Ladies and Gentlemen: I am officially another year older. I won’t tell you how old, but what I will tell you is that the year I’ve just finished has been the best of my life. I don’t even know where to begin. This time last year, I was in one of those “stick it out, it won’t last forever” phases. It was the final semester of my undergrad and needless to say, I barely found the time to climb out from under my mountain of schoolwork to celebrate my birthday. Frankly what made it bypass quickly was the excitement of the promising year to come; a year that fulfilled every single one of my expectations, to say the least.
Before I knew it, it was almost Christmas and I was in Guadalajara. Finals were done, papers were submitted, and I decided at the last minute to join my dad on his 2-week long trip. I knew I was off to Europe in January (for an undetermined amount of time) and I wanted to take the opportunity to spend some quality time with my grandma before heading to the other side of the world, so I did. We flew back to Vancouver just in time to spend Christmas with my mom and the rest of the family for our big annual Christmas Eve dinner.
New Year’s came and left; I spent it packing. Less than 48 hours into 2012 I was on a flight to Prishtina (the capital city of Kosovo), where I stayed for a month. I had worked for a Kosovo-based magazine a full year leading up to that point, and had finally gotten the opportunity to be there in person. Let me tell you, it was lovely. An entire month of snowfall didn’t prevent me from travelling around the country; it only added to the fitting winter scenery. The people were welcoming, the food was phenomenal, and almost a year later the slightest smell of burning wood brings me back to the days I spent bundled up, walking through freshly fallen snow all throughout the city.
A month later, things were back to normal, kind of. Instead of being a student in Vancouver I became a student in Dubrovnik as I started a new round of university. Routine was established with some minor changes: my beloved North American drip coffee was replaced with its cooked Turkish equivalent, hands-free showering became a luxury of the past, and the pleasant passiveness of my Canadian upbringing was bombarded with a cold hard dose of Eastern European reality (I’ve grown to like it—or at least claim to, because I wouldn’t be a good Canadian otherwise, right? ) All jokes aside, living here has taught me some important things. I’ve learned that no matter where in the world you relocate to, you will never find friends as good as those you leave behind. I’ve learned that taking care of yourself (esthetically and otherwise) shouldn’t lose its priority just because you have a lot going on. There’s no such thing as going to school in your pajamas here. When you look good, you feel good, and if they can do it then we North Americans have no excuse. Finally, I’ve learned that once in a while it’s okay to drop your obligations in order do something that makes you happy. Go have some rakija with your friends and stay out until 5am, your work will still be there tomorrow.
Despite all the amazing things I was lucky enough to experience this past year, the highlight was crossing something very significant off my bucket list. In mid-May of this year I flew to Zagreb and took a bus to Bleiburg—a small Austrian town. There is a very large ceremony held there every year to commemorate the many thousands of Croats who fell victim to the Partisans after the Second World War. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything, and will continue to go annually for as long as I’m in the region.
That’s essentially been my year. That, apart from Reading Break spent in Istanbul– Salep is delicious (a drink made of crushed orchid leaves), the Spice Bazaar is one of the coolest places in the world (calling all culinary nerds), and you should visit a hammam at least once in your life.
I also went on a girls’ trip to New York with my mom and aunts—it was amazing.
But after a long summer break spent in Vancouver with my parents (who I missed dearly), I’m back to my Dubrovački zivot—my Dubrovnik life. I wish I had at least some indication of where I’ll be at this time next year. Or maybe I don’t. There’s no way I would have been able to foresee how amazing these past 12 months of my life were going to pan out; my only concern is that I’m not sure if any future years will ever come close to being so perfect.
When your life is this unpredictable, the always-predictable results of a good recipe get that much more appreciated. So, I shall stop my rambling and get to the good part. Here is the recipe for one of my favourite things in the world: kiflice. It’s a bit on the labour-intensive, time-consuming side, hence, the birthday post (recipe courtesy of Coolinarika)
1/2 cup lukewarm milk
1 tsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp white sugar
20 grams fresh yeast (or 1 package / 7 grams active dry yeast)
2/3 cup lukewarm milk
3/4 cup plain yogurt
1 tbsp sugar
pinch of salt
3 tbsps oil (canola or sunflower)
1 egg, at room temperature
about 5 cups (or a bit more, depending) all-purpose flour
Filling (jam or marmalade of your choice)– about 1/3 cup (I used blackberry jam)
about 2/3 cup melted butter
egg yolks, to brush the top
icing sugar, for decoration
1. Stir 1 tsp of flour and 1 tsp of sugar into 1/2 cup of lukewarm milk. Crumble the yeast into it and set it aside until it proofs (until it forms a thick layer on the top).
2. Once the yeast mixture is done, get another bowl. Whisk together the egg, oil, sugar, and salt until well incorporated. Whisk in the milk and yogurt. Then, add the yeast mixture and mix it lightly using your hand. Slowly add the flour little by little as you mix it and work your way into kneading. Add enough flour for it to take the texture of a dough, but it should still be soft to the touch. Also, note that this dough is exceptionally sticky because of the yogurt. You’re going to have to knead it for a good 10 minutes. When you’re done, cover it and put it in a warm place until it’s doubled in size (approximately 1 hour.)
3. When the dough is ready, sprinkle a generous amount of flour onto a clean surface. Carefully transfer the dough onto it and immediately divide it into 2 equal parts; set one aside. Take the one you’re left with and divide it into 6 smaller, equally-sized balls.
4. Roll out the 6 balls so that each takes the form of a circle. The dough should be about 1/4 inch thick, but at this point the thickness is okay to vary.
5. Now, take one of the circles. Drizzle onto it melted butter and smooth it out so that its surface is covered. Take another circle and place it overtop; repeat with the melted butter. You’re going to stack all 6 and have melted butter in between the layers. Leave only the top layer without melted butter. Repeat this with the other half of the dough that you set aside initially. (What you should have at the end are two stacks, each containing 6 layers).
6. Take your rolling pin and roll out the circle until it’s about 1/4 inch thick. Slice it into 12 triangles and put a small teaspoon of jam onto the edges.
7. Take each triangle. Fold over the bottom edge to cover the jam and seal it by lightly pressing the edges with your fingers. Continue to roll the triangle.
8. Repeat this with the other stack. Place the kiflice onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush the tops with egg yolks, and then place them into a cold oven and set it to 350 degrees F (175 C). (They’ll rise further as they warm up with the oven). Bake them for approximately 20-30 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.
9. Take them out of the oven, let them cool slightly and then sprinkle with icing sugar.