 cups) cottage cheese or tofu
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 250 g (2 cups) sour cream (soy for vegans)
  • oil or a little melted butter to coat pastry sheets

Bučnica can be salty and sweet, depending on whether you add salt or sugar in your filling. You can use any type of pumpkin you like. For vegetarian variant, instead of cottage cheese, use fresh tofu.

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 200 °C (390 °F).
  2. Grate the pumpkin, lightly salt and leave it for 20 min to let the water out. Drain the pumpkin with hands to displace the remaining water.
  3. Drained pumpkin mix with other ingredients. Add sugar or salt, depending on whether you like it sweet or savory (I like the savory one!)

Rolling the store-bought phyllo dough

If you’re the adventurous type, skip this part and follow the steps for the adventurous under Homemade pulled dough above.

  1. Count the sheets. Divide into 3 or 4 equal batches.
  2. Spread one sheet and sprinkle it with melted butter or oil, place another sheet on it, also sprinkle with butter or oil, coat one part with the filling and fold into a roll. Repeat with the rest of the dough and filling.
  3. You will get 3 or 4 rolls, depending on the pastry package size. My grandma used to make two sweet and two savory rolls by dividing the filling and adding sugar in one and salt in another part 🙂
  4. Place the rolls on the baking sheet previously smeared with oil or butter. Coat the rolls with melted butter or oil.

Now that the dough is rolled and resting in the baking sheet

  1. Bake about 30 minutes or until the surface is slightly brown.

If you’d like to make a proper sweet pumpkin strudel, replace the sour cream with the sweet cream, add vanilla sugar, and dust it with powdered sugar when it’s baked.
Serve the savory one hot with plain yogurt.

Have fun with exploring savory and sweet Bučnica 😀

I am really interested in your stories. Let me know how it went for you and did you make the adventurous or impatient variant. Sweet or savory?

Blueberry Cheesecake

If you like cheesecake and you like blueberries, you’re going to love this cake.
I feel like all the berries go very well with the cheesecake, but my all time favorite are blueberries 🙂

If you’re used to making cheesecakes, you’re in for a treat. This one comes with a twist. Read on to find out 😉

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Slice of Blueberry Cheesecake

Tools you need

  • Round Baking Pan – perfect shape for your cheesecake in the making
  • Rolling Pin – best tool to crush the cookies 😀
  • Mixing bowls. Before you can put the ingredients into the pan, you need to mix them somewhere. Mixing bowls to the rescue!
    Make sure bowls you use are adequately sized. There are few things worse than overflowing bowls.
  • Measuring spoons to, you know, measure things with them
  • Measuring cups. Sometimes when you buy measuring cups, measuring spoons come with them
  • Lemon squeezer still worth if even for a single tablespoon!
  • Kitchen scale because baking is a fine art and perfection is a little bit more reachable when you quantify things
  • Spatula makes mixing things into other things easier
  • Electric mixer. Mixing is great and all, but doing it by hand can get exhausting. Sometimes you can outsource that work to a family member. Other times you need a bit more power.
  • Kitchen mittens. Things get hot in the oven. ‘Nuff said.

Ingredients

Unlike other cheesecakes, this one has cottage cheese instead of the cream cheese. It’s less fatty and has more protein. Since fat has more calories than protein for the same weight, this cake will give you fewer calories. You can use cream cheese as well, but it will be greasier, and it won’t add much to the flavor. As a part of Croatian gastronomy heritage, cottage cheese is used in may desserts.

Try this healthier version for maximum indulgence!

For the bottom

For the cream

  • 350 g (2 cups) cottage cheese
  • 2 eggs, divided
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 180 g (7/8 cups) sugar
  • 10 g (0.8 tbsp) vanilla sugar
  • 125 g (1.4 cups) fresh blueberries

For the glaze

  • 200 g (0.8 cups) sour cream with 20% milk fat
  • 60 g (0.4 cups) sugar
  • 10 g (0.8 tbsp) vanilla sugar
  • 125 g (1.4 cups) fresh blueberries

Preparation

Crush the cookies in a zip bag. Melt the butter. Mix the two well.
Put the cookie mixture on the bottom of the round baking pan. Put in the refrigerator.
Preheat oven to 180 °C (356 °F).

For the cream, mix egg yolks with both sugars and lemon juice with electric mixer on high speed for about 15 minutes.
Separately mix egg whites until stiff.
In the egg yolks mixture add cottage cheese, mix well, then add stiff egg whites and mix everything until blended. Add half of the blueberries and mix them in with spatula.

Put the cream on the cookie surface and bake the cake for about 25-30 min.

For the glaze mix all the ingredients and add the rest of the blueberries.

When the cake is done, pour over the glaze and bake for another 10 min on the same heat.

Cheesecake is best served cooled over night in the refrigerator.

You can serve the cake with vanilla icing and some fresh blueberries!

Top down photo of one slice of blueberry cheesecake

What is your favorite fruit with the cheesecake?

Hot Cheesy Crab Dip

Great party food or a perfect snack for a movie night!

I tried it at work when my colleague was nice enough to share her lunch with me (it’s a nice lunch too). I immediately fell in love with it and made some for Zvonimir and me the next weekend for our movie night. The dip is full of flavour and blends perfectly with crispy crackers.

Experiment and report back on your findings 😉

Crab Dip

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1-1/2 cups shredded Italian cheese mix: Provolone, Mozzarella, Parmesan and Emmental
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 120 g crab meat, drained

Serve with crackers and/or fresh cut-up vegetables (carrots, celery sticks…). Don’t forget a glass of fine wine 😉

Preparation

Heat oven to 350°F.
Mix cream cheese product and dressing until blended.
Reserve 1 tbsp each shredded cheese and onions for garnish.
Add remaining shredded cheese, onions and crab meat to cream cheese mixture and mix well.
Spread onto bottom of baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.
Bake for 15 min, stirring after 10 min.
Garnish with reserved shredded cheese and onions.

Let’s get dipping! 🙂

Cottage Cheese with Sour Cream – Sir i vrhnje

In Croatia, we eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner 🙂

During the hot summer days, when it’s too warm to cook, “Sir i vrhnje” makes a great lunch. It’s quick to prepare and it tastes refreshing!

Cottage Cheese with Sour Cream - Sir i vrhnje

It is usually served with fresh vegetables (onions, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers…), cold cuts (ham, sausages, bacon, pancetta…), and fine bread (rolls, corn bread, whole grain bread, bread with seeds…).

To spice it up, add crushed canned sardines, chopped chives or spring onions, garlic, various fresh and dried herbs (dill, shallot, parsley, oregano…) and spices (red sweet and hot paprika, black pepper…).

With only two main ingredients, you can explore the tastes and enjoy one of Croatian all time favourites dishes.

Ingredients (4-6 people)

  • 400 g cottage cheese
  • 100 ml sour cream
  • 100 g spring onions
  • salt, pepper

You can replace sour cream with plain yogourt, if you want a less fat variation.

Preparation

Cut spring onions into rings, season with salt and add half to previously mixed cottage cheese and sour cream. Mix well, add pepper and salt to taste. Decorate with the remaining spring onions and enjoy!