Sunday, April 22, 2012

Slovenian Dinner Week 10: Buckwheat Struklji, Dumpling for the Bold


Menu
Buckwheat Štruklji with Cheese Filling (Ajdovi Štruklji)
Ajvar and Greek Yogurt
Green Salad
Coleslaw


It took time to build up my courage to tackle the most unusual dish so far:  Štruklji.

All three of my vintage cookbooks included recipes for štruklji.  The dish certainly sounded odd.  A giant boiled dumpling? I had never tasted it, or even heard of such a thing.

But a Slovenian government tourist website proudly proclaims struklji as a unique national dish, rivaling potica in importance.  In fact, a common Slovenian surname, Štrukelj, is derived from it.

That gave me pause.  This oddball dish had a connection to my own family's immigration story.  My great-grandmother's maiden name had been Josephine Strukel, at least in America. But my genealogy research had turned up something else.  She was Jožefa Štrukelj when she left her small Slovenian village in 1899 to join her brother Janez in Ely, Minnesota.
  
Struklji ("shtroo-klee") really is a giant filled dumpling.  It begins with a thin sheet of dough, usually  pasta or noodle dough, although some versions are leavened with yeast.  The dough is rolled around a filling, either savory or sweet. The štruklji is wrapped in cheesecloth and trussed up with twine.  Then the long roll is dropped into a large pot of boiling water.  After cooking, it is sliced and served.

Definitely labor intensive.

I started assembling supplies a few weeks ahead of time.  Cheesecloth and cooking twine turned out not to be so easy to find, at least in my immediate neighborhood.

Since I wanted this to be an entrée, rather than a side dish or a dessert, I settled on a savory cheese filling, one of the most common variants.  The American Slovene Club's cookbook had a recipe that I adopted as a model.

I decided on the unleavened pasta style dough, with a twist.   I’d read about a variant of struklji that uses all buckwheat flour.  I still had plenty of buckwheat flour left over from my adventures with žganci and šmoren.  So I substituted buckwheat for part of the wheat flour in the recipe.  I also made good use of that leftover homemade bread from the previous week's dinner, when I made the filling.


Štruklji  (Rolled Cheese Dumpling)


Dough:

1 ½ c. white flour
½ c. buckwheat flour
1 t. salt
2 T olive oil
1 egg
½ cup hot water, plus 2 T more if needed

Filling:

3 slices bread, cubed
2 T. butter
1 lb. farmer cheese or ricotta
3 extra large eggs, beaten
1 t. salt
½ t. pepper
1 T. fresh chives, chopped
1 T. fresh parsley, chopped

Cheesecloth and cooking twine


For the dough:  Sift the flours and the salt into a bowl.  Beat the egg and oil together and stir into the flour.  Add enough hot water to make a stiff dough.  Knead dough until smooth and elastic, adding a little more flour if necessary.  Form into a ball and let rest, covered, for 30 minutes.

For the filling:  Beat eggs with salt and pepper and set aside.  Brown the bread cubes in butter.  Remove from heat and stir in egg mixture until the eggs are cooked.  Add the cheese, chives, and parsley and stir together.  Adjust seasoning.  (Note: filling can be made in advance and refrigerated.)

To assemble:  Roll and stretch the dough on a floured cloth until you have a rectangle that is about 15” x 20”.  Spread the filling evenly.  Roll up from the long side.  Dampen ends and edges of the roll to seal.

Rinse and then wring out a large piece of cheesecloth.  Roll the long loaf of dough in the cheesecloth, so that it is wrapped in several layers.  Wrap the roll in twine: knot at one end, wrap it around the length of the roll, and knot at the other end.

Boil a large kettle of salted water.  Coil the roll so it will fit and carefully drop into the water.  Let boil for 30 minutes.

Remove the roll, let cool, and unwrap.  To serve, slice into rounds.




I did hold my breath when I sliced into that štruklji.  But it was perfect.  The concentric dark circles of buckwheat dough contrasted so beautifully with the creamy white cheese.  In photos, it looked like a fancy cake.  It tasted just as good as it looked.



Traditionally, štruklji is served with a topping of breadcrumbs cooked in butter.  But I opted for a healthier and, to my mind, a more flavorful choice: ajvar and thick, nonfat Greek yogurt.

Three months into my cooking project, I would have to pick štruklji as my most successful dish so far.  I never would have guessed that it would turn out to be so unusual and delicious.  I couldn't wait to tell my mother about it.

"So Mom, I made this giant boiled dumpling, filled with cheese.  It's called struklji.   Grandma never made anything like that,  did she?"

My mother didn't hesitate.

"Oh, sure she did.  But only for special occasions."

Amazing, all the Slovenian kitchen lore she is starting to remember!


#

Hard to picture this?  I felt the same way, even after I found some photos online to guide me.

So, for anyone who might be tempted to give it a try, here is my step-by-step record. Making štruklji as easy as one, two. . . ten!


1. Assemble the supplies:




2. Prepare the ricotta-egg-bread filling:



3.  Mix the pasta dough:




4. Roll out the dough:



5. Add the filling:



6. Roll it up:




7. Wrap it in cheesecloth and truss with twine:




8. Boil:




9.  Remove, cut the twine, and unwrap:





10. Slice and arrange prettily on a platter.  Voilà!







4 comments:

  1. I'm so excited! We had these dumplings in a restaurant when we were visiting Ljubljana this summer. They were so delicious and I am definitely going to try them. How cool to see how they are made. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for writing, Margaret! How cool to taste this in Ljubljana. Just took a peak and you site looks lovely, too.

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