It’s Croatian Independence Day! Well, kind of. Technically, the day that Croatia declared independence from the Yugoslav dictatorship in 1991 was June 25th (which is now referred to as “Statehood Day”) just about a month after a referendum was held to separate from the barbaric Communist state (the results were overwhelming—over 90% of the votes were in favor of secession). Technically, October 8th represents the day that Croatia’s move for independence was acknowledged by Slovenia and what was left of the former Yugoslav government after a meeting somewhere on the Brijuni islands. And even more technically, this is more so the Independence Day of the modern-day Republic of Croatia as opposed to “Croatian Independence Day”, as many Croats celebrate April 10th (1941) as the day that they were first liberated from the involuntary union known as Yugoslavia that was imposed onto them at the conclusion of the First World War.
As you can see, it’s a tad complex. But in accordance with the theme of complexity and independence, I decided to make something traditional. Buhtle are essentially little balls of heaven. No, but for real. They’re soft, fluffy, and filled with the perfect amount of sweetness. As the traditional buchteln (I think they originated somewhere in and during the Austrio-Hungarian Empire, although I’m not certain) contain plum jam inside, that’s exactly what I used. You can use whatever filling you wish, just make sure it’s room temperature as anything too cold (or too hot for that matter) will kill the yeast.
By the way, I’m done with Independence Day posts of any sort until April, I promise. Happy baking and happy Independence Day, Republika Hrvatska
½ cup lukewarm milk
20 grams fresh yeast (or 1 package active dry yeast — 7 grams)
1 tbsp white sugar
1 tsp all-purpose flour
500 grams all-purpose flour (4 cups– I legitimately measured because the conversions on the internet were inconsistent)
100 grams white sugar (3/4 cup)
100 grams butter (1/2 cup)
1.75 deciliters warm milk (2/3 cup)
10 grams vanilla sugar (1 tbsp)
zest of about ½ lemon (or lime- I prefer lime)
pinch of salt
About 1/3 cup plum jam (or the jam of your choice, or nutella, etc).
1. (Yeast Mixture)
Into the lukewarm milk, stir in 1 tsp of all-purpose flour and 1 tbsp of sugar. Crumble the fresh yeast into it without stirring. Let it sit until it rises (it will form a thick layer on top). I want to say that it takes approximately 10-20 minutes, but it depends on your kitchen’s humidity.
- Sift together the flour, sugar, vanilla sugar, salt, and lime zest. Set aside.
- In a saucepan, warm the milk. Put the butter into it so that it melts. When the butter is melted, remove it from the heat and let it cool. Then, add the egg and stir it gently until it’s incorporated.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour mixture, the yeast mixture, and the warm milk/butter mixture. Knead it into a dough until it stops sticking to the sides of the dish (about 10 minutes of kneading). Once it’s at this point, cover it with a clean cloth and put it in a warm place (usually somewhere close to the stove/oven) and let it sit until it’s doubled in size; approximately 45-60 minutes.
3. Place parchment paper generously into a cake pan or deeper baking sheet so that it is sticking out of the sides as well.
(Note: do NOT preheat the oven for this particular recipe. When you’re using dough with yeast, it’s best to allow it to heat up with the oven to reach full growth.)
4. When the dough is ready, lightly knead it for about 20 seconds. Rip off even pieces and begin to roll little balls. They should all be roughly the same size.
5. Take each little ball and gently flatten the top. Put a teaspoon of your filling onto the flattened part. Take the sides of the ball and fold them inward over the jam so that the jam is secured inside. Pinch it to ensure that it doesn’t leak.
6. Carefully place each little ball into the baking dish, pinched-side-down. They should snuggled next to and touching each other, but without being squished. Let them sit for another 10 minutes– they’ll expand further.
7. Brush the top with melted butter and sprinkle icing sugar over. As they bake, the sugar will caramelize and give the tops of them a sweet little crunch.
8. Put them into the oven and turn the oven to 325 degrees F (160C) and allow them to bake for approximately 30-40 minutes, depending on your oven. When you see that the tops of them have turned a light golden brown, they’re done.
Here’s a little old school secret: a couple minutes before they’re done, open the oven and pour a bit of milk on them (about 1/3 cup). This will make them extra soft and extra moist.
Finally take them out of the oven and sprinkle with a generous amount of icing sugar. Serve them hot and with a glass of cold milk.